Myths about voter ID are reemerging in the wake of a federal judge's ruling against the government in North Carolina, a voting rights case right-wing media characterized as a "huge loss" for the Obama Administration, despite the fact that the decision is preliminary and the government has prevailed in similar cases in other states.
In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, a provision that required states with a history of suppressing the minority vote to pre-clear changes to their election laws with the Department of Justice or a federal court. Almost immediately after the decision in Shelby County, states that had been subject to the preclearance requirement, like North Carolina, began passing and implementing strict voter ID laws, an expensive fix to a problem that is essentially non-existent. Nevertheless, unnecessarily restrictive and redundant voter ID laws have become a favorite policy proposal for conservatives and right-wing media.
A recent order denying DOJ's request for a preliminary injunction against North Carolina's new voter ID requirements -- part of the "country's worst voter suppression law" -- has now given right-wing media a fresh opportunity to dredge up old misinformation about the legal struggle over these measures. Frequent National Review Online contributor Hans von Spakovsky, a vocal proponent for oppressive voter ID laws and questionable election procedures, called it "a huge loss" for Attorney General Eric Holder and the DOJ, and claimed that the judge "simply shreds the arguments by the DOJ" in the opinion:
Judicial Watch filed an expert report in the case through an amicus brief that showed that in the May 2014 primary election, black turnout was up an astounding 29.5 percent compared with the last midterm primary election in May 2010. White turnout was up only 13.7 percent. As Judicial Watch said, these results were "devastating to the plaintiffs' cases because they contradict all of their experts' basis for asserting harm."
[T]his is a significant blow to DOJ and other opponents of commonsense election reforms.
That is particularly true when one remembers that this is DOJ's second big loss in the Carolinas. South Carolina attorney general Alan Wilson beat DOJ in 2012 when a federal court threw out a claim that South Carolina's voter-ID law was discriminatory. That law is in place today -- and there is a high probability that North Carolina's voter-ID requirement will also be in place in 2016 for the next presidential election.
In the wake of the tragic shooting death of unarmed Missouri teenager Michael Brown, right-wing media outlets attacked President Obama's uncontroversial statement of condolences and suggested the president was to blame for the state of race relations in the United States.
Bill O'Reilly's proclivity for using tragedies and racial disparities to lecture the black community was on full display in the wake of the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager at the hands of police in Ferguson, Missouri.
The St. Louis suburb has erupted in demonstrations following the death of Michael Brown, a black, unarmed teenager allegedly gunned down by police while he tried to run away. The unrest has prompted Brown's parents and civil rights leaders to call for peaceful protests and justice over the wrongful death.
On the August 12 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly attributed Brown's father's calls for justice to "talking through an emotional prism," adding that "many, many African Americans believe" that Brown was murdered "without knowing the facts." He wondered if the black community deserves criticism for viewing Brown's death as an injustice.
Salon's Joan Walsh aptly described how O'Reilly's response exposes his program as a "cable news show that sometimes doubles as an hour of moral instruction for black people." As Walsh explained, it was a lecture that smacked of "creepy paternalism," and one that "provides a window onto the worldview of aging authoritarian white conservatives." It's also a lecture O'Reilly has perfected.
The Fox host frequently attacks the black community for problems that, according to him, specifically plague black culture. He's staunchly denied the existence of racial disparities in arrest and conviction rates across the country, often attributing African Americans' over-representation in the nation's prison systems to "the culture" in "ghetto neighborhoods." "The culture" is also to blame for disproportionate poverty in the black community. O'Reilly's "solutions" often involve blaming black families and "young black girls" who became pregnant outside of marriage.
A new report has debunked the primary voter fraud argument right-wing media have used for years to promote unnecessarily strict voter identification laws, which alienate eligible voters and often have the effect of suppressing the vote in minority and heavily-Democratic jurisdictions.
These kinds of voter ID laws, which require voters to present certain forms of ID at polling locations when attempting to vote, disproportionately affect people of color and can cost states millions of dollars to implement. But right-wing media have continued to promote them, especially since 2013, when the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) that prevented suppression efforts in states with a history of racially-motivated voting laws. As Ezra Klein noted on the August 6 edition of MSNBC's All In, right-wing media have consistently raised the specter of in-person "voter fraud" to justify their support for these redundant and highly restrictive voter ID laws.
But as election law experts repeatedly point out, the specific type of fraud that voter ID can prevent -- voter impersonation -- is extremely uncommon.
