John Lott: Wrong again

Man, a vacation really hurts a guy’s ability to break news.

I was working, not in a great hurry, on a follow-up to my Friday post about serial recount alarmist John Lott. The conservative researcher keeps insisting our evil Canvassing Board is counting Coleman votes for Franken.

Four days ago, I noted both Lott examples of this switcheroo were bunk. Today, in a Fox News piece, he threw out another. Could it be that I’d be the one eating my words this time?

I sent emails to the Franken campaign and a Strib contact; both said the vote had gone to Coleman. I didn’t want to take their word for it, but there wasn’t yet confirmation from the official Secretary of State spreadsheet. So I went out for some Christmas shopping.

By the time I got back, FiveThirtyEight.com’s hardworking Nate Silver had the goods: Lott was wrong again.

To be fair, Lott was the victim of what seems to be a Strib typo. The paper has done a great job on their “Ballot Challenge” site, but mistakes happen when posting thousands of images and outcomes.

I wasn’t willing to rely strictly on the newspaper, and Lott shouldn’t have either. But once again, he shot first and asked questions later.

Silver notes that Fox played this story on their front page. Do you suppose they’ll give a correction the same prominence?

[Yes, the Strib should also correct, but their error is a detail, not a centerpiece.]

Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by gene bach on 12/22/2008 - 08:23 pm.

    Why don’t we end the controversy? Send the ballots to Florida where they really know how to recount the ballots. That would make the Coleman supporters happy.

  2. Submitted by John Lott on 12/22/2008 - 08:36 pm.

    That single ballot mistake was fixed on my website at 7:15 PM and Fox will soon correct it.
    http://senaterecount.startribune.com/ballots/index.php?review_date=2008-12-18&index=171
    Again, the point of the piece was: “The primary problem isn’t the rules. The real problem is the lack of consistency.” All the other ballots discussed show that point clearly.

  3. Submitted by John Jordan on 12/23/2008 - 11:05 am.

    Wow this place has turned into a liberal (virtual) rag. Kramer told me before launch this wouldn’t be liberal but it really is. Too bad, it had such potential.

  4. Submitted by Eric Ferguson on 12/24/2008 - 12:06 am.

    Let’s see — conservatism has shown itself to be a political solvent, destroying things when brought into contact with reality, and conservatives refuse to get a grip on facts — any chance these two things go together?

  5. Submitted by John Lott on 12/25/2008 - 06:49 am.

    For a response to these inaccurate claims please see:

    http://johnrlott.blogspot.com/2008/12/angry-commentators-get-discussion-of.html

  6. Submitted by Craig Westover on 12/30/2008 - 04:17 pm.

    Britt –

    Liberal bias has little to do with the accuracy of stories and everything to do with the topics written about and how they are framed. It’s that lack of understanding on the part of liberals that makes them blind to bias.

    Bauer’s story could have just as easily and accurately been written with a focus on the Strib typo, or better yet, it could have focused on (and refuted maybe) Lott’s argument about the inherent inconsistency in the process of trying to determine “voter intent.” He might have written about whether the integrity of the election process better preserved by essentially “guessing” what voters (who did not follow the regulations) intended or by abiding strictly by the regulations and tossing all votes that don’t measure up. Instead Bauer, however accurately, went after the conservative for, well, being conservative. It’s a story that fills space, but it doesn’t really advance any significant issue, does it?

  7. Submitted by David Brauer on 12/30/2008 - 07:15 pm.

    Craig – I have to disagree with you strongly.

    First, on the Strib, yes, they made a mistake – a very small one.

    It was Lott who turned a typo into a towering case of Canvassing Board malfeasance. He LED his piece with this example. So the reason I picked on Lott instead of the Strib is all about proportion; the Strib’s error was simply not in the same league as Lott’s. We get paid to make judgments about what’s important; I stand by this one.

    When a writer is accusing a public body of blatantly turning a vote for Candidate A into a vote for Candidate B, evaluating that claim certainly does “advance a significant issue.” We all know the power of misinformation in this society.

    The reason I haven’t focused on Lott’s inconsistency argument is that I haven’t had time to evaluate it. It requires a very systematic look, and it’s not easily confirmed (or refuted) without looking at the entire universe of ballots.

    Given Lott’s veracity on clearer examples, I’m not optimistic about his comprehensiveness — for example, including a full battery of examples going against Coleman — but have not written about this until Craig’s critique because I don’t have objective facts to judge or critique.

    But again, Lott hasn’t lead EITHER of the two pieces with these more complex assertions. In two different pieces, he’s produced three marked Coleman ballots he claimed canvassers counted for Franken – none of the three proved out. And on his first piece, he lead with four Coleman votes that were rejected – all for identifying marks (signatures and in some cases, addresses) that statute clearly says must be tossed.

    Here’s what I think you’re missing in your critique, Craig. I’ve focused on things that can be objectively verified – and have been right about the seven cases I’ve examined. I would say, cliche that it is, the facts have a liberal bias in this case. That a liberal makes the argument shouldn’t really obviate it.

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