Conservative media were unfazed by Rep. Paul Ryan's suggestion that low-income parents don't care for their children if they receive free school lunches, a response that stays true to their history of shaming low-income people.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), chairman of the House Budget Committee, helped kick off the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on March 6 with a speech on the direction of the Republican Party as the 2014 and 2016 elections approach. Ryan shared an anecdote about a child receiving free lunch from school to paint Democrats as out of touch (emphasis added):
RYAN: The Left is making a big mistake here. What they're offering people is a full stomach and an empty soul. The American people want more than that. You know, this reminds me of a story I heard from Eloise Anderson. She serves in the cabinet of my buddy Gov. Scott Walker. She once met a young boy from a very poor family. And every day at school, he would get a free lunch from a government program. He told Eloise he didn't want a free lunch. He wanted his own lunch. One in a brown paper bag, just like the other kids. He wanted one, he said, because he knew a kid with a brown paper bag had someone who cared for him. This is what the Left does not understand.
Right-wing media saw nothing objectionable in Ryan's comments. National Review Online praised his argument with the headline, "Paul Ryan's Moving Story That Explains the Difference Between Hard Work and Dependency," a take which echoes Fox News' narrative that free school lunches for children create dependency rather than encouraging hard work.
On Fox's Happening Now, correspondent Carl Cameron, reporting from CPAC, characterized Ryan's speech as taking a "middle-of-the-road tone."
Ryan's comments fit in well with conservative media's history of shaming the poor, and in particular, free school lunch programs for children of low-income families. In the past, Fox has even suggested children be forced to work for their meals.
Where else might Ryan have heard this before?
James O'Keefe, a right-wing performance artist known for his undercover videos that supposedly "expose" progressive "fraud," has released a new video falsely accusing conservative Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) of "excluding whites" from protection under his new Voting Rights Amendment Act (VRAA), a distortion of this bipartisan bill that has already been repeated in the National Review Online.
O'Keefe's new video shows him mysteriously dressed in camouflage, dancing to New Order's "Round and Round," and ultimately "confronting" Sensenbrenner at a town hall meeting about supposedly alarming anti-white language in the VRAA. Sensenbrenner, as he has in the past, began working on both sides of the aisle on this new VRA legislation last year, after the Supreme Court gutted crucial voter suppression protections in Shelby County v. Holder.
In the video, O'Keefe lectures Sensenbrenner on his own bill, claiming that "[i]n the legislation, it seems to contain language that explicitly removes white people from the protections of the Voting Rights Act." Sensenbrenner interrupts O'Keefe to correctly point out that the law "does not do that. There is nothing targeting people by race in the Voting Rights Act." O'Keefe eventually accuses Sensenbrenner of "doing the work of [U.S. Attorney General] Eric Holder and the race-hustlers with this language in the bill."
"It's a situation basically directly out of a Kafka novel, and I can't think of anything more unjust."
That's how Lisa Rickard, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute of Legal Reform (ILR), framed the current state of securities class actions. When the Chamber talks, right-wing media listen -- which is why it matters when its representatives liken class action lawsuits to Kafkaesque hellscapes, worse than anything else in the world.
On February 28, the Chamber hosted "Erica P. John Fund & Beyond: The Past, Present, and Future of Securities Class Actions," an event where Chamber-selected panelists discussed the perils of the next big class action case before the Supreme Court, Halliburton Co v. Erica P. John Fund. At the heart of the case is the so-called "fraud on the market" theory, decades-old Supreme Court and legislative precedent that businesses interests are asking the conservative justices to overturn.
Writers at National Review have whipped themselves into such an anti-gay fervor recently that they're oblivious to the plainly contradictory points they're trying to make as news of prominent gay athletes and discriminatory anti-gay laws continue to generate headlines this month.
The confused commentary resembles something of a last-ditch effort to salvage a small victory in the right wing's losing culture war over gay rights and marriage equality. Just ten years ago the Republican Party successfully used same-sex marriage as a wedge issue against Democrats in the 2004 campaign. Now, conservatives remain in retreat as public sentiment continues to shift (For the first time, a majority of Ohioans support marriage equality.)
