Credulous coverage of probable vaporware

The AP’s lede:

The Republican National Committee on Friday launched a swing state initiative to mobilize thousands of polling place monitors, poll workers and attorneys to serve as “election integrity” watchdogs in November — an effort that immediately drew concerns that it could lead to harassment of election workers and undermine trust in the vote.

Mobilizing a huge crew of volunteers to support the democratic process is great.  Mobilizing a huge crew of volunteers to undermine the democratic process is awful.  And I have no inside information about this effort — but if I were betting, I’d bet on …neither.  The most likely scenario for this “mobilization,” I think, is a press operation (here, here, here) that never materializes on the ground.

Here’s a version of the story in 2004. 2012. 2016. 2020. 2022.  I’m sure I could find other years – I just ran out of will.

(Long after the promises, there have been a few good stories reporting on what actually happens in these efforts: for example, here in 2012, here in 2016, and here in 2020.)

Hey, look, Lucy’s getting the football ready again – but I’m sure it’ll be different this time. 

I’ve actually run a successful national voter protection operation.  Even with a project that makes people feel good and helps voters, it’s hard to recruit people to actually do work all day.  It’s even harder to recruit people to do work that goes nowhere, looking all day for the UFO that never arrives.  It’s not that there aren’t plenty of people primed to believe in the need for greater election integrity.  (And it’s not that you need more than a few to cause problems when their enthusiasm outstrips their precision or their understanding of the facts.)  But it’s one thing to believe and it’s another to devote 15 hours a day to standing outside a polling place in the service of that belief.  Before anyone gets spun up about the scale of the promised operation, for good or for ill, let’s have a few tangible answers about numbers and locations.

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