This week, Fox News correspondent Shannon Bream continued the network's campaign to advance the Republican narrative that states need to implement voter identification laws to stop voter fraud by pointing to a poll showing results that validate those concerns. The poll, commissioned by the network, found that a majority of respondents agreed that “voter identification laws are needed to stop illegal voting.” But evidence shows that such laws have kept many eligible voters, including the elderly and racial minorities, from voting.
During an April 18 Special Report segment on voter ID laws, Bream highlighted the concerns of the NAACP and Color of Change that the laws could depress minority turnout during elections, but countered those concerns by touting a Fox News opinion poll:
BREAM: A brand-new Fox News poll shows by a two-to-one margin Americans do not believe those who support voter ID laws are trying to block legal votes by minorities. In fact, 70 percent reported they believed the laws are necessary to stop illegal voting.
But the poll is problematic in several ways, namely that it ignored the facts surrounding the issue.
Here is how the Fox News poll raised the possibility that voter ID laws could have the effect of disenfranchising certain voters:
There is a debate about state laws that require voters to show a valid form of state or federally-issued photo identification to prove U.S. citizenship before being allowed to vote. Supporters of these laws say they are necessary to stop ineligible people from voting illegally. Opponents say these laws are unnecessary and mostly discourage legal voters from voting. What do you think?
And rather than ask outright whether respondents believed that voter ID laws could disenfranchise certain voters, the poll asked respondents to gauge the intent behind the laws:
Do you believe the supporters of voter identification laws are really trying to steal elections by decreasing legal votes from minorities?
Do you believe the opponents of voter identification laws are really trying to steal elections by increasing illegal votes by non-citizens and other ineligible voters?
The facts are quite clear: Voter ID laws have prevented otherwise eligible voters from having their vote counted. A May 2008 Los Angeles Times article reported that 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.
A report on the new voter ID laws from the Brennan Center for Justice found that the laws “could make it significantly harder for more than five million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012.” Additionally, Keesha Gaskins, senior counsel for the Brennan Center's Democracy Program, 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.
Just today, Fox anchor Greg Jarrett and guest John Fund continued to spread baseless fears of rampant voter fraud, and highlighted yet another opinion poll finding support for voter ID laws. Jarrett promoted the claim that record in South Carolina indicate that more than 900 people voted in the state though they had been reported dead. The claims were unfounded: