While most people were enjoying the holidays with their family late last month, the local media was trumpeting a story declaring that Arizona has the lowest election integrity in the nation:
“Arizona was ranked worst in the country for electoral integrity in a recent post-election survey of political scientists.
The Perceptions of Electoral Integrity survey asked political experts about elections in the states where they live in order to measure their perceptions of how well or poorly their state adhered to international standards of conduct before, during and after an election.
Although it measures perceptions of electoral integrity, as opposed to actual electoral integrity itself, the methodology is widely trusted and used to compare electoral performance around the world.
The concern is that just the perception of electoral fraud or corruption, even without actual proof of fraud, could lead to a loss of public confidence in the voting process.”
While Arizona was the subject of some election controversy over the last year (the Presidential Preference Election comes to mind), being ranked dead last in election integrity should have generated some scrutiny by local journalists. Instead the media ran with the story, though a cursory look at the report and the organization behind it, the left leaning Electoral Integrity Project, would have exposed its shortcomings.
For example, the State of Michigan, which ended up having more votes cast in November than voters, somehow was ranked higher than Arizona in election integrity. Another common theme by the “experts” participating in the study was that states with stricter voter ID laws (such as Arizona and Wisconsin) consistently scored lower on election integrity than states with liberal voter ID laws like Michigan*. Though voter ID laws are controversial, including them as a component that erodes election integrity is an unfounded conclusion based upon the opinion of the authors.
Additionally, Arizona scores near the bottom on integrity when it comes to district boundaries and gerrymandering. That is a very peculiar result since Arizona has, unlike most other states, an independent redistricting commission that draws our legislative and congressional lines. Do the authors of the study (or the Arizona “experts” they talked to) have evidence of corruption on the commission that is worse than other states? Very doubtful, yet not a single reporter even questioned this finding.
Instead, the media completely accepted the work of an organization that in the past claimed that Cuba and North Korea had more election integrity than half the states in the US.
Now whether this happened because of an unwillingness to fact check or because of an underlying desire to believe the study, we will never know. And to the credit of the Arizona Republic, they are at least trying to clean up the mess. But the damage from the media coverage and the false narrative it created will continue to live on.
*Michigan passed a new voter ID law after the 2016 November Election