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Nitpickers gonna nitpick

Tuesday, Mar 24, 2020

* Politifact’s latest

Following Ohio’s 11th-hour move [to postpone its presidential primary], Pritzker responded to criticism from Chicago’s city election board over why he did not act to postpone in-person voting in Illinois.

At an Election Day news conference, Pritzker said the city’s board had asked him a week before “to do something that is unquestionably not within my legal authority.”

“They wanted me unilaterally to cancel in-person voting on March 17, convert Illinois to an all-vote-by-mail state, and extend vote by mail to May 12,” Pritzker continued. “They could not even begin to explain the legal basis for their request.”

It’s impossible to say what would have happened had Pritzker’s administration forced a delay like Ohio’s, so calling it “unquestionable” is a bit of an exaggeration. But experts told us the governor’s on firm legal footing to claim he cannot — on his own — interfere with the democratic process. […]

Experts told us Pritzker’s administration may have been able to try something similar, potentially forcing the Illinois General Assembly to sort out a new date, as Ohio’s is now doing. But the experts warned that doing so could have set a troubling precedent for future elections.

“You can say that even though the motivations here (in Ohio’s case) were completely pure and even though the decision here was completely reasonable, this is a dynamic that is not particularly healthy to have a situation where a person who is elected himself is deciding not to hold elections,” said Nadav Shoked, a local government expert at Northwestern University’s law school. […]

When we asked his office why the governor’s administration had not tried to close polls like Ohio’s did, spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh responded in an email that “breaking the law and then hoping the Supreme Court agrees with you isn’t how this administration prefers governing.” […]

“The Election Code is silent on the issue of canceling or postponing an election,” spokesman Matt Dietrich told us in an email. “It would require the General Assembly amending the Election Code to give us (or some other official or entity) such authority.”

Dietrich said the same goes for mandating election authorities send mail-in ballots to voters.

Experts said it stands to reason that state lawmakers must take action in order to alter how elections are conducted.

“Who represents the people of the state? It’s the state legislature,” said Jaime Dominguez, an urban politics expert at Northwestern University. “Voters are indirectly involved through their representative in the legislature.” […]

Pritzker said it was “unquestionably” not within his “legal authority” to postpone Illinois’ primary election by changing the date or shifting the election to vote-by-mail.

While there are too many hypotheticals to be certain Pritzker’s administration could not have delayed the election in any way, experts told us the governor spoke correctly in describing the limits of his powers under state law.

We rate his claim Mostly True.

“Mostly True” is defined as “The statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information.”

He said it was not within his legal authority. That checked out with everyone Politifact consulted. But then Politifact moved the goalpost to a hypothetical unilateral constitutional revision by a governor and rated it “mostly true.”


- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Chicago Cynic - Tuesday, Mar 24, 20 @ 1:30 pm:

    They are doing an awful job administering the PolitiFact franchise. It is so frustrating and this is a perfect example. It’s not “mostly true.” It’s just True.

  2. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Mar 24, 20 @ 1:30 pm:

    Silly Rich.

    You are playing football, they are playing skeet.

    The target is always moving with Politifact.

  3. - Nick - Tuesday, Mar 24, 20 @ 1:33 pm:

    This actually isn’t all that uncommon for politifact unfortunately.

    They’ve totally lost the plot in terms of whether something is just actually factual or not.

  4. - JudgeDavidDavis - Tuesday, Mar 24, 20 @ 1:35 pm:

    This is exactly why these so-called “Fact Checkers” are not really fact checkers.

  5. - Michelle Flaherty - Tuesday, Mar 24, 20 @ 1:39 pm:

    Of all the things that could be fact checked, this is no where near my top 1,000 priority list.

  6. - DuPage Dave - Tuesday, Mar 24, 20 @ 1:39 pm:

    There’s no point in ever reading Politifact any more. Too many examples like this.

  7. - JoanP - Tuesday, Mar 24, 20 @ 1:47 pm:

    Rich, your link doesn’t seem to work. This one does:

  8. - JoanP - Tuesday, Mar 24, 20 @ 1:48 pm:

    Of course, as soon as I posted my last, the link started working!

  9. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Mar 24, 20 @ 1:54 pm:

    Much of the news media is simply failing at their job, and it’s been going on for far too long. Today’s example (stolen from someone’s Twitter feed and also from Beachwood Reporter):

    DEMOCRATS: We need to actually do our job and help people.

    REPUBLICANS: Okay, here’s a bill where poor people all get to share one single hot dog and rich people each get to print as much money as they want.


    MEDIA: Bill Fails to Pass Due to Partisan Squabbling

  10. - Roman - Tuesday, Mar 24, 20 @ 1:54 pm:

    Again, the law is pretty clear on this. The governor can use his statutory authority to amend an agency’s administrative rules during an emergency (like the deadline date to apply for a VBM ballot, which was set by the state board of elections.) But he can’t issue an order that usurps the plain language of a statute (like the date an election is to be held, which was set by the General Assembly.)

  11. - efudd - Tuesday, Mar 24, 20 @ 2:23 pm:

    So, the lesson here is to take Politfact with a grain of salt in the future.

  12. - Norseman - Tuesday, Mar 24, 20 @ 2:43 pm:

    Rich hits on the nit that I want to pick with the fact checking types. If they want to elaborate on a subject, do that. Don’t say mostly true, partly true, tantalizing true, kinda false, false if you really think about it, etc. It’s true, false or here’s what we found - think for yourself.

  13. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Mar 24, 20 @ 2:47 pm:

    It’s like “The Onion”

    “Politifact Finds Itself Mostly True”

  14. - Shytown - Tuesday, Mar 24, 20 @ 4:48 pm:

    politifact is a joke

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