October 1998 Home   Newsletters

November-December 1998

January-February 1999

Annual General Membership Program Planning Meeting
President's Message (Grace Furukawa)
Revision of Land Use Ordinance Proposed (Astrid Monson)
Con Con / POC (Jean Aoki)
LWVUS Response to 60 Minutes (Carolyn Jefferson-Jenkins)
HECO: 138-kv Project (Ruth Brantley)
Violence Prevention Committee Report (Suzanne Meisenzahl)
Education Committee (Mary Anne Raywid)
Hawaii Clean Elections (Grace Furukawa)
Program Planning Sets the Course
Special Thanks to League Volunteers

LWVUS Response to 60 Minutes

We are working diligently to counteract the story that 60 Minutes aired on Motor Voter and voter fraud on Sunday. Here is a letter that was sent to the Executive Producers of 60 Minutes. There were also letters sent to the Executive Producers of Dateline and Nightline to do stories on this subject that were fair and balanced.

Don Hewitt
Executive Producer 60 Minutes
555 W. 57th Street
New York, NY 10019-2925

November 3, 1998

Dear Mr. Hewitt:

Your CBS news magazine show, 60 Minutes, did a great disservice to the election process and to U.S. voters in its presentation of a segment entitled "Vote Early, Vote Often."

The segment tried to make the case that the National Voter Registration Act, also know as the motor voter law, has led to an increasing problem with vote fraud in this country. Unfortunately, one-sided reporting, inadequate research and a disappointing disregard for the facts characterized the segment. The League of Women Voters offered to help the producers in their efforts to collect credible information from both sides. Our attempts were ignored.

The segment gave the impression that no identification of any kind is allowed under the motor voter law in order to vote. This is not true. Under motor voter, all voter registration applicants are required to attest in writing to their eligibility, including U.S. citizenship, on every voter registration application, under penalty of perjury. When citizens apply to register to vote through agency-based programs, such as driver's license and public assistance agencies, photo-Ids are often made as part of the process. People are unlikely to knowingly break the law and then have their picture taken.

The segment ignored the fact that over half of the states had mail-in programs before the motor voter law. In fact, the motor voter law anticipated potential problems by explicitly allowing states to require first-time mail-in registrants to vote in person. Seven states do so. The segment also ignored the fact that states may require ID at the polls as long as the requirement is uniform and nondiscriminatory.

While some officials and opponents have sought to block motor voter law, they also have failed to use 11 the tools it provides for keeping lists clean. The law provides ample opportunities for state and local officials to protect against potential criminal violations without restricting access to voting and without allowing discrimination. State and local officials are responsible for enforcing the law to protect against illegal registrations. If they fail to do so, it is not the fault of the law, but of those responsible for enforcing it.

The motor voter law establishes important federal standards that make it possible to register all voters in an efficient, accessible and inexpensive way - standards that protect against discrimination and protect the integrity of the system. This is especially important to disenfranchised voting populations, low-income citizens, citizens with disabilities, youth and people who have recently moved. Attacks on motor voter law have been seen as an effort to keep these populations from the polls.

In an effort to make a case for an increase in vote fraud in this country, the show's producers chose hyperbole, isolated cases and anecdotes over meaningful research. The motives of the sources used are questionable especially the gentleman who admitted to two counts of voter fraud and perjury to prove his point. In addition, the time allowed opponents far outweighed the time given to proponents of motor voter. The quality and balance of 60 Minutes presentations has been sadly compromised.

The timing of this inaccurate and misleading presentation, two days before the election, can only falsely discourage an U.S. electorate that is already dangerously turned off Some want to go back to the day when local officials could control who is allowed to vote. Motor voter, by ensuring uniform procedures, helps ensure that all eligible U.S. citizens can exercise their constitutional right to vote.


Carolyn Jefferson-Jenkins, PhD,

Cc Richard Greenberg, Producer

Carolyn Jefferson-Jenkins

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