"On this particular issue, the cultural wheel has spun so quickly," noted ESPN's Tony Kornheiser, while discussing the breaking news last week that Jason Collins was signing a contract with the Brooklyn Nets to become the first openly gay player in the NBA.
It was Collins' historic coming out story that helped set off a nasty National Review Online screed by contributing editor Quin Hilyer, who condemned "homosexual chic" and "gay mania" in his February 24 essay. Hilyer complained bitterly about how the "professional Left" is "going bonkers" hyping "active homosexuality (or any one of several exotic variants thereof) as an absolute virtue."
"Enough already with the in-our-faceness from the homosexual activists and their aggressively enthusiastic cheerleaders," Hillyer complained. He was especially angry by the recent press attention University of Missouri star football play Michael Sam received as he stands poised to become the first openly gay NFL player. Hillyer was also upset about "attention-grabbing" Johnny Weir who made headlines and won praise for his astute commentary of Olympic ice-skating for NBC this year.
"The problem isn't homosexuality," Hillyer insisted. "But public sexuality. There was a time, a better time, when the sex lives of strangers were nobody's business," he wrote. "Most Americans assuredly don't much care what other people do."
The message to public gays like Sam and Weir: Tone it down!
But here's the contradiction: While claiming nobody really cares what gays do, Hillyer in the same column, and National Review editors the following day in an unsigned editorial, simultaneously applauded right-wing efforts to pass state-wide laws that discriminate against gays.
Nationally syndicated columnist and National Review Online (NRO) contributor Dennis Prager declared that the "radical and extreme" notion of marriage equality leaves "no plausible argument" against polygamy or marriages between brothers and sisters or parents and children.
In his February 18 syndicated column, Prager assailed a spate of recent judicial decisions opposing state bans on same-sex marriage or, in the case of Kentucky, calling on state officials to recognize same-sex unions performed in other states.
Challenging the court rulings, Prager cited the margins by which state voters have approved bans on marriage equality - a standard by which bans on interracial marriage would also have been valid; in 1958, 94 percent of Americans opposed such unions. But Prager assured readers that same-sex and interracial unions are in no ways analogous (emphasis added):
For [marriage equality supporters], it is identical to ruling that laws that banned interracial marriages were unconstitutional. But that argument is utterly flawed. First, the analogy is false because there is no difference between black people and white people, while there are enormous differences between males and females.Second, no great moral tradition or thinking ever forbade interracial marriages (inter-religious marriages were sometimes forbidden). Moses, for example, married a black woman, and neither the Bible nor God hinted that it was wrong.
In other words: God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. And because gay people have been historically disenfranchised, there's no reason to start granting them equal rights.
Prager proceeded to predict the consequences of allowing marriage equality to take root (emphasis added):
Proponents of same-sex marriage regularly label opponents "radical" and "extremist." However, given that no society in thousands of years has allowed same-sex marriage, it is, by definition, the proponents of same-sex marriage whose position is radical and extreme. You cannot re-define marriage in a more radical way than allowing members of the same sex to marry. You can argue that is the moral thing to do. But you cannot argue that is it not radical.
This is another example of the lack of serious thought -- as opposed to serious passion -- that underlies the movement to redefine marriage. If American society has [in the words of Judge Vaughn Walker, who ruled against California's Proposition 8] a "constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis," then there is no plausible argument for denying polygamous relationships, or brothers and sisters, or parents and adult children, the right to marry.
In its continued opposition to the Voting Rights Act (VRA) and a proposed amendment to this historic law, The Wall Street Journal published a misleading op-ed by Hans von Spakovsky, an unreliable contributor to the National Review Online.
