Friday, April 8, 2016

PolitiFact: Lightning strikes still make a better comparison than alligator attacks

If you're tempted to illustrate the rarity of something by comparing it to something from real life, PolitiFact has a message for you: Take lightning strikes over alligator attacks.

On the issue of voter fraud, PolitiFact has given a number of "True" ratings to persons saying lightning strikes outnumber cases (that's cases considered for prosecution, mind you, not "cases" in the sense of "instances") of in-person voter impersonation.

PolitiFact's comparison is rigged by its narrow count of "cases," of course, but that's another story.

PolitiFact Wisconsin recycled the fact check with an April 7, 2016 item. The item offers no hint of criticism of the comparison of voter fraud to lightning strikes.

PolitiFact Wisconsin's "True" rating perpetuates the inconsistency we noted from a PolitiFact Florida fact check from 2015. It was claimed alligator attacks are more likely than a criminal attack by a Floridian with a concealed-carry gun permit. PolitiFact found the evidence broadly supported the claim but ruled it "Mostly False" since comparing alligator attacks to attacks with a firearm doesn't make sense:
(T)hese statistics, imperfect as they are, do support the notion that both kinds of attacks are uncommon. Whether this is a valid argument in favor of the bill is in the eye of the beholder. We find the statement has an element of truth but ignores other information that would give a different impression. So we rate it Mostly False.
There's an item a Zebra Fact Check criticizing PolitiFact Florida's ruling in detail.

It's worth noting that PolitiFact Wisconsin's evidence on voter fraud shared essentially the same weakness (no dependable count creating doubt):
It’s fair to say, however, that impersonation cases can be hard to count in that they are hard to prove -- particularly when no photo ID requirement is in place and a voter can cast a ballot simply by stating the name of a registered voter.

So the number of cases of in-person fraud by impersonation may be higher than that cited by Levitt, but no independent source suggests it is higher than the number of lightning strikes.


We rate Pocan’s statement True.
In both cases, then, PolitiFact doesn't really have the facts to fit the claim. But the liberal gets a "True" and the conservative gets a "Mostly False."

In other words, PolitiFact is objective and nonpartisan. Or something.

And if something happens rarely, compare it to lighting strikes instead of alligator attacks. Your PolitiFact report card may suffer otherwise.

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