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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

TV show not quite ready for prime time

Jim Camden The Spokesman-Review

Everyone seems eager to get a laugh at the expense of Washington’s super-thin margin and ensuing controversy over the governor’s election. Laugh all you want, but make sure it’s not a case of a little knowledge being a dangerous, or at least an obviously foolish, thing.

Take, for example, the inquiry by a nascent “reality” television show, posted on an Internet site full of online personals and help-wanted ads. This missive asks if the election was fixed, and wants to talk to folks who can prove it.

“More people voted in Washington State than live there,” says the ad, which is seeking contestants for a show the PAX network is planning, called “Lie Detector.” “We want to get to the bottom of this and find out what’s been going on.”

Yes, it would be a HUGE problem if Washington had fewer people living within its borders than the 2.9 million folks who cast ballots in the governor’s election. We’d probably have to hire folks from Ukraine to help us rig our next election. But since the population of Washington is about 6.1 million, clearly, that’s not the case.

It would be a scandal if more people voted than were eligible to vote. But since there are about 4 million folks who are eligible, that ain’t it, either.

It would be great cause for concern and consternation if more people voted than are registered to vote. But, hey, we had 3.5 million registered voters on Nov. 2, and while turnout was pretty good, it wasn’t more than 100 percent.

So Spin Control called the toll-free number in the posting, offered some of the above statistics, and asked, as politely as possible, “What’s the deal?”

A nice young woman, who said she’s a producer for the show that will premiere in March, was a little confused. She said she wrote the ad based on something her boss had read to her from the Wall Street Journal.

She seemed genuinely surprised that there weren’t more ballots than people, but could lay hands on the article right away. (For the record, a Journal columnist has suggested the election was stolen, but hasn’t been using such shaky math.)

The show is looking for subjects to fly to Los Angeles, hook up to a lie detector and grill on camera to find out if they are telling the truth. It seems that if anyone answers this ad, they can dispense with the plane ticket and the fancy wiring.

The nice young woman asked that we not use her name, because “sometimes people get mad at television producers.” And she could get fired if the show got unauthorized publicity before the network made its big splash announcement later this month.

Well, OK then. We certainly wouldn’t want to embarrass anyone with damaging information. But she also said on Tuesday they were going to fix the ad right away to better reflect reality, and so far they haven’t.

Details, details

Spin Control should know better, but recently the remote control flipped through “Hannity and Colmes,” and Republican Dino Rossi was being interviewed, so the channel changing paused.

Knowing the tendency of talking-head gas-bag shows to blow things out of proportion, it wasn’t surprising when Sean Hannity served up a leading question about massive voting fraud in Washington state to our once, and perhaps future, governor-elect. (Maybe Hannity gets his information from the above-mentioned Internet site.)

But Rossi’s response was a bit troubling.

Asked about dead people voting, Rossi replied that a Seattle newspaper found 24 dead people had voted. It seems Rossi hadn’t read that story very carefully, or any of the follow-ups, because even the original Seattle Times article said some of those two dozen “dead voters” that turned up in a records comparison of six counties were simply mistakes – like people who had signed on the wrong line of the poll books – or ballots that had been mailed back by relatives who wrote “deceased” on them. The Times’ “dead” Spokane voter turned out to be very much alive, but possessing such a common name that a records mistake had him confused with a voter of the same name who had died – but hadn’t voted.

The documents the GOP filed in Chelan County Superior Court say that their staff checked 11 counties – the six in the Times study plus five others – and turned up nine possible instances of people who are dead who were on county rolls as casting ballots.

For the record books

If you’re wondering how President George W. Bush’s second inaugural address stacks up quantitatively, an Internet site known as the History News Network offers some perspective. It lists the longest and the shortest inaugural speeches, among other fun facts about inaugurals.

Another George – Washington – gave the shortest speech for his second inaugural, at 135 words. William Henry Harrison’s speech was the longest at 8,445 words.

That was Harrison’s first inaugural, and he didn’t get a chance to give a second, or do much as president. A month after he was sworn in, he died of pneumonia. The speech may have had something to do with it. It took an hour and 45 minutes to give, outside, in a snowstorm. The 68-year-old former general caught cold and never recovered.

These and other details are available at 9630.html. It also has a link to each president’s speech.

Bush’s speech on Thursday? It was 2,083 words.