The op-ed of von Spakovsky, a right-wing activist who has called the "modern 'civil rights' movement" indistinguishable from "discriminators and segregationists of prior generations" and whose attempts to fearmonger about "virtually non-existent" voter fraud have been repeatedly discredited, followed a WSJ editorial that compared the bipartisan attempts of Congress to update the VRA with that of "Jim Crow era Southerners."
Although this new effort to strengthen the VRA through the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 has prominent Republican support, von Spakovsky claimed "[t]his bill really isn't about the [Supreme Court's recent Shelby County v. Holder] decision. It is about having the federal government manipulate election rules to propagate racial gerrymandering and guarantee success for Democratic candidates." From the WSJ op-ed, which defended the conservative justices' gutting of the VRA in Shelby County and smeared the subsequent bipartisan efforts to repair the damage:
Before Shelby County, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act required certain states to get "preclearance" from the federal government before making any voting changes. But the Supreme Court ruled that the formula to determine which jurisdictions were covered was unconstitutional because it was based on 40-year-old turnout data that did not reflect contemporary conditions. Census Bureau data show that black-voter turnout is on a par with or exceeds that of white voters in many of the formerly covered states and is higher than the rest of the country. We simply don't need Section 5 anymore.
In Shelby County, a radical break from precedent that has been described by experts as "on a par with the Court's odious Dred Scott and Plessy decisions and other utterly lamentable expressions of judicial indifference to the ugly realities of racial life in America," the bitterly divided Supreme Court struck at the heart of the VRA's efficacy by dismantling its "preclearance" process.
Even as the conservatives did so, however, Chief Justice John Roberts explicitly told Congress to fix this formula that requires covered jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination to submit election changes for federal review before implementation. Contrary to von Spakovsky's strange assertion that "this bill really isn't about" Shelby County and is "an attempt to circumvent" the decision, this new bipartisan legislation is actually a direct response to Roberts' invitation to Congress to "draft another formula based on current conditions."
Admittedly, this new formula is more complex than von Spakovsky's preferred method of determining voter suppression by "turnout data," a confusion between correlation and causation that has been described as a rudimentary failure of "Statistics 101." Rather, Section 5 of the VRA imposes the preclearance process on jurisdictions with an incorrigible track record of suppressing votes based on race, and the formula to determine this discrimination has been changed in the new legislation to incorporate a comprehensive and rolling 15-year record.
The claim of the op-ed that the old formula led to "unwarranted objections" on the part of the Department of Justice toward alleged voter suppression is also inaccurate; this preclearance mechanism has been extremely effective at stopping racially discriminatory election changes. In fact, the two cases that von Spakovsky highlights both involved Section 5 successes.
National Review Online (NRO) has a problem with feminism and how it's embodied by Democratic women running for office like Sandra Fluke and Texas State Senator Wendy Davis.
NRO roving correspondent Kevin D. Williamson penned a February 6 column decrying modern feminism, which he defined as, "Feminism is the words 'I Want!' in the mouths of three or more women, provided they're the right kind of women."
According to Williamson, feminism is now a "career path," where cunning politicians can succeed by "defending the position favored more heavily by women than by men [which] becomes, through the magic of feminist rhetoric, anti-woman, even part of a 'war on women.'" In other words, a policy that appears to be anti-woman may simply be an innocuous proposal with disparate support among the genders that's become tainted by feminist rhetoric.
The author's examples of such conniving feminist politicians were California state senate candidate Sandra Fluke and Texas Gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, popular targets in the conservative media sphere as of late. "Whatever Sandra Fluke is up to, you can be sure she's looking for somebody else to pay for it," Williamson wrote, summarizing her 2012 congressional testimony in support of contraception coverage in health plans as a petulant "'I WANT!'"
Davis, who conducted a filibuster against Texas's new abortion restrictions in June 2013, Williamson accused of "thwarting the interests of a majority of those women she is campaigning to govern," painting her as an opportunist.
Indeed, Williamson's post is full of invective, but low on the facts regarding the very events he highlights as revealing the "Feminist Mystique."
When Sandra Fluke testified before Democratic members of Congress in 2012, she simply argued that women's insurance policies -- which they already paid for -- should cover medication like contraception that is prescribed by a medical professional. To highlight the medical need for contraception coverage, Fluke told the story of a friend whose polycystic ovarian syndrome was treated with birth control pills:
FLUKE: After months of paying over $100 out of pocket, she just couldn't afford her medication anymore, and she had to stop taking it. I learned about all of this when I walked out of a test and got a message from her that, in the middle of the night in her final-exam period, she'd been in the emergency room. She'd been there all night in just terrible, excruciating pain. She wrote to me: "It was so painful I woke up thinking I'd been shot." Without her taking the birth control, a massive cyst the size of a tennis ball had grown on her ovary. She had to have surgery to remove her entire ovary as a result.
Although Fluke briefly mentioned her personal use of contraceptive medicine during the testimony, she never referenced whether it was a financial burden or not.
And rather than "thwarting the interests" of Texas women, Davis filibustered a Republican bill that ultimately devastated women's access to reproductive health care in the state. Besides closing state clinics, the new restrictions Davis opposed also ban abortions after 20 weeks, putting the life of the fetus and mother in danger if certain pregnancies are forced to go to term.
Williamson has a history of making inflammatory remarks about women's issues -- during the 2012 presidential election, he wrote that Mitt Romney was more "high-status" than President Obama because Romney has sons instead of daughters. And after former Rep. Gabby Giffords criticized Senate inaction on gun legislation, Williamson called her "childish."
The right-wing bubble seems impervious to both experts and fact-checkers when it comes to economic truth and the Affordable Care Act.
This week the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its updated economic forecast for the years 2014 to 2024. Right-wing media quickly pounced on its projection that the supply of labor would voluntarily decline by about 2 million workers over the next three years due to the ACA, twisting the findings to accuse the ACA of destroying 2 million jobs. Such misinformation from the conservative bubble was predictable, as the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) put it on February 4:
Opponents of the ACA will try to paint these CBO estimates as evidence that the ACA has "killed jobs" or something like it. That's flat wrong. What the ACA has done is expand the menu of options available to Americans about how to obtain decent health insurance without having their income fall to poverty levels. That menu used to include one option--"go to work for a large employer."
Indeed, subsequent fact-checkers and experts discredited the right-wing media's spin -- As The Washington Post's FactChecker plainly said, "No, CBO did not say Obamacare will kill 2 million jobs," echoing Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors Jason Furman who explained that "CBO's analysis itself is about the choices that workers are making in the face of new options afforded to them by the Affordable Care Act, not something about firms destroying jobs."
But it appears it will take more than facts and experts to penetrate the right-wing echo chamber.
Fox News doubled down on its misinformation on the February 6 edition of Fox & Friends, with an on-air graphic that framed the increased worker flexibility as "Obamacare to cut 2M jobs":
The Wall Street Journal editorial board claimed to "pars[e] this supply-of-labor reasoning" in a February 5 editorial by refusing to acknowledge the distinction between labor supply and job availability:
For years liberals have lamented the jobs crisis and underemployment to castigate Republicans as mean-spirited for opposing more "stimulus" and more weeks of unemployment benefits. But if pervasive joblessness is an economic and social scourge, why celebrate a program that is creating more of it?
Liberals are also trying to spin the CBO report as an endorsement of ObamaCare's alleged health security. Mr. Furman cited the phenomenon known as "job lock," in which people don't switch employers or start their own business to preserve fringe benefits. But job lock is really about employment flexibility, rather than the government extending subsidies so people don't need or want jobs.
A National Review editorial on February 6 characterized the fact-checks as "hilarious," claiming that the ACA was "taking a blowtorch to the work force" and creating a "crater" of lost economic value while mocking the administration:
But the administration still does not seem to be able to get its collective head around the fact that American workers are not just hungry mouths that have to be filled with paychecks: They are people who provide economically valuable goods and services. Those 2.5 million out of the work force may be happier at their leisure, but the economy as a whole will be substantially worse off without their contributions. We could, in theory, simply have the federal government deliver checks to every household and allow each and every one to follow his bliss as he sees fit, but the shelves of the grocery stores soon would be empty. The depth of the Obamacare crater in the labor force isn't some abstract unemployment rate, but the lost value of the work those Americans would have done.
