Fox News continued its relentless advocacy of disenfranchising voter ID laws this morning, as Fox & Friends' Gretchen Carlson hosted Catherine Engelbrecht, the founder of the Tea Party-affiliated organization True the Vote, to trump up voter fraud claims and tout voter ID laws.
During the segment, Engelbrecht said that “we absolutely agree that photo voter ID would help improve the overall integrity and accuracy of the process” and suggested that voter fraud was a rampant problem undermining “free and fair elections.” And Carlson even prompted Engelbrecht to tell viewers how they could get involved, leading Engelbrecht to tell potential volunteers to check out the group's website. Watch:
But contrary to the claim that voter ID laws would “improve the overall integrity” of the voting process, NYU's Brennan Center for Justice has found that more than 3 million voters across the country do not possess photo IDs required by newly passed voter ID laws.
For example, as the Los Angeles Times reported in May 2008, elderly nuns and college students “were turned away from polls” after Indiana's voter ID law was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. In January 2008, The New York Times reported that more than 30 eligible voters in a single Indiana county had their votes thrown out because of the law.
Additionally, Keesha Gaskins, senior counsel for the Brennan Center's Democracy Program, recently found that the laws are more likely to impact minority voters:
Looking at voter ID laws alone, we know that although 11 percent of Americans lack government-issued photo ID, 25 percent of African-Americans, 16 percent of Hispanics, and 18 percent of elderly voters do not have this form of ID. States have also passed restrictions on early voting and community voter registration drives. Communities of color are more than twice as likely to register to vote with these groups, and they use early voting days at a much higher rate than the general population.
Moreover, despite the suggestion that voter fraud is a widespread issue undermining the integrity of elections in the U.S., a plurality of Supreme Court justices found in 2008 that actual instances of voter fraud are few and “scattered.” The Brennan Center has also noted that allegations of voter fraud “simply do not pan out” and distract from “real [election] problems that need real solutions.”
During the segment, Carlson expressed surprise that anyone would protest the “nonpartisan ... nonprofit” True the Vote's efforts, saying to Engelebrecht, “You would think that both sides of the aisle would want this to be the way that you're trying to make it.” Carlson later aired video of people protesting True the Vote and said, "[S]o we're watching people who came out to protest the fact that you were just trying to make sure elections didn't have fraud in them."
But after a review of True the Vote's history -- which Carlson ignored -- it's really not all that surprising that people would protest the group. In October 2010, the organization -- an offshoot of the Texas-based Tea Party group King Street Patriots -- was accused of voter intimidation at polling places in Harris County, Texas, prompting an investigation by the Justice Department. Talking Points Memo reported at the time:
Poll watchers in Harris County, Texas -- where a Tea Party group launched an aggressive anti-voter fraud effort -- were accused of “hovering over” voters, “getting into election workers' faces” and blocking or disrupting lines of voters who were waiting to cast their ballots as early voting got underway yesterday.
Now, TPMMuckraker has learned, the Justice Department has interviewed witnesses about the alleged intimidation and is gathering information about the so-called anti-voter fraud effort.
Harris County, the biggest county in the state, is where a Tea Party group called the King Street Patriots launched an anti-voter fraud initiative called “True the Vote,” which recruited poll watchers and amped up fears over groups like the community organizing group ACORN.
The Houston Chronicle reported that True the Vote's poll watching also sparked a lawsuit from the Texas Democratic Party as well as an ethics complaint from the watchdog group Texans for Public Justice.
And a list of speakers at True the Vote's 2012 national summit -- which was held over the weekend -- reads like a Who's Who of voter fraud hucksters, including J. Christian Adams, Hans von Spokovsky, James O'Keefe, and John Fund. (Adams has also acknowledged serving as a lawyer for True the Vote.)
And while True the Vote bills itself as nonpartisan -- a point Carlson was sure to repeatedly mention -- it's worth noting what one speaker had to say at the organization's 2012 summit over the weekend: that President Obama is going to register the “food stamp army” in order to steal the election:
Several speakers were determinedly nonpartisan, or bipartisan, despite the rightward leanings of their audience. “We don't take a position on President Obama's election. We take a position on free and fair elections,” said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, a Washington-based government watchdog group.
It was also Fitton, however, who delivered a warning: “I fear the Obama gang is setting themselves up to steal the election.”
He also accused the president of wanting “to register the food stamp army to vote for him.”