PolitiFact Ohio practices opinion journalism under the guise of fact-checking. They often get things wrong — particularly, we’ve noticed, in their coverage of U.S. Senate candidates Sherrod Brown (Democrat) and Josh Mandel (Republican). So we bring you PolitiFact or Fiction, a semi-regular review of pronouncements issued by PolitiFact Ohio, a blog run by staff at the Cleveland Plain Dealer and supported by Politifact.com.
By Jon Cassidy | Ohio Watchdog
How much is 38,575 divided by 16,449?
We figure it’s 2.34512736. By our calculations (using a new technique we call subtraction), it’s 0.34512736 more than 2.0. The point is, you don’t have to round anything to say 38,575 is twice as much as 16,449. It’s that and then some.
When Republican Josh Mandel was running for state treasurer, he claimed he had represented an Assembly district “with a 2:1 Democrat to Republican voter ratio,” an assertion that was unquestionably, unimpeachably, unassailably true.
Yet, question, impeach, and assail is just what PolitiFact Ohio did to that simple statement of fact. They gave him a “mostly true” in the end, baselessly chipping away at Mandel’s reputation.
By coincidence, this is Ohio Watchdog’s second straight story on PolitiFact Ohio’s struggles with the number two. We recently reviewed an article in which they gave Democrat Sherrod Brown “mostly true” credit for a claim that a $1.29 billion daily trade deficit was $2 billion.
PolitiFact Ohio deals with a lot of claims that fall into a gray area, but this isn’t one. The fact-checkers are just wrong. They make an argument based on voting trends rather than voter registration, ignoring Mandel’s claim entirely.
Here’s how that works:
Plain-Dealer reporter Joe Guillen writes: “Although Mandel’s math is right, voter registration records usually aren’t the best way to size up an electorate, said Ohio State University political science professor Paul Beck, whose specialties include voting behavior and political parties.
“‘The registration records themselves are not a very good litmus test,’ Beck said.
“That’s because the party affiliations only attach when voters participate in primary elections and choose a specific party’s ballot. Those who only vote on issues and do not declare for a party and those who don’t vote in the primary election at all remain classified as independents and would not show up in Mandel’s numbers.”
Of course they wouldn’t. Nobody said they would. Mandel didn’t purport to “size up an electorate.” He specifically compared the numbers of Democrats and Republicans in an Assembly district.
The professor’s take tells you much about conservative vs. liberal tendencies, but nothing about party membership, which is something we understand on its face.
As an argument, Guillen offers perhaps the least interesting sentence ever written: “Beck also noted that voter registration records can be inflated with voters who may have moved away without canceling their registration.”
Could such an outrage exist in the modern era? If so, how, then, is political science even possible?
We apologize for the broad questions, but we’re still struggling to envision the miscreant who would move from one house to another without notifying the Registrar of Voters.
The point, which Guillen missed, is that party membership is a question of individual will. Voting for a Republican does not make an independent a party member; registering as a Republican does.
If favoritism were all it took to establish membership, we could call PolitiFact Ohio an official organ of the Democratic Party.
The fact-checkers may come to a different opinion, but that’s all it is.
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