Plugging their ears on the CBO's determination also blinded right-wing media to the CBO's suggestion that the projected changes in the labor supply would increase opportunity for unemployed workers:
If changes in incentives lead some workers to reduce the amount of hours they want to work or to leave the labor force altogether, many unemployed workers will be available to take those jobs--so the effect on overall employment of reductions in labor supply will be greatly dampened.
National Review Online is pushing an accusation that Virginia attorney general Mark Herring is "politicizing" his office because he has refused to defend that state's same-sex marriage ban in court. In reality, Herring's decision is a common one -- state officials on both sides of the political aisle have frequently refused to defend laws they consider to be unconstitutional, and he is not alone in his legal analysis.
Right-wing media figures revived the specter of convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell to portray him as the face of legal abortion in a dishonest attack on Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis and pro-choice advocates.
In separate posts, Jonah Goldberg and Charles Krauthammer both invoked Dr. Kermit Gosnell, who was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder in May, 2013 for illegal procedures performed at his Philadelphia clinic.
In an NRO post, Goldberg highlighted Davis' successful filibuster of a restrictive abortion bill in the Texas state legislature by describing the effort as "going on against the backdrop of the sensational Kermit Gosnell case in Pennsylvania" and recounted details of Gosnell's crimes. Krauthammer pushed similar tactics in his op-ed, suggesting Republicans pursue a "strategy for seizing the high ground on abortion" by invoking Gosnell, and claiming his strategy would "[c]hallenge the other side on substance. And watch them lose":
Last year's Kermit Gosnell trial was a seminal moment. The country was shown a baby butcher at work and national sentiment was nearly unanimous. Abortion-rights advocates ran away from Gosnell. But they can't hide from the issue.
This tactic of trying to tie legal abortion to Gosnell is a familiar strategy among anti-choice media figures, despite the fact that Gosnell's crimes bear no resemblance to legal abortions.
The attempt to tarnish safe, legal abortions by invoking the crimes of a single doctor distorts the conversation about abortion by hiding the fact that the majority of abortions in America are safe and conducted early in the pregnancy. The Guttmacher Institute reported that 88% of pregnancies occurred in the first trimester. Pro-choice group RH Reality Check reviewed responses to a congressional inquiry by 38 state attorneys general and found that "abortion in the United States is highly regulated and overwhelmingly safe."
Restricting access to abortion risks pushing women towards unsafe procedures. The American Journal of Public Health found that women are more likely to seek unsafe and unlawful operation with access barriers to legal abortion:
Several studies indicate that the factors causing women to delay abortions until the second trimester include cost and access barriers, late detection of pregnancy, and difficulty deciding whether to continue the pregnancy. In part because of their increased vulnerability to these barriers, low-income women and women of color are more likely than are other women to have second-trimester abortions.
Image via mirsasha under a Creative Commons License
Continuing the right-wing media's baseless attacks on anti-discrimination laws as assaults on freedom, National Review Online (NRO) conducted a one-sided interview with a baker about the alleged threat to liberty posed by having to treat gay customers the same as any other customer.
In an interview published on January 29, NRO editor-at-large Kathryn Jean Lopez spoke with Jack Phillips, owner of the Colorado bakery Masterpiece Cakes. In December, a Colorado administrative law judge found that Phillips had violated Colorado's anti-discrimination law when he refused to bake a cake for a same-sex couple. Represented by the extremistAlliance Defending Freedom (ADF) - a group working internationally to criminalize homosexuality - Phillips has appealed the decision, charging that it violates his First Amendment right to religious liberty and compels him to communicate a message with which he disagrees.
Contrary to the assertions of Phillips and his ADF attorneys, anti-discrimination laws don't police private beliefs - religious or otherwise - but simply require businesses operating on the public marketplace not to discriminate against customers based on arbitrary characteristics like race, sexuality, or gender. But aside from perfunctory questions asking Phillips to respond to the other side, Lopez went along with the ADF's religious persecution narrative (emphasis added):
LOPEZ: What was your reaction to having a civil-rights complaint filed against you? Did you see yourself as a civil-rights violator?
PHILLIPS: It is shocking that the government has attempted to take away my freedom, and really the freedom of all Coloradoans, simply for declining to design and create a wedding cake for a marriage that is not even recognized in the state of Colorado. I am being punished for living and working according to my faith and the marriage laws of the state of Colorado.
LOPEZ: What does Christianity mean in your life? Why can't you leave it out of your cake-making?
PHILLIPS: As I have said before, I am a follower of Jesus Christ and I am called to obey Him and His teachings in all aspects of my life. I cannot leave my faith out of my cake art, nor should I have to in a free country. I love doing what God has designed me to do. A marriage between a man and a woman represents the relationship of Christ to His Church. There are few things more sacred. This is one of the reasons I love making wedding cakes and why I have such passion and skill when I create wedding cakes. My religious convictions motivate me to make great wedding cakes.
LOPEZ: Has this changed the way you look at the First Amendment and freedom?
PHILLIPS: The coercion favored by the government and the ACLU in the name of "tolerance" is a chilling and unprecedented attack on freedom. If anything, this has actually strengthened my commitment to the First Amendment and the principles upon which this country was founded.
LOPEZ: What's the future for freedom look like from where you're standing?
PHILLIPS: I am optimistic that the courts will uphold the law and the constitutions of the United States and the state of Colorado. This country was founded on religious liberty and freedom for all, and I do not see the government's efforts to take our God-given rights away succeeding in the long run.
Following an announcement that House Republican leaders will unveil a set of "principles" for guiding debate on immigration reform, conservative media urged Republicans to reject these and any attempts to pass immigration reform legislation this year. This is the latest in a series of conservative media attacks against the immigration reform effort that began in 2013.
Conservative columnist Michelle Malkin dismissed discussions of income inequality as a "war on wealth"meant to shame and bully job creators.
Last week, billionaire venture capitalist Tom Perkins wrote an inflammatory letter to The Wall Street Journal that likened an alleged "progressive war on the American one percent" and "demonization of the rich "to Nazi Germany's Kristallnacht, asking:"Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendant 'progressive' radicalism unthinkable now." Perkins' letter received widespread criticism.
In her January 29 syndicated column, Malkin defended Perkins, deeming the reaction to Perkin's controversial letter as further evidence of a "bullying epidemic" she labeled as "wealth-shaming" by "the grievance industry":
Amen, amen, and amen. Perkins barely scratched the surface of the War on Wealth that has spread under the Obama regime.
The deadliest threats come from the men in power in Washington who stoke bottomless hatred against "millionaires and billionaires" through class-bashing rhetoric and entrepreneur-crushing policies -- while they pocket the hard-earned money of the achievers trying to buy immunity. It's high time to shame the wealth-shamers and their cowed enablers. Silence is complicity.
Fox Business contributor Charles Payne similarly defended Perkins' remarks, arguing that the wealthy have "justified rage" and Perkins "may be a couple of years ahead of the curve."
Right-wing media are misinforming about a recent Supreme Court injunction that allows the non-profit charity Little Sisters of the Poor to continue its objection to the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) contraception mandate, as they appeal a lower court opinion that rejected their legal challenge.
In its January 24 order, the Court pointed out that the ruling "should not be construed as an expression of the Court's views on the merits." In other words, the nuns haven't won their lawsuit -- the Court has not issued an opinion regarding whether or not their First Amendment rights have been violated. Interestingly, although the order stipulated that the nuns would no longer have "to use the [original] form prescribed by the Government," in order to register their objection, they still must "inform the Secretary of Health and Human Services in writing that they ... have religious objections to providing coverage for contraceptive services."
