Fox News Ignores Texas Voter ID Already Found To Be Illegal, Downplays Colin Powell's Opposition

Fox News downplayed Colin Powell's objections to strict voter ID laws and ignored the fact that Texas not only has a long history of illegal racial discrimination in its election practices, a federal court already found its voter ID measures to be impermissible voter suppression.

On the August 26 edition of America's Newsroom, Fox News host Martha MacCullum and correspondent Mike Emanuel reported on the Department of Justice's new legal challenge to the voter ID law Texas immediately enacted after the Supreme Court struck down a crucial provision of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) in Shelby County v. Holder:

Fox News failed to mention, however, that Texas is being accused of illegally suppressing the vote through a voter ID law that has already been found to be racially discriminatory by a federal court.

Writing for a three-judge panel in 2012, a circuit judge dismissed Texas' evidence that its voter ID law was not impermissibly discriminatory as "unpersuasive, invalid, or both." As explained by the Constitutional Accountability Center's Doug Kendall:

[I]n Texas v. Holder, a three-judge court unanimously blocked Texas' new voter identification statute, the most stringent in the nation, finding that the statute would inevitably disenfranchise low-income Texas citizens, who are disproportionately African American and Hispanic.  The court explained that, unlike Indiana, whose voter identification law was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2008, Texas had gone to great lengths to suppress the vote in poor and minority communities, strictly limiting the types of photo identifications available - a license to carry a concealed firearm is a valid ID under the law, but not a student or Medicare ID card - and making it costly to obtain a so-called “free” election ID for use at the polls.  For those without one of the five permitted photo identifications, the court found that the law was tantamount to a poll tax, “imposing an implicit fee for the privilege of casting a ballot.”  The “very point” of the Voting Rights Act, the court explained, was to deny “states an end-run around the Fifteenth Amendment's prohibition on racial discrimination in voting.”

Indeed, Texas has proven to be one of the worst violators of the VRA, having failed the now-gutted Section 5 review that ensured voting changes did not discriminate on the basis of race more than any other state in the nation. In fact, two days before its voter ID law was blocked due to its racially discriminatory effect, a different federal court found Texas had intentionally discriminated on the basis of race in recent redistricting as well, in flagrant violation of the VRA.

Fox News also mentioned that Powell has warned that the GOP insistence on strict voter ID may very well make voters of color more determined to exercise the franchise. Fox News did not sufficiently explain how Powell's concern about voter ID goes deeper than the political ramifications.

Since strict voter ID has become popular in his party, Powell has repeatedly pointed out that this policy is a “solution” for a virtually non-existent type of voter fraud and instead is an affront to the American right to vote. Last year, Powell memorably reminded Fox News' Bill O'Reilly of these facts. More recently, he publicly denounced the North Carolina voter ID law for the same flaws, explaining that "what it really says to the minority voters is ... 'We really are sort-of punishing you[.]'"

On August 25, Powell brought this argument to Face the Nation on CBS in an episode that reflected on the 50th Anniversary of the famous civil rights March on Washington. While Fox News aired a clip of this interview during the America's Newsroom segment, it did not include Powell's observation that he finds “a little bit suspicious” the recent rush of Republican-sponsored election law changes, especially because “they claim that there is widespread abuse and voter fraud. But nothing documents, nothing substantiates that. There isn't widespread abuse.”

From Powell's appearance on Face the Nation: