Last Friday, we noted a story from the Pueblo Chieftain’s Peter Roper that struck us with its misdirections and questionable conclusions–as you know, the rate of ballots returned by “inactive-failed to vote” voters this year was substantially higher statewide than in prior years, and in Pueblo County, the percentage of these ballots returned by “inactive” voters exceeded 10%–over three times the prior estimate of Secretary of State Scott Gessler. Apparently the Pueblo clerk’s office had made a mistake in their unofficial pre-election counts and thought the percentage was even higher. Roper’s story on Friday was silly, focusing all of its attention on that error in unofficial numbers while burying the real story of the high “inactive” return rate.
Now on Wednesday, Roper wrote another story that was much fairer to Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert Ortiz, acknowledging that Pueblo County’s “inactive” mail ballot returns were in fact very high, and that the statewide return rate for “inactives” was higher. After reading this story, we were prepared to let it go, with our criticism Friday feeling satisfied.
Then we were forwarded the absolutely ridiculous editorial the Chieftain put out Sunday.
PUEBLO COUNTY Clerk Gilbert Ortiz this past week grossly overstated the response by inactive voters in this year’s election…
The office of Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler quickly challenged Mr. Ortiz’s claim. The state voter election database showed only 1,791 inactive voters in Pueblo County returned their ballots, a return rate of 10 percent.
So while the return rate from inactive voters this year was higher than normal, it was not excessively so… [Pols emphasis]
We suspect that Mr. Ortiz’s hype was an attempt to persuade the public that mail ballots are superior to precinct voting. We strongly disagree.
Mail ballots are an open invitation to fraud…
…[W]e are glad that the secretary of state’s office called Mr. Ortiz’s hand on his claim of how many ballots were returned by inactive voters. He claimed that there was a mix-up in the way those votes were displayed.
If so, that is incompetence.
Folks, we hadn’t seen this, mostly because the Pueblo Chieftain has a crappy website and articles roll off of their editorial page quickly. But we’ve tried to figure out a valid interpretation of events in which this “opinion” would not be tantamount to a straight-up lie–a 180-degree reversal from the facts–and we’ve got nothing. The “inactive-failed to vote” ballot return rate in Pueblo County dramatically exceeded both the statewide rate, and the lowball expectations by which it was argued these ballots should not have been sent. The way this editorial board disingenuously attacked the Pueblo clerk over his unofficial numbers, and purposefully undervalued the very high performance the official numbers demonstrate, is just plain unacceptable. It’s not a question of conservative or liberal bias. This is about representing facts accurately.
Anyway, folks, we typically leave the media accountability lecturing stuff to the experts, but this was sufficiently egregious that we felt it was necessary. The Chieftain needs to learn a lesson from their shoddy handling of this story–it’s good the newsroom belatedly set the record straight, but the editorial board’s Sunday-edition misinformation was a disservice to their community.