A Look at Iranian Voting Turns Up Bad News for U.S. Democracy

Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research had one of the most informative pieces I’ve seen on the Iranian election, published on WashingtonPost.com (6/26/09). Weisbrot examines the actual Iranian vote-counting procedures, and concludes that in Iran, “large-scale fraud is extremely difficult, if not impossible, without creating an extensive trail of evidence.”

Since votes are supposed to be counted at individual polling places in the presence of 14-18 witnesses, Weisbrot points out that “if this election was stolen, there must be tens of thousands of witnesses–or perhaps hundreds of thousands–to the theft. Yet there are no media accounts of interviews with such witnesses.”

But Weisbrot would no doubt acknowledge that the absence of such interviews is not definitive proof that fraud did not occur, because his column is as much about the failure of the U.S. media system as it is about the Iranian political system. Here’s his account of looking into the actual mechanics of the vote:

After searching through thousands of news articles without finding any substantive information on the electoral process, I contacted Seyed Mohammad Marandi, who heads the North American Studies department at the University of Tehran. He described the electoral procedures to me, and together we interviewed, by phone, Sayed Moujtaba Davoodi, a poll worker who participated in the June 12 election in region 13 (of 22 regions) in Tehran. Mr. Daboodi has worked in elections for the past 16 years. The following is from their description of the procedures.

The Iranian election is a major foreign-policy story for the U.S. corporate media, and coverage has centered on the question of electoral fraud. Yet Weisbrot, a diligent researcher, found no news account that answered the most basic questions about how the Iranian vote was actually supposed to be conducted.

The main point of having a free press is to protect other freedoms, the right to free and fair elections prominently among them. If this is how they go about investigating claims of vote fraud, though, how can we hope that corporate media will ever be an effective guardian of voting rights when they’re threatened here at home?

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.