WSJ Defends "Draconian" Voting Restrictions In Attack On Hillary Clinton


WSJ logoThe Wall Street Journal relied on logical fallacies and misleading characterizations to defend restrictive election laws and attack Hillary Clinton for playing "racial politics" by pushing for expanded voting rights and access

An August 18 Journal editorial attacked Clinton for a speech she delivered to the American Bar Association criticizing a Supreme Court decision that struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. The editorial supported the decision by downplaying its effects, claiming, "all it did was eliminate a section that had forced such states as Mississippi to meet higher legal burdens for election laws than other states with a worse current record of minority voter participation." The editorial went on to falsely claim minority voting turnout rates prove that critics such as Clinton are "playing racial politics" and pushing for "a racially polarized electorate."

The Journal has used voter turnout to defend restrictive voting measures before, an argument that relies upon the "correlation-causation" fallacy. As Loyola Law School professor Justin Levitt pointed out, "turnout studies don't show great impact but that's because they can't ... you can't draw any real conclusions about that":

"There's a basic -- and I mean basic -- misconception here," Levitt said. "It's called the correlation-causation fallacy, and anybody who's had statistics for a week can talk to you about it."

"Mr. [Hans] von Spakovsky and I agree on one thing, that the turnout studies don't show great impact, but that's because they can't," Levitt said. "You can't draw any real conclusions about that."

"I'll give you an example. Mr. von Spakovsky supports voter ID restrictions. I oppose them. Mr. von Spakovsky has no facial hair. I have facial hair. But certainly opposition to voter ID doesn't cause facial hair," he said.

As The New York Times reported, restrictive voting measures began passing immediately after the court's decision. In Texas, a voter ID law was implemented that had previously been blocked by the Justice Department and a redistricting map that had previously been judged as discriminatory was put into operation. New York University's Brennan Center for Justice argued that Texas' voter ID bill could disenfranchise "hundreds of thousands of minority voters at a greater rate than the white electorate."

The editorial also defended a voting bill recently passed by North Carolina, claiming it is "designed to preserve ballot integrity, which is a vital as voter access to public confidence in honest elections." But the law goes much further than that. In a Salon article that described the law's restrictions as "draconian," University of California-Irvine election law professor Rick Hasen pointed out that the bill also includes "a laundry list of ways to make it harder for people to vote, and which cannot plausibly be justified on antifraud grounds." According to Salon, the law also includes "everything that a Republican desperate to stay in power by keeping legal (Democratic-leaning) voters from being able to cast their legal vote could ever want":

  • Eliminate pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds, who currently can register to vote before they turn 18.
  • Outlaw paid voter registration drives.
  • Eliminate straight-ticket voting.
  • Eliminate provisional voting if someone shows up at the wrong precinct.
  • Prohibit counties from extending poll hours by one hour on Election Day in extraordinary circumstances, such as in response to long lines.
  • Allow any registered voter of a county to challenge the eligibility of a voter rather than just a voter of the precinct in which the suspect voter is registered.
Posted In
Elections, Election Law, Voting Rights & Issues
Wall Street Journal
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