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CBS Plays Up Voter Suppression Charge in Pennsylvania; Ignores Voter Fraud

Elaine Quijano, CBS News CorrespondentOn Thursday's CBS Evening News, Elaine Quijano touted a charge from Pennsylvania Democrats that the new voter I.D. law there "targets poor and elderly voters." Quijano also spotlighted that, according to unnamed "Pennsylvania court officials," there were no cases of "voters convicted of fraud in the last five years." However, in late 2010, the AP reported on a credible allegation of voter fraud in the state.

Anchor Scott Pelley introduced the correspondent's report by trumpeting how "Pennsylvania has just enacted one of the toughest voter I.D. laws in the country. It will require voters to provide a photo I.D. at the polls this November. Republicans say it's about preventing voter fraud. Democrats say the real target is the poor."

Quijano began by noting that "the effort to pass Pennsylvania's voter I.D. law was led by Republican State Representative Daryl Metcalfe." She first asked the state legislator, "Why did you that think that this legislation was necessary?" Rep. Metcalfe answered, in part, that "we've had a history in Pennsylvania of election code violations, voter fraud, fictitious registrations."

The CBS journalist then outlined that "Pennsylvania joins eight other states that have passed laws that require voters to have photo I.D. In Pennsylvania, the issue has been a partisan battle. All the Democrats in the state's assembly voted against it. They argue the law targets poor and elderly voters, who may not have the money or transportation to get a photo I.D."

Quijano turned to a Democratic state representative and let her all but accuse the Republicans of racism. She forwarded that charged accusation in her second question to Rep. Metcalfe:

VANESSA LOWRY BROWN, (D), PENNSYLVANIA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: We all know that if you initiate this, that you will silence a group of people who will consistently vote for one particular party.

QUIJANO (on-camera): To suppress Democratic voters.

BROWN: Exactly- to suppress the Democratic vote, because this population of people are registered Democrat. They have already done the demographics. They know the numbers.

QUIJANO: And the accusation that this is about suppressing the Democratic vote?

METCALFE: I think it's outrageous for the accusation to have any legs at all. It's- when you talk to voters across the state, when you look- survey after survey- voters at the base, across party lines, want to ensure that their vote is protected.

The correspondent added, "We asked Pennsylvania court officials how many individual voters have been convicted of fraud in the last five years. They found none, in a state with more than eight million registered voters."

This doesn't tell the whole story, however. In November 2010, the AP, which can't be accused of having conservative leanings, distributed an editorial that originally ran in the Bucks County Courier-Times that called for a further investigation into an allegation of voter fraud in the northern suburbs of Philadelphia: "Republicans caused quite a stir...after they noted unusually large number of absentee ballot applications that had been rejected because of bogus signatures, birth dates that didn't match voter records and invalid excuses for not voting in person at the polls." The editorial went on to note that the Pennsylvania state Democratic committee replied by accusing the GOP of "threatening and misleading" behavior.

Another news outlet in the area, BucksLocalNews.com, reported on October 30, 2010 that the Bucks County Board of Elections "voted to sequester a little more than 8,000 absentee ballots during a special meeting Friday morning after questions were raised on Thursday by Republican Congressional candidate Michael Fitzpatrick over their legitimacy." Despite voting against the move, board member Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia stated that "she agreed...that by sequestering all 8,000 ballots no harm would be done. 'It's just creating work that’s not necessary.'"

Quijano could have done the Internet research to unveil this voter fraud allegation from the last election cycle, but it definitely didn't make it into her report.

The full trancript of Elaine Quijano's report from Thursday's CBS Evening News, which began 39 minutes into the 6 pm Eastern hour:

SCOTT PELLEY: In domestic politics, Pennsylvania has just enacted one of the toughest voter I.D. laws in the country. It will require voters to provide a photo I.D. at the polls this November. Republicans say it's about preventing voter fraud. Democrats say the real target is the poor. Elaine Quijano has more.

ELAINE QUIJANO (voice-over): The effort to pass Pennsylvania's voter I.D. law was led by Republican State Representative Daryl Metcalfe.

QUIJANO (on-camera): Why did you that think that this legislation was necessary?

DARYL METCALFE, (R), PENNSYLVANIA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: We've had a history in Pennsylvania of election code violations, voter fraud, fictitious registrations. So it's a needed protection.

QUIJANO (voice-over): Pennsylvania joins eight other states that have passed laws that require voters to have photo I.D. In Pennsylvania, the issue has been a partisan battle. All the Democrats in the state's assembly voted against it. They argue the law targets poor and elderly voters, who may not have the money or transportation to get a photo I.D.

Vanessa Lowry Brown is a Democratic legislator in Philadelphia.

VANESSA LOWRY BROWN, (D), PENNSYLVANIA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: We all know that if you initiate this, that you will silence a group of people who will consistently vote for one particular party.

QUIJANO (on-camera): To suppress Democratic voters.

BROWN: Exactly- to suppress the Democratic vote, because this population of people are registered Democrat. They have already done the demographics. They know the numbers.

QUIJANO: And the accusation that this is about suppressing the Democratic vote?

METCALFE: I think it's outrageous for the accusation to have any legs at all. It's- when you talk to voters across the state, when you look- survey after survey- voters at the base, across party lines, want to ensure that their vote is protected.

QUIJANO (voice-over): We asked Pennsylvania court officials how many individual voters have been convicted of fraud in the last five years. They found none, in a state with more than eight million registered voters.

QUIJANO (live): Poll workers will begin asking, but not requiring, Pennsylvania voters to have photo I.D. in next month's Republican primary. But I.D. will be required in November's presidential election. And, Scott, a court challenge is expected well before then.

PELLEY (off-camera): Elaine, thanks very much.

— Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.