Last week a story surfaced that seven Iowa counties supposedly had more registered voters than adult citizens. The story was advanced by a devious blogger and became state-wide news. Let’s take a look at his devious ways.
1. He pretended to be more than one person, calling himself a “law center” when in fact he is a lawyer-blogger whose blog is called ElectionLawCenter.com. This deviation from the facts managed to fool Iowa Secretary of State candidate Matt Schultz who yesterday told a radio audience the blogger was a non-partisan watchdog group.
2. His letter to Iowa’s Secretary of State Michael Mauro would find its way onto the website of Mauro’s opponent Schultz, but he never called the Secretary to investigate before he threatened to sue, according to Mauro’s election director Sarah Reisetter.
3. He used the Republican Noise Machine to push the story. It was picked up by the Washington Times, Michelle Malkin, TheIowaRepublican.com and and he put it on his other blog at pajamas media. Eventually Iowa media took the bait. Bingo!
4. His accusatory letter had no numbers included so the public could not evaluate his threat. This allowed Matt Schultz to pimp the story while carefully noting that he could not know if it was actually worrisome or even true.
5. When confronted with real numbers by this post, he alleged that some of the adults should not count because they may be non-citizens. He avoided admitting that the rural county in question is only .2% foreign born. That’s two people for every thousand. And no doubt some (all?) of them eventually became citizens.
6. Finally he admitted he has no ability to sue since he doesn’t live in any of the states he threatened. Someone else will have to use his non-numbers to buttress their own court case. Fat chance in Iowa.
The blogger (J. Christian Adams) never discussed the real reasons that there might be more voters on the list than there are on the census website. Let us count the reasons:
A: The voter rolls are names of certain people. The census figures are estimates of county totals. The census bureau can detect a falling population, but it cannot know which people have left town. The county cannot remove names until it knows which names to drop.
B: My college son lives in Ames, according to the census. He votes here, according to the voter rolls. Same for some soldiers on a military base. This confuses Schultz and Adams. Pretty ironic given that Schultz’s brother is in college in another state. Will he vote for Matt? If so, he will have become part of this phenomenon.
C: When stable rural counties have a high rate of voter registration, there is no wiggle room for declining population. People move away and leave no forwarding address. They don’t register to vote elsewhere until a provocative election comes around again. Their names are still on the voting list, but the census believes that some of them are no longer here.
It is devious and disreputable to compare a list of particular people to an estimate of population. There are laws that protect your voter registration until you change it yourself. Adams and Schultz mock those laws in pursuit of a new law that would stop you from voting if your driver’s license has expired.
Their gambit was successful. They delivered propaganda in the form of news. They will convince many people who barely follow the story. Then they will claim public opinion favors their goals even though no facts support their case.