EDITORIAL: Why we don’t rush to publish late campaign allegations

Could a simple campaign mailing be considered an attempt to steal elections? Are allegations about it an attempt to influence the vote?

As Election Day approaches, news media at times are swarmed with last-minute tips accusing candidates of various misdeeds. Most of the tips are anonymous, and most are never made public.

And with good reason; most of the time the late tips don’t pan out, especially anonymous tips. It seems that if a person isn’t willing to put his or her name behind an allegation, there’s probably a reason.

Accurate reports are judged for newsworthiness and some don’t pass the test.

It’s not always an easy call.

Such is the case with regard to allegations of voting improprieties against the Texas Democratic Party, which initially were reported in conservative outlets such as Fox News and the Washington Times and drew reaction from state officials. This newspaper, however, did not report it until new developments warranted it.

At issue: The conservative Public Interest Legal Foundation last week filed a complaint with the Texas Secretary of State’s Office and the U.S. Justice Department alleging that the state Democratic Party was inviting non-citizens to fraudulently apply for voter registration cards, presumably in order to vote illegally.

The case involves a mass mailing the Democratic Party sent out inviting people eligible to vote to register if they hadn’t done so. The mailers included voter registration applications, and were sent to homes in the Rio Grande Valley and other key areas of the state.

The forms contain questions asking if the applicant meets age and citizenship requirements, and on the mailer those questions were marked “Yes.”

The complaint takes issue with those markings, as well as the fact that non-eligible voters, such as foreign citizens, received them.

Gov. Greg Abbott promised an investigation. Secretary of State Rolando Pablos on Monday announced he had forwarded the complaint to the state attorney general’s office. In a news release, Pablos said he had received “numerous calls and complaints about the matter.

The active investigation makes it newsworthy, we believe.

Of course, it’s easy for anyone to print false information on an application, and the state must verify every application it receives, regardless of whether any lines were pre-printed or filled out manually. In addition, the applications must be signed, and the signature follows an affidavit that all information on the card is correct. Thus, a non-citizen should not sign an application that indicates citizenship, whether or not it’s pre-printed. And the normal verification process should catch any improper applications that are received.

This election involves several key races and issues, which deserve more attention than a squabble over a campaign mailing that isn’t likely to affect the outcome of any race.

We trust that candidates and the parties they represent will choose to focus on those issues, and not on distractions that are of little consequence.