Voting Rights & Issues

Issues ››› Voting Rights & Issues
  • Right-wing media is attempting to resuscitate an already misused survey to push debunked voter fraud claims

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Conservative media are pointing to a new report based on a recurring academic survey that was already misused to bolster debunked claims about non-citizen voting to claim that President Donald Trump is vindicated in stating that undocumented immigrants are committing voter fraud en masse.

    The conservative group Just Facts recently published a report based on Harvard data collected regularly to claim that 5.7 million undocumented immigrants may have voted in the 2008 presidential election. Right-wing media seized upon the skewed report to claim that “Trump was right.” Fox & Friends was promptly mocked on Twitter for lifting up the blatantly flawed study:

    In October 2016, PolitiFact published a piece explaining that the Harvard survey Just Facts relies on has been hotly challenged by experts as proof of voter fraud, and the authors who initially wrote about it themselves warned against using the data for future claims along those lines.

    Nonetheless, in November 2016, a man purporting to be the founder of voter fraud reporting app VoteStand alluded to the data to tweet the myth that 3 million noncitizens voted illegally, a claim that right-wing media blindly shared with their audiences. The data was quickly debunked at that time.

    Now, Just Facts has taken cues from this past stint and published its own study citing the same flawed data. And once again right-wing media are eating it up.

    Meanwhile, experts are responding to the study with reproof. HuffPost spoke to University of Massachusetts Amherst political science professor Brian Schaffner, who explained that the Just Facts study “makes the same error as the old study” by taking survey respondents at their word even when their claim that they voted illegally could not be corroborated. The article also quoted Eitan Hersh, a political science professor at Yale, who called the Just Facts methodology “a crazy extrapolation.”

    This is just the latest instance of conservative media pushing facts aside to bolster Trump’s baseless voter fraud claims. And as their defense becomes increasingly desperate, it is becoming obvious that their underlying agenda is to legitimize Republican efforts of voter suppression to help tilt future elections in the GOP’s favor.

  • Right-wing media hype flawed report on illegal voting pushed by serial conservative misinformers

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Conservative media are reporting on a study claiming that thousands of illegal votes have been cast in Virginia since 1988. However, the study's authors have reportedly used “unreliable methodology” before, its findings go against those of several other studies and experts on voter fraud, and a person inaccurately targeted in it has called it a “gross misrepresentation of the facts.” Additionally, the study was put out by groups known for spreading conspiracy theories and fables about voter fraud and intimidation and which have previously used dubious methodologies in their studies.

  • “Mind control,” “shadow government,” and Seth Rich: