Time's Scherer Brings Back Inaccurate 'Disenfranchised' Nun Story

Update at bottom of post.

In a story on "Potential Problems at the Polls," Time's Michael Scherer passed along to readers a misleading anecdote about some nuns from South Bend who were "turned away" from the polls in Indiana's May presidential primary. The scary tale of sweet elderly nuns being robbed of their right to vote was how he introduced Time readers to potential problem #6, "New Burdens of Proof."

The sisters of the holy cross [sic] in notre [sic] Dame, Ind., don't have much use for driver's licenses. Or at least that's what a dozen of the nuns thought on May 6, when they went to vote in the presidential primary. They were each turned away as a result of a recently established ID-check requirement at Indiana polls.

In truth what actually happened was the nuns refused to avail themselves the opportunity of voting via provisional ballot and Scherer is hardly the first to mislead readers as to the facts of the incident in question.As I noted in a May 6 NewsBusters post:

If you have been watching the primary election coverage tonight you've probably seen at least one story about elderly nuns from South Bend, Indiana, who were "denied the right to vote" for lack of a photo ID.

It's a shame when the mainstream media, bear false witness. Even more so when they exploit the nun angle to carry water for left-wing groups that opposed the law all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Under Indiana's voter ID law, persons lacking proper ID can vote. The only difference is they cast a provisional ballot which is not counted until after their identity is verified within 10 days following the election.

In one of her earliest drafts, AP's Deborah Hastings did note the 10-day provisional ballot exception, but still crafted her coverage to paint the South Bend sisters as the victims of an unforgiving law:

About 12 Indiana nuns were turned away Tuesday from a polling place by a fellow bride of Christ because they didn't have state or federal identification bearing a photograph.

Sister Julie McGuire said she was forced to turn away her fellow sisters at Saint Mary's Convent in South Bend, across the street from the University of Notre Dame, because they had been told earlier that they would need such an ID to vote.

The nuns, all in their 80s or 90s, didn't get one but came to the precinct anyway.

"One came down this morning, and she was 98, and she said, 'I don't want to go do that,'" Sister McGuire said. Some showed up with outdated passports. None of them drives.

Even some otherwise balanced news outlets got the story wrong at the time, such as "Fox & Friends," whose co-host Gretchen Carlson told viewers of the May 7 edition that the nuns were "barred" from voting.

Update (14:27 EDT): An e-mail tipster from Remington, Ind., points out that the State of Indiana went so far as to come to the South Bend nuns rather than requiring them to come to them. The story from the Associated Press via WNDU's Web site:

A group of elderly nuns visited a mobile Bureau of Motor Vehicles branch in South Bend to get photo identification required to vote.

In the May primary, about a dozen Roman Catholic nuns from Saint Mary's Convent were turned away from a polling place because they didn't have required photo ID.

A mobile license branch visited Saint Mary's College Friday, and several Sisters of the Holy Cross got new or updated state ID cards. Most of the elderly nuns use walkers or canes, so the mobile BMV trailer was more convenient for them than traveling to a license branch.

Sister Francis Helene Fox got a state ID card because her driver's license expired in July. The 83-year-old says she's never missed voting and she didn't want to miss the vote this year.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters