The Blog

Riddle Me This

3:27 PM, Oct 6, 2008 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Q: When does NPR get squeamish about an aggressive voter registration and GOTV effort in a swing state targeted at young voters who don't often participate at high rates, which makes it easy for them to get to the polls and even facilitates travel to the polls?

A: When the registration is being done at Liberty University, a conservative, Christian college founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell.

On Sept. 10, Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. delivered a high-minded message to the students at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. The son of the late evangelical leader spoke of the students' civic responsibility to vote. Then he made an announcement.

"We are planning to cancel classes on Election Day," he said, his voice instantly drowned out by wild cheering. "Now I know what you care about," he observed, laughing.

It's part of a grand strategy to get Liberty's 10,000 students to vote in Virginia. The university will bus students to the polls, stage an all-day concert complete with food, and lift curfew so they can watch the results on a giant-screen TV.

Falwell specifies that he's not telling anyone which way to vote, but concedes that the campus of Liberty is probably 80-90 percent conservative/Republican. He has focused his pitch to students on the fact that a very small number of votes can make a difference in very big elections in swing states. Sen. George Allen, for instance, lost his re-election bid for the Senate in 2006 by fewer votes than the Liberty student population.

Combing the NPR archives for such (even mildly) skeptical reporting on ACORN, a liberal voter-registration group embroiled in many a voter-fraud controversy, I found "Republicans attack ACORN's voter registrations," "Voter registrations could face legal challenges," and "ACORN's registration practices draw RNC criticism."