A recent CBS Evening News report on unnecessarily strict voter ID laws engaged in the sort of "he said, she said" reporting that ignores the virtual non-existence of in-person voter fraud, a type of false equivalence that media critics have widely condemned.
On October 9, the Supreme Court issued an order that prevented Wisconsin's voter ID law -- one of the strictest in the nation -- from going into effect just weeks before the November elections. Opponents of the law argued that the new identification requirements were not only unconstitutional but would have caused "chaos" at polling places and could have disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of voters who lacked the appropriate ID. A similarly restrictive voter ID law was struck down by a federal judge in Texas that same day, with the judge calling the law an "unconstitutional poll tax" that unfairly discriminated against the poor and people of color.
These types of strict voter ID laws are popular among Republican lawmakers, despite the fact that they are redundant and there is no evidence of widespread, in-person voter fraud -- the type of fraud voter ID laws are designed to prevent. Nevertheless, on the October 10 edition of CBS Evening News, correspondent Chip Reid's segment on the recent legal decisions affecting Texas and Wisconsin's voter ID laws failed to report this simple truth about voter suppression:
Rock The Vote president Ashley Spillane responded to Fox News hosts' criticism of the campaign encouraging young people to vote, saying the hosts' declaration that they don't want young people to vote if they "don't know the issues," is "crazy."
During the October 8 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered, co-hosts Kennedy and Harris Faulkner chided the Rock The Vote "#TurnOutForWhat" campaign aimed at motivating young people to vote in the 2014 midterm elections "for the issues that matter to them." Faulkner claimed the campaign "is about kids getting high, getting drunk," and asked "do you really want to motivate them to vote and be ignorant at the polls?" Kennedy agreed saying "no" she didn't want young people to vote if they don't know the issues.
On October 9, Spillane responded on HuffPost Live, calling the view that young people shouldn't vote "crazy." She further explained that their comments exemplified a "problematic take on youth voting in American media":
Fox News is calling recent court decisions blocking voter ID laws a "setback," despite the fact that these decisions will allow more people to engage in the political process.
On October 9, the Supreme Court issued an order temporarily blocking Wisconsin's voter ID law -- a law that The New York Times called "one of the strictest in the nation." Even though these kinds of voter ID laws disproportionately affect people of color and in-person voter fraud is almost nonexistent, right-wing media outlets has repeatedly celebrated them. National Review Online was highly supportive of Wisconsin's law in particular, and it called fears that the new ID requirements would cause "chaos at the polls" overblown because "there has been no such 'chaos' in any of the other states that have implemented voter-ID laws over the past ten years."
Elsewhere, in Texas, a federal court struck down that state's voter ID law -- another stringent law that right-wing media have described as "a good thing." However, in its ruling, the court called Texas' law an "unconstitutional poll tax" that "has an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose."
Yet Fox News was apparently unmoved by the Texas court's proclamation that the right to vote "defines our nation as a democracy." On the October 10 edition of America's Newsroom, host Martha MacCallum said the "timing" of the orders was "very interesting." Her co-host, Bill Hemmer, said the decisions were "the latest setbacks" to laws "meant to crack down on voter fraud":
The timing is interesting, but probably not in the way MacCallum thinks. Although the court's order doesn't say why it stopped Wisconsin's law from being implemented, SCOTUSblog's Lyle Denniston suggested that "the fact that this year's election is less than a month away may have been the key factor." In its brief in the Wisconsin case, the ACLU also argued that "[n]o court has permitted a voter ID law to go into effect this close to an election based on last-minute changes to the law." Had the law been implemented before the 2014 election, hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin voters could have been affected. According to the ACLU and the Advancement Project, state officials would have had "to issue some 6,000 IDs per day between now and the election" to ensure that every eligible voter had the required form of identification.
Several Fox News figures' recent suggestions to improve the electorate and voting practices are eerily reminiscent of discriminatory election laws like Jim Crow.
Should homeless people vote? Probably not, according to network host Tucker Carlson. Appearing on Outnumbered on October 2, Carlson took issue with a Republican campaign ad encouraging young women to vote by spoofing the TLC show Say Yes To The Dress, asking, "You want your government run by people whose favorite show is Say Yes [To The Dress]?" He compared the competence of young women at the ballot box to that of homeless people and argued, "I don't think as a general matter you should be encouraging people who don't know anything about what they're voting for to vote. That's what the Democrats do, giving Newports to the homeless to get them to the polls. That's literally true. Republicans shouldn't follow suit on that. You shouldn't pander to people."
To be an informed voter, Fox contributor Ben Carson thinks you should read his new voter education guide. Just yesterday, Carson -- apparently also a likely presidential candidate -- hyped his new voting guide e-book in a National Review Online article. According to Carson, the country suffers from a dearth of informed voters and his e-book is the solution, providing information on politicians and policies to "make it easier for people to think for themselves, rather than being herded and manipulated by those in various political organizations who hunger for power, not liberty and fairness."
Just last month, Fox & Friends co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck suggested it may be beneficial for Americans to pass citizenship tests before gaining the right to vote. Debating the advantages of requiring high schoolers to pass civics tests before graduating and becoming eligible to vote, Hasselbeck posited that such steps could make "a more meaningful measure when you vote, perhaps, too." She later asked viewers for their thoughts on the tests: "Civics test required to vote or graduate? Let us know."
Beyond implying that not all Americans are qualified to exercise a constitutional right, these Fox figures' voting suggestions share a common thread -- they hark back to discriminatory election laws like Jim Crow laws, rampant prior to the 1965 Voting Rights Act to keep would-be black voters away from the polls.
Fox News ran a misleading segment highlighting Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp's investigation into fraud allegations against a nonpartisan voter education and registration group, failing to note key facts about the accusations.
The segment, on the September 19 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, highlighted "allegations of voter registration fraud by Georgia Democrats linked to Senate candidate Michelle Nunn." Reporter John Roberts went on to discuss the ongoing "scandal," which he said involves "complaints about potential voter registration fraud." Roberts highlighted Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp's investigation into allegations that 25 voter registration applications and three canvassing sheets turned in by the nonpartisan New Georgia Project contained some type of inaccurate information, while another 26 were flagged as "suspicious":
What Fox News failed to note is that Georgia law requires all applications -- even those the New Georgia Project thought were incomplete or inaccurate -- to be turned in by the organization. As Stacey Abrams, head of the New Georgia Project, told The Washington Post, her organization flagged the forms before submitting them to the secretary of state:
Of the more than 85,000 registration forms the group has turned in so far, about 11 percent were incomplete, Abrams said, but state law requires they turn in all forms they receive, regardless of whether or not they are complete. "We don't get to decide if something is good or bad," she said. Those incomplete forms were flagged, however, by the group before being turned in.
National Review Online misrepresented a recent court decision that could allow an unneccessarily restrictive voter identification law to be implemented in Wisconsin only weeks before the November election.
On September 12, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals lifted an injunction that a district court judge had previously granted to prevent Wisconsin's strict voter ID law from going into effect due to concerns that its disproportionate effect on communities of color violated the Voting Rights Act. After the three judge panel of the Seventh Circuit issued its order, Wisconsin officials announced that they would move forward with implementing the law despite the fact that election officials are not trained in the new photo ID requirements and absentee ballots have already been turned in. This last minute voting change has the potential to keep hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin voters who lack photo ID from participating in the November election.
Right-wing media quickly downplayed the significance the law might have on the election. On the September 17 edition of Special Report with Bret Baier, Fox News correspondent Mike Tobin managed to point out that the law could affect the outcome of the gubernatorial race in Wisconsin, which shows Republican Gov. Scott Walker in a near-tie with his Democratic opponent Mary Burke. But Tobin minimized the impact of the ID law by erroneously suggesting that "there is only a handful of voters who won't get IDs by election day."
NRO contributor Hans von Spakovsky, a tireless advocate for voter ID laws that suppress the vote of women, minorities, and the poor, also applauded the Seventh Circuit's order, calling it a "stunning blow" for opponents of voter ID. Von Spakovsky overlooked key facts in the case to ultimately conclude there was "no justification for striking down" Wisconsin's law in the first place:
As I explained in an NRO article in May, the district court judge, Lynn Adelman, a Clinton appointee and former Democratic state senator, had issued an injunction claiming the Wisconsin ID law violated the Voting Rights Act as well as the Fourteenth Amendment. Adelman made the startling claim in his opinion that the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in 2008 upholding Indiana's voter-ID law as constitutional was "not binding precedent," so Adelman could essentially ignore it.
However, that was too much for the Seventh Circuit. It pointed out, in what most lawyers would consider a rebuke, that Adelman had held Wisconsin's law invalid "even though it is materially identical to Indiana's photo ID statute, which the Supreme Court held valid in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board."
It was also obviously significant to the Seventh Circuit that the Wisconsin state supreme court had upheld the state's voter-ID law in July ... In fact, the appeals court said the state court decision had changed the "balance of equities and thus the propriety of federal injunctive relief."
In other words, there was no justification for striking down a state voter-ID law that was identical to one that had been previously upheld by both the Supreme Court of the United States and that state's highest court.
Fox News acknowledged that a voter ID law may prevent people from casting votes while discussing the upcoming gubernatorial elections in Wisconsin -- despite the network's sustained campaign to deny the negative repercussions these laws have on voting.
On September 12, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals dissolved an injunction blocking the state of Wisconsin from implementing voter ID laws that required voters to show photo identification in order to cast their votes. According to Reuters, these new rules are set to go into effect in time for the November general elections.
During the September 17 edition of Special Report with Bret Baier, Fox correspondent Mike Tobin reported on the upcoming gubernatorial election between Governor Scott Walker (R) and Democratic challenger Mary Burke. During a discussion of polling numbers placing the two candidates at a statistical tie, Tobin acknowledged that the implementation of the state's new voter ID laws could potentially impact the election. Claiming that "there is only a handful of voters who won't get IDs by election day," he went on to say that "even a handful can tip the scales" in this election:
Although Tobin was correct in claiming that voter ID laws could have a significant impact on the election, his assertion that "only a handful of voters" won't be able to obtain identification downplays the possibility that hundreds of thousands of voters may be disenfranchised by the law's implementation.
Despite multiple reports showing that the type of voter fraud IDs protect against is virtually nonexistent, Fox News has repeatedly advocated for these laws, even though they have been shown to disenfranchise eligible voters.
Voter ID laws have real consequences on elections. As the Brennan Center for Justice reported in a 2013 study, "free IDs are not equally accessible to all voters," and voter ID laws "make it harder for hundreds of thousands of poor Americans to vote."
The New York Times did not follow the advice of its public editor, who has argued the paper should report that the type of voter fraud that strict voter ID laws are supposed to prevent is virtually nonexistent. In the two-year period between her current and past request that the paper add "the truth" to "he said, she said" coverage on voter ID and voter fraud, the Times reported the evidence on in-person voter impersonation in only 15 of 28 articles.
National Review Online is repeating the claims of conservative groups who compared voter registrations in Maryland and Virginia and flagged potential instances of "double voting" -- voters with the same name and birthdate who may have voted in both states. This method of election integrity has been discredited due to its high rate of false positives and significant risk of voter disenfranchisement.
From the September 2 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Right-wing media are parroting local Republican officials and criticizing voter registration drives in Ferguson, Missouri, the site of intense protests after the death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown. Voting rights advocates argue that registering the electorate is crucial for the community to hold their government accountable, but right-wing media condemn these efforts as "liberal activism."
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.
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 June 25 edition of The Blaze's The Glenn Beck Program:
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Fox News has consistently denied that voter ID laws discriminate against minority groups and disenfranchise legal voters, yet after just one day of implementation, Alabama's voter ID restriction has already discredited these claims.
In 2011, Alabama passed a state law requiring voters to present a photo ID in order to be allowed to cast a ballot, but implementation of the law was delayed due to a Voting Rights Act's (VRA) formula that required jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination to "preclear" their election rule changes with the Department of Justice. The preclearance rule was gutted in the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court decision, and Alabama's June 4 primary election was the first opportunity for the state's voter ID law to take effect.
Fox News has claimed that DOJ protections are no longer necessary to ensure that voter rights are protected against discriminatory state laws, attacking claims that voter ID laws are discriminatory as a "liberal ruse" to gain minority votes, and panning the idea that such requirements would suppress votes. In June 2013, Fox host and attorney Megyn Kelly hosted National Review Online's Andrew McCarthy to argue that race-based voter suppression "has long ago passed to the dustbin of history," calling anyone who thinks otherwise demagogues and "race hucksters." On May 21, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy claimed that no Republican "wants to take away the right to vote."
These claims were put to the test this week, as Alabama's voter ID law went into effect.
According to a report by MSNBC's Zachary Roth, 93-year-old Willie Mims was turned away from the polls because he lacked photo ID and was denied the opportunity to cast a provisional ballot:
Willie Mims, 93, showed up to vote at his polling place in Escambia County Tuesday morning for Alabama's primary elections. Mims, who is Africa-American, no longer drives, doesn't have a license, and has no other form of ID. As a result, he was turned away without voting. Mims wasn't even offered the chance to cast a provisional ballot, as the law requires in that situation.
Jenny McCarren of Empower Alabama, a progressive group that gave Mims a ride to the polls, recounted the story for msnbc. McCarren said Mims's voter file showed he has voted in every election since 2000, as far back as the records go.
How many Alabamans lack ID isn't known - in part because the state made no effort to find out before the ID law. But nationwide, most studies put the figure at around 11%, and as high as 25% for African Americans.
Days earlier, The Washington Post reported that new evidence from a University of Southern California study found that "discriminatory intent underlies legislative support for voter identification laws," which the Post said raises "questions about the constitutionality of voter ID laws." The study examined the reactions of real lawmakers in order to reach its conclusions:
Is bias in responsiveness to constituents conditional on the policy preferences of elected officials? The scholarly conventional wisdom is that constituency groups who do not receive policy representation still obtain some level of responsiveness by legislators outside of the policy realm. In contrast, we present a theory of preference-induced responsiveness bias where constituency responsiveness by legislators is associated with legislator policy preferences. Elected officials who favor laws harming minority groups are also less likely to engage in non-policy responsiveness to minority groups. To test this proposition, we conducted a field experiment in 28 U.S. legislative chambers. Legislators were randomly assigned to receive messages from Latino, Anglo, English-speaking, and Spanish-speaking constituents asking if a driver's license is required for voting. If legislators supported voter identification, Latino constituents were less likely than Anglo constituents to receive communications from legislators. The implication is that discriminatory intent underlies legislative support for voter identification laws.
Both of these findings reinforce facts that Fox has been denying for years. Voter ID laws can disenfranchise voters -- particularly minorities, students, and the elderly.
As the Brennan Center pointed out, "free IDs are not equally accessible to all voters," and laws requiring voters to show ID put a burden on low-income individuals, disproportionately affecting the ability of traditionally Democratic-voting demographics to cast a ballot. According to Brennan Center data, 11 percent of Americans say they do not possess government-issued photo identification, and this number includes "25 percent of African Americans, 16 percent of Hispanics, and 18 percent of persons aged 65 and older."
Republicans have previously admitted that the impetus behind GOP efforts to pass discriminatory voter ID laws and other voting restrictions is a desire to win elections. Listing accomplishments of the GOP-led state legislature in 2012, Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R) proclaimed:
TURZAI: Pro-Second Amendment? The Castle Doctrine, it's done. First pro-life legislation - abortion facility regulations - in 22 years, done. Voter ID, which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.