National Review Online contributors John Fund and Hans von Spakovksy have been at the forefront of right-wing media's push for burdensome voter ID laws, calling Texas's law "a good thing," despite the fact that voters reported being turned away from the polls. Both Fund and von Spakovsky have advocated for further gutting what's left of the Voting Rights Act, making it nearly impossible for citizens who have been prevented from voting due to needlessly cumbersome election laws to legally challenge these oppressive regulations. Fund has also downplayed how difficult it can be for citizens -- particularly people of color, women, and low-income voters -- to obtain the right kind of identification needed to vote. In response to a Pennsylvania state court case that found the state's voter ID law unconstitutional, Fund called evidence that thousands of voters lacked the proper ID nothing more than an "inflated estimate."
While evidence of widespread voter fraud has yet to surface, right-wing media figures have nevertheless insisted that "there are plenty of instances" of voter fraud and that there is "concrete evidence ... of massive voter fraud." But according to a new study by Loyola University law professor Justin Levitt, the in-person voter fraud that strict voter ID prevents is still nearly non-existent. Levitt's study, which "track[ed] any specific, credible allegation that someone may have pretended to be someone else at the polls, in any way that an ID law could fix" found just 31 instances of this potential voter fraud between 2000 and 2014. According to Levitt, "more than 1 billion ballots were cast in that period."
Election fraud happens. But ID laws are not aimed at the fraud you'll actually hear about. Most current ID laws (Wisconsin is a rare exception) aren't designed to stop fraud with absentee ballots (indeed, laws requiring ID at the polls push more people into the absentee system, where there are plenty of real dangers). Or vote buying. Or coercion. Or fake registration forms. Or voting from the wrong address. Or ballot box stuffing by officials in on the scam. In the 243-page document that Mississippi State Sen. Chris McDaniel filed on Monday with evidence of allegedly illegal votes in the Mississippi Republican primary, there were no allegations of the kind of fraud that ID can stop.
Instead, requirements to show ID at the polls are designed for pretty much one thing: people showing up at the polls pretending to be somebody else in order to each cast one incremental fake ballot. This is a slow, clunky way to steal an election. Which is why it rarely happens.
From the July 29 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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From the July 28 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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From the July 15 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Media figures across the board have endorsed right-wing author Dinesh D'Souza's latest film, America: Imagine a World Without Her, despite the fact that the film is based on a book with extreme, racist rhetoric. Here are five media figures who have given D'Souza's works their stamp of approval.
From the June 25 edition of The Blaze's The Glenn Beck Program:
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From the June 19 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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Ta-Nehisi Coates' much-praised essay, "The Case for Reparations," that recently appeared in The Atlantic has given right-wing media a fresh opportunity to argue that the best way to address racially discriminatory laws or policies -- such as housing segregation -- is to never speak of them, let alone litigate them under civil rights law.
In Coates' essay, which ultimately calls for a congressional study on the long-term effects of the treatment of African-Americans in the United States, he explores the country's history of racism and oppression, from slavery to the Jim Crow laws to the present. Although right-wing media have been known to erroneously claim that racism is no longer a problem, the systemic effect of state and federal laws that favored whites and oppressed people of color is still felt today. As Coates explains, institutionalized oppression of black people was often sanctioned by the federal government, either through legislation that inadequately addressed racial discrimination or by agencies that propagated biased policies rooted in federal law. For example, agencies like the Fair Housing Administration often refused to insure mortgages in neighborhoods that they deemed unsuitable, perpetuating systematic housing segregation that in turn fueled other disparate racial impacts that continue today, such as separate and unequal schools. Despite the fact that redlining was outlawed in 1968 with the passage of the Fair Housing Act, the housing market is still hostile to black buyers and renters, even in neighborhoods that have taken steps to improve residential housing segregation.
Ultimately, Coates argues that the best way to even begin to evaluate how whether the government owes a debt for the generations of stolen wealth and opportunity it sanctioned would be to allow Rep. John Conyers' (D-MI) bill, HR 40, also known as the Commission to Study Reparations Proposals for African Americans Act, to proceed. The bill calls "for a congressional study of slavery and its lingering effects as well as recommendations for 'appropriate remedies.'" Conyers has introduced this bill -- which does not actually authorize the disbursement of any funds -- every year for the last 25 years, but it has never proceeded to the House floor. For Coates, HR 40 represents an opportunity to finally study the impact state-sanctioned discrimination has had and continues to have on black communities, and provide a vehicle for a "a serious discussion and debate ... we stand to discover much about ourselves in such a discussion."
But yet again, members of right-wing media have no interest in such a discussion.
From the May 22 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Saturday, May 17, marked the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, holding that state-mandated racially-segregated schools violated the U.S. Constitution. Fox News celebrated this historic event by slamming Attorney General Eric Holder and First Lady Michelle Obama for discussing the role of systemic racial discrimination in modern American society in commencement addresses over the weekend.
On the May 19 episode of Hannity, host Sean Hannity was joined by Town Hall reporter Katie Pavlich to discuss the speeches, saying that he found it "suspicious" that Holder's commencement address at Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD, and Michelle Obama's to graduating seniors in Topeka, KS, discussed race at all, even though Brown is known as ushering in modern civil rights law by condemning the racial caste system of white supremacy. In his remarks, Holder pointed out that despite the holding in Brown, "in too many of our school districts, significant divisions persist and segregation has reoccurred -- including zero-tolerance school discipline practices that, while well-intentioned and aimed at promoting school safety, affect black males at a rate three times higher than their white peers." The first lady warned that "today, by some measures, our schools are as segregated as they were back when Dr. King gave his final speech," and that "many districts in this country have actually pulled back on efforts to integrate their schools, and many communities have become less diverse as folks have moved from cities to suburbs."
But Hannity was unmoved, criticizing these speeches that discussed the "subtle" institutional discrimination that leads to severe inequalities of opportunity for persons of color. Pavlich, meanwhile, blamed Holder and President Obama for the spike in resegregation, because they have fought "school choice" and voucher programs.
This is not the first time that Fox News bizarrely complained about these commencement addresses because they discussed race on the anniversary of Brown. On the May 18 edition of Fox & Friends Sunday, co-hosts Tucker Carlson and Anna Kooiman complained about Holder's accurate description of the discrimination currently facing minority students, and claimed that his speech was not sufficiently "uplifting." Kooiman went on to argue that Holder should have included a "call of action for African-American fathers to actually be fathers and not be baby daddys" instead of calling zero-tolerance policies that unfairly funnel students of color into prison "racist." Carlson agreed with Kooiman's assessment and argued that Holder's speech didn't "acknowledge reality."
What Fox ignores is that not only is the 60th anniversary of one of the most significant civil rights victories in history a perfectly appropriate time to discuss race, but that Michelle Obama and Holder were correct to point out that there is still work to be done to fulfill the promise of Brown. According to a recently released study by UCLA's Civil Rights Project, "segregation increased substantially" after federal court desegregation orders were terminated and ignored under Republican administrations and conservative Supreme Court rulings, leaving devastating and lasting effects on America's students and future leaders.
The Five exploited Attorney General Eric Holder's recent commencement speech addressing the nation's ongoing problems with racial discrimination in order to question whether such discrimination exists at all.
Eric Holder delivered a commencement address on May 17 at Morgan State University, commemorating in part the 60th anniversary of the historic Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision that ruled that state-mandated racial segregation of schools violated the U.S. Constitution. Holder highlighted ongoing problems in racial discrimination, such as the fact that "African-American men have received sentences that are nearly 20 percent longer than those imposed on white males convicted of similar crimes," and called on graduates to "take account of racial inequality, especially in its less obvious forms, and actively discuss ways to combat it."
On the May 19 edition of Fox News' The Five, co-hosts jumped off of Attorney General Holder's recent commencement speech to question the existence of racial discrimination in America, even going as far as questioning the validity of studies showing blacks are incarcerated more often and given longer sentences than whites for the same crimes.
Guest host Jesse Watters, a correspondent for The O'Reilly Factor -- a program with infamous coverage of racial issues -- took issue with Holder's discussion of discrimination in school discipline, wondering "is it drugs" at home that cause black students to act out more than white students and face suspension from zero tolerance disciplinary policies in schools:
WATTERS: Two things that you and Eric Holder said. I think he said that zero tolerance disciplinary policies affect black males more in school? Why is that? OK? Do they misbehave more than white students?
WATTERS: OK, then why is that? His solution is to lower the standards to accommodate the misbehaving black male students. What's the other solution? Maybe address the root cause of the misbehavior. Is it something going on at home? Is it drugs? What's the problem? He wants to lower standards. We want to bring other people up.
Watters went on to question whether racial discrimination truly contributes to higher incarceration rates for black Americans, arguing that the number of "prior convictions" is responsible for the more frequent incarceration of black Americans and longer sentences:
WATTERS: The other thing that you said and Eric Holder said is that blacks are incarcerated at 20 times more rate for the same crimes as whites. You know what that study doesn't account for? It doesn't account for priors. So if someone has three prior convictions for slanging crack, and a white guy does it and a black guy does it, the black guy with the three priors is going to go away for a longer time.
BECKEL: You believe that blacks are put into prison at a higher rate than whites because they're -- not because of the color of the skin?
WATTERS: No, I'm taking issue with the study, Bob.
Host Kimberly Guilfoyle agreed, stating that "blanket statements" like the facts on incarceration rates for blacks and whites are "dangerous" and "reckless":
From the May 15 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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