Now that the campaigns are getting into the clinches, it’s time to pay closer attention to the truth, exaggerations and outright lies circulating—aimed at persuading, and sometimes confusing, voters into choosing a candidate.
In Ohio, FactCheck.org reports, a mailing from Americans for Tax Reform, a nonprofit group led by Grover Norquist – who got a lot of Republican congressman to sign a no tax increase/new tax pledge – claimed that Ohio was the second-worst for job losses.
The problem is it implies that this all happened under President Obama. The period actually covers job losses over the last 10 years, well before Obama took office.
“Under Obama,” the site said, “Ohio ranks higher than most states for job creation.”
The mailer also said that Obama officials had admitted that $55 billion in stimulus funds “may have been lost through fraud, waste and abuse.” They were actually talking about preventing that kind of loss.
Even though it’s been debunked, the Romney campaign is still running an ad that claims Obama will raise taxes on the middle class by $4,000.
The ad cites a “nonpartisan” organization that conducted the study. It is nothing of the kind. It is an arm of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, whose officials include former Vice President Dick Cheney and Romney’s chief economic adviser.
Even the group itself doesn’t actually say that Obama will raise taxes on the middle class, just that his budget could result in a higher tax burden in the next 10 years.
“In fact, the group’s study considered two other budget scenarios — current law (allowing the Bush-era tax cuts to expire as scheduled at the end of this year) and current policy (extending current policies into 2013, including extending the Bush-era tax cuts) — and determined that Obama’s budget “provides a middle ground between these two extremes,” according to FactCheck.org.
In the second debate, Romney said 580,000 women lost jobs under Obama, although the actual number is about 93,000. This is a critical distinction since undecided women voters reportedly have been identified as major targets by both campaigns.
Romney also has skirted around the fact that he has supported the so-called “moral exemption,” suggesting that employers should be allowed to decide whether a woman can get contraception through her health insurance plan.
Then there are the efforts to discourage Democratic voters through misinformation.
ABC News reported that in Maricopa County, Arizona, the general election date was listed as Nov. 8, not Nov. 6, in the Spanish translation of a government document attached to updated voter registration cards.
In Philadelphia, a billboard read: “Si Quieres Votar Muéstrala,” which means “if you want to vote, show it.”
But earlier this month, a federal judge ordered the state of Pennsylvania to allow registered voters without government photo-ID to vote.
A local NBC station in Harrisonburg, Virginia reported that a store manager found completed voter registration forms in the trash.
The Huffington Post reported that older black and Latino voters have received phone calls aimed at deceiving them or intimidating them into not voting on Election Day and that the Virginia State Board of Elections has warned that some voters, especially seniors, are being told erroneously that they can vote over the phone.
Voters should make sure their registrations are up to date, that they know where their polling places are, the hours of voting and whether their state requires ID or any special procedure to vote and where to file complaints if they run into problems at the polls.
The best surprise, as an old commercial used to say, is no surprise.
Jackie Jones, a journalist and journalism educator, is director of the career transformation firm Jones Coaching LLC and author of “Taking Care of the Business of You: 7 Days to Getting Your Career on Track.”