Politics & Policy

Spinning Away

The Times wants our servicemen overseas disenfranchised.

When last I visited with the pages of the New York Times, fabulist Douglas Jehl was bashing the president with made-up facts about what then-CIA director George Tenet said about his talks with the vice president. This time, the editorial page has surpassed itself. In its August 31 editorial, “The Pentagon’s Troubling Role,” the Times accuses the Pentagon of preparing to operate a system “…in which employees who answer to the secretary of defense could control the margin of victory in a close presidential election.” They would do so, said the Times, by funneling e-mailed ballots through the Pentagon.

The system that is giving the Aunt Pittypats of the Times such a case of the vapors was begun in 1990 to enable states to use available technology to facilitate absentee votes from all American citizens–not just the military–who are overseas. Now the Defense Department is engaged in a determined effort to ensure that our soldiers and their families away from home aren’t disenfranchised as they were in 2000. Problem is, the Times–again–is simply making up facts to feed its own paranoia. Well, maybe it’s not paranoia: If the soldiers get to vote, they could easily deliver a Bush win in November.

This exercise in editorial mythology spun off from a press release from Missouri’s secretary of state, Matt Blunt, announcing that “…he will allow military voters from his state–one of the most pivotal in the election–to e-mail ballots from combat zones to the Defense Department.” The Times says that the Missouri rule–and a similar one issued in North Dakota–opens the door to coercion of soldiers by their commanders and makes it easy for Pentagon ballot-handlers to alter the votes, and it demands that the Pentagon stop handling ballots and instead help military and overseas voters send the ballots directly to local election officials. It would be a stretch to say that every word in the editorial is a falsehood. But it wouldn’t be much of a stretch. Though Matt Blunt’s office did make the incorrect announcement, the Times–knowingly, willfully, and with considerable precision–misstated the facts.

One very senior Pentagon official I spoke to Tuesday was dumbfounded. He said, “The New York Times has outdone itself by having more errors per column inch in this editorial than in any other article I’ve ever seen. Those pesky facts once again elude the New York Times.” Elude? Hardly. Facts occasionally elude those who are interested in them. The Times isn’t. Before the editorial appeared, Pentagon spokesmen told the Times’s editorial writer that no ballots were going to be handled by or transmitted through the Pentagon. But the Times ignored the facts and went about its business of purposely misleading the public.

What the Times described was a new system with which “military voters in combat zones will be able to e-mail their ballots to the Pentagon, which will then send them to local Missouri elections offices to be counted.” The Times editorial also said that the ballots would be handled by a company with the melodramatic name of Omega Technologies, “hired for this purpose, at the company’s offices and without the election observers who are present at normal polling places.” Unfortunately for the Times–as it knew before the editorial was published–none of that is true. Ballots will not be e-mailed–through the Pentagon or otherwise–but hard-copy ballots could be faxed directly to state and local ballot-counters.

What is happening–in Missouri and North Dakota and other states–is that their registered voters who are away from home as members of the military, or of military families (and other civilians as well), are being enabled to obtain absentee ballots by the usual means, fill them in and fax them to the precinct or other ballot-counting official. They will also, under the new system, first request ballots normally through the mail and then–in some states–be able to download a hard-copy ballot to be filled out, signed, and faxed back to the state. The Pentagon isn’t involved in handling any ballots. None. Zero. Zip. So where are all the creepy crawly ballot thieves, forgers, ghouls, and goblins the Times apparently thinks are at work in the Pentagon basement? They exist, but only in the imagination of the Times’s fabulist crew. For good reason.

The Times’s agenda is to give credence to the liberal groups who will, I’m sure, soon be filing suit to prevent the use of the new system. This agenda will be hidden under the usual claims of protecting the voting rights of someone or other. But their real goal is to disenfranchise the soldiers, sailors, Coast Guardsmen, airmen and Marines who are fighting for every American’s right to vote. The only question remaining is which California federal judge will give them an injunction, and how long it takes for the Ninth Circuit to throw a monkey wrench in the works. Once these lawsuits are filed, the election will truly hang in the balance. And everyone who is interested in preserving the right of the solider to vote should oppose them.

NRO contributor Jed Babbin is the author of Inside the Asylum: Why the UN and Old Europe are Worse than You Think.

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