Right-wing media warp reality with their dishonest comparisons between Georgia and Colorado voting laws
They know that if you repeat a lie enough times, it’ll eventually take hold
Days after announcing it would be moving its annual All-Star Game and amateur draft out of Atlanta over Georgia’s recently overhauled voting laws, Major League Baseball has found a new home for the Midsummer Classic in Denver, Colorado. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said moving the events was “the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport.”
Georgia’s new law was described in a New York Times analysis as “a breathtaking assertion of partisan power in elections, making absentee voting harder and creating restrictions and complications in the wake of narrow losses to Democrats” by Republican candidates in three statewide elections in a two-month span. The law would limit the use of drop boxes, make it a crime to give food or water to people waiting in line to cast a ballot, add strict ID requirements to absentee ballot requests, and give the Republican-controlled legislature the ability to intervene and possibly overturn election results that aren’t to its liking.
Desperate to avoid the political and economic backlash that resulted from the National Basketball Association’s decision to move the 2017 NBA All-Star Game out of Charlotte, North Carolina, following the state’s adoption of a 2016 law targeting transgender people, Republicans and their media allies are going on the offensive this time around.
In an effort to paint MLB as hypocritical, conservatives are repeating lies about Colorado’s voting laws.
In June of last year, then-President Donald Trump claimed that Colorado had “a very bad system,” falsely arguing that “it’s going to lead to a tremendous fraud and we’re trying to stop it.” He added, “Mail-in ballots are a disaster, and I’m sure they’re not good in Colorado.”
Colorado is one of the few states that mails ballots directly to eligible voters. During the 2020 primaries, more than 99% of votes cast in the state came in the form of mail-in ballots, with in-person voting representing just a tiny fraction of all ballots cast. Universal mail-in ballots make Colorado one of the easiest states to vote in, but right-wing media outlets have responded to MLB’s move by dishonestly claiming that Colorado’s voting laws are actually stricter than Georgia’s.
“Critics are scratching their heads over Major League Baseball’s decision to yank its All-Star Game from Georgia and move it to Colorado — where voting laws are actually more restrictive than those in the Peach State which prompted the boycott,” wrote New York Post reporter Lia Eustachewich in a blatantly false assertion.
“Another funny way of showing your concern for alleged ‘voting restrictions’ is by moving the All-Star Game to a state that in many ways has voting laws at least as stringent as Georgia’s. To vote in Colorado, a person needs photo identification, just as they do at the will-call window at Coors Field,” National Review writer David Harsanyi wrote, linking to a page that very clearly states that a photo ID is not required to vote (the state accepts utility bills, bank statements, paychecks, and other forms of non-photo identification, which Harsanyi admitted in the next line).
Over on Fox News, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) claimed that Colorado requires people to show a photo ID to vote, a false claim that went unchallenged by anchors Bill Hemmer and Dana Perino. Cotton went on to highlight that “Colorado also has fewer days of in-person voting than Georgia,” conveniently leaving out that Colorado has virtually no in-person voting at all because it is a universal mail-in ballot state. “If Joe Biden and Stacey Abrams think that Georgia is Jim Crow 2.0, then maybe Colorado is Jim Crow 3.0,” he said.
Another narrative being pushed on the right is an odd and barely related point that Atlanta has a significantly larger Black population than Denver. Fox News, the National Review, Breitbart, Newsmax, and others all cited that bit of trivia as though it was hypocritical of MLB to move the game to a less diverse city, conveniently sidestepping mention of the voter suppression efforts that sparked the move. It should be noted that the Atlanta Braves do not play in Atlanta itself, instead holding their games in nearby Cobb County, Georgia, which made news in December after the county Republican Party tried to get 16,024 voters declared ineligible to vote in the Senate runoff elections.
The list of complaints about MLB’s decision from right-wing media could go on, but it’s all just more of the same bad-faith criticisms repeated over and over.
No honest person believes Colorado’s voting laws are stricter than Georgia’s, but honesty doesn’t really matter to right-wing media narratives.
Does anybody really believe that there’s a single baseball stadium in the country that would have elicited a different response from conservatives? Of course not.
Sure, Colorado’s voting system is about as different from Georgia’s as humanly possible, but right-wing cries that they're the same or that Colorado's is worse were bound to bubble to the surface as soon as the announcement was made, regardless of the All-Star Game’s final location. It’s exhausting to listen to, and even more exhausting to try to debunk.
PETER DOOCY: Is the WH concerned MLB is moving their All Star Game to Colorado, where voting rules are very similar to Georgia?
PSAKI: Let me refute that. CO has same-day registration, universal mail voting... it's important to remember the context. The GA bill is built on a lie pic.twitter.com/TaDLU0mYNP
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 6, 2021
False claims about voting took center stage during last year’s presidential election cycle, driving right-wing media to retreat even further into political fantasies in the wake of Trump’s loss. Now, conservative media figures are taking advantage of the broken state of our shared reality for political gain. They are perfectly aware that if they just repeat something enough times, their base will adopt the message and come to believe it.
That repetition allowed lies about the 2020 election to take hold on the right and fueled an insurrection attempt at the Capitol. But just three months later, it’s hard to find instances in which the people responsible for telling the lies that led to that attack have been held accountable. Politicians who pushed the lie continued to get invited on the Sunday morning talk shows, where they haven't had to answer questions about the uprising and the lies that made it happen. Businesses that said they planned to cut off donations to Republicans who voted to overturn the election have resumed giving to those politicians. And conservative voters have largely latched onto more false narratives about the insurrection.
The maddening lesson to come out of the January 6 insurrection is that when it comes to conservative media and their base, facts don’t matter, only feelings. This was a common theme in the election’s aftermath, and it continues to play out in new legislation aimed at suppressing Democratic votes. Georgia’s elections in 2020 were free from fraud, yet state Republicans justified passing a massive overhaul of the state’s voting system because they didn’t feel as though the system could be trusted.
Over the next few days, conservatives will talk themselves into believing that Colorado, one of the most voter-friendly states, with one of the highest turnout rates in the country, is actually an example of voter suppression. This belief will become part of the Republican canon because it is advantageous for them, not because it is true. And as mainstream news outlets continue struggling with our fractured reality, and downplay attacks on voting rights as mere partisan squabbles, they will only incentivize this sort of right-wing reality-warping as we move forward.
This isn’t actually about MLB’s All-Star Game, nor will it be about whatever nonsensical controversy the right gets itself worked up into a lather over next week. This is, and has always been, about right-wing media taking control of what remains of our collective understanding of reality to consolidate political power. It only happens to be about baseball this time around.