But this preservation of the status quo hasn't stopped right-wing media from framing the case as a big win for Little Sisters. In a January 27 segment on Fox's Special Report, host Bret Baier "chalk[ed] one up for David against Goliath." National Review Online at least acknowledged the meaning of the Court's order, but still crowed about the nuns' "big procedural victory." In a recent editorial, The Wall Street Journal went further, not only calling the case a "victory" for Little Sisters, but also a "rebuke to the Obama Administration's bullying conception of religious liberty":
[T]he permanent stay pending appeal, issued late Friday by the full Supreme Court with no recorded dissent, was rarer still -- and a rebuke to the Obama Administration's bullying conception of religious liberty.
The Little Sisters sued because they believe the form they must sign to supposedly exempt themselves from the mandate instructs others to provide contraceptives and abortifacients in their name, and thus violates their faith and the First Amendment. Nearly all of the lower courts that are adjudicating the 91 lawsuits challenging the rule gave religious organizations a reprieve, but the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals did not for the Little Sisters.
The Justice Department also argued that this order of Catholic nuns who run a Colorado nursing home and hospice should be forced to comply. You might call it a war on religiously devout women.
National Review Online contributor John Fund used anecdotal evidence of voter fraud and specious legal analysis to continue to advocate for oppressive voter identification laws.
On January 17, a Pennsylvania judge ruled that the state's voter ID law was unconstitutional under the state constitution because "hundreds of thousands of qualified voters ... lack compliant ID," and that the state had failed to ease the burdens associated with obtaining one. As The Nation recently reported, "getting a voter ID in Pennsylvania was a bureaucratic nightmare" after the statute went into effect because "[t]here are 9,300 polling places in the state, but only seventy-one DMV offices."
But Fund apparently didn't find this scenario all that nightmarish. In a recent editorial, he dismissed the number of voters without appropriate ID as "inflated" and argued that the law should still be rescued by the state legislature:
In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld on a 6-to-3 vote the constitutionality of laws requiring voter ID at the polls. Justice John Paul Stevens, one of the left-of-center judges on the Court, wrote the opinion in a case involving Indiana's voter-ID law: He found that the Court could not "conclude that the statute imposes 'excessively burdensome requirements' on any class of voters."
But our Constitution decentralizes our election procedures over 13,000 counties and towns, and states themselves are in charge of writing voter-ID laws should they choose to do so. Some do it better than others.
Last Friday, Judge Bernard McGinley of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court found that his state's voter-ID law violated Pennsylvania's constitution because the manner in which it was implemented placed an unreasonable burden on voters. The law, passed in 2012, had been blocked from taking effect while the court case against it ground forward. McGinley's decision is likely to be appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Or the legislature could pass a new version of the law that would answer the judge's objections.
McGinley concluded that the law had been implemented in a sloppy, haphazard way and that the state had not done enough to help provide IDs to voters who lacked one.
When Pennsylvania's voter-ID law is either appealed or rewritten, let's hope that the state does a better job debunking the inflated estimates that hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians lacked an ID.
The state should also emphasize that even when voters show up at the polling place without an ID, they can vote on a provisional ballot. The state will count that ballot if the voter mails, faxes, or e-mails a copy of acceptable ID within six days of the election. If a person lacks the money to obtain the background documents necessary to acquire a voter ID, he can sign an affidavit attesting to that fact, after which his vote will be counted without further questions.
Fund's claim that the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of strict voter ID laws is misleading -- the case he references is Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, which challenged an Indiana voter ID law specifically, not the constitutionality of ID requirements in general. In the Pennsylvania case, the judge made sure to note that Crawford was not particularly relevant to his analysis, because the underlying facts that supported the legal challenges were so dissimilar. But Fund ignores this important distinction between the two cases in favor of his preferred narrative: that discriminatory voter ID laws are awesome.