Why we covered coronavirus, not voter fraud
In the waning weeks of the weird and awful year that was 2020, I received a handful of aggressive notes from readers demanding answers to two opposing questions:
Why are we giving so much ink to the coronavirus?
Why are we not carrying more stories on voter fraud in the presidential contest?
The answer: There’s plenty of evidence one of those things is a problem, and plenty of evidence the other is not.
Some readers critical of our daily coverage of the coronavirus’s spread through Northeast Michigan were simply exhausted of the negative news. Others, however, argued that the coronavirus was not such a big deal and journalists overhyped it because we’re part of some grim Gretchen Whitmer cabal trying scare people into submission to her oppressive lockdowns.
I, too, am exhausted with all the bad news 2020 gave us. But the coronavirus pandemic is a very big deal, and it would be irresponsible of any journalist not to cover it.
In the 208 days between April 6 — the day the first infected Northeast Michigander was announced — and Halloween, 306 Northeast Michiganders were confirmed infected with COVID-19, according to local public health data. Eighteen of those people died.
In the just 60 days between Nov. 1 and this writing, 1,681 Northeast Michiganders were confirmed infected and 33 died.
That’s more than five times as many infections and nearly twice as many deaths in a third of the time.
Health officials warned us that would happen as the weather chilled and people spent more time indoors, closer to others and in less-ventilated spaces.
It’s true almost all infected people recover from the virus, the mortality rate in Northeast Michigan only about 2%, but things got worse very fast this fall — and more people died.
I don’t want to be the person who passes the virus on to someone else who eventually dies.
So I want to know how dire the situation is in my community. And I want to know what the health experts say it takes to stop the spread (wear your mask over your nose and mouth!).
A lot of other readers in my community want to know those things, too, so we will keep publishing the facts.
I have no facts, however, to give to those of my readers who want proof of massive voter fraud no Nov. 3.
The facts, in fact, point the other way.
Republican and Democratic city, village, and township clerks. Republican and Democratic county clerks. Republican and Democratic canvassing boards at the county and state levels. Several judges appointed by Democrats and Republicans, including some appointed by Donald Trump himself (the Washington Post has a good accounting of that fact here: https://tinyurl.com/y8x7dqfv). Trump’s hand-picked election security expert (https://tinyurl.com/y4qzepcl). Multiple recounts (https://tinyurl.com/y8scfpby). Law enforcement (https://tinyurl.com/y8bsbyo5).
Hundreds — perhaps thousands — of people have formed a national, bipartisan chorus of individuals who have looked at allegations of voter fraud and found nothing widespread. Certainly not enough to change the outcome of the election.
Bill Barr, Trump’s handpicked attorney general and certainly a loyalist, made the unusual step of pushing federal prosecutors to investigate allegations of voter fraud before vote tallies were certified (https://tinyurl.com/yawy8c6v). Unusual because the Justice Department typically avoids any chance they’d be seen as tipping the scales. Many believe Barr did it as a favor to Trump.
Still, Barr found nothing (https://tinyurl.com/y4s2l7ce).
In Michigan, Republicans’ investigation into voter fraud — which included a Lansing appearance by Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani — found nil, with Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey saying this: “We have not received evidence of fraud on a scale that would change the outcome in Michigan.”
Politico Magazine — which did a fantastic job recapping Michigan’s story (https://tinyurl.com/y6297vs5) — interviewed Chris Thomas, the state’s longtime elections guru so respected by both sides of the aisle that he was called out of retirement to oversee vote counting in Detroit.
He told the journalists — as he told lawmakers and others — that much of the supposed “fraud” was simply misunderstanding by a phalanx of new, untrained poll watchers.
“Reading these affidavits afterward from these Republican poll challengers, I was just amazed at how misunderstood the election process was to them,” Thomas told Politico.
Those are the facts.
And facts are the wares in which we journalists trade.
If those facts change — if someone somewhere digs up proof of massive voter fraud or proof that the coronavirus ought to be shrugged off — we’ll give you those facts, too.
But, for the time being, the facts tell us the opposite.
And that’s why you’re getting a lot of one storyline, and none of the other.
Justin A. Hinkley can be reached at 989-358-5686 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinHinkley.