As strict voter ID laws are put into effect ahead of the midterm elections, recent judicial opinions and social science studies continue to poke holes in right-wing media's defense of voter suppression.
Fox News hosts are lashing out at Media Matters amid widespread condemnation after its hosts argued that young women were too ignorant to vote or serve on jury duty.
Host Kimberly Guilfoyle came under fire after arguing that the reason young women don't vote for conservatives is "the same reason why young women on juries are not a good idea -- they don't get it," adding that she would automatically exclude them from being on a jury so they can "go back on Tinder or Match.com."
As Huffington Post's Catherine Taibi pointed out, not only is Guilfoyle's argument a "terrible -- and illogical -- idea to convince young people not to vote," but it's also categorically incorrect. Salon's Jenny Kutner wrote that while young women may "be healthy and hot, and possibly even running around, it's doubtful they're all without a care in the world" as Guilfoyle suggested.
As the 2014 midterm election draws near, right-wing media figures have worked to discourage certain groups of people from voting, claiming some are too dumb to make an informed decision. But this isn't new -- conservatives have long advocated for onerous voter ID laws and even prerequisite civics tests, policies that work to suppress the vote, even going so far as to say that women shouldn't be allowed to vote.
Media Matters looked back at the citizens conservative media have deemed unworthy of voting:
From the October 22 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Conservative media personalities have discouraged young women from voting as the midterm elections near, claiming that they are "too dumb to vote."
From the October 21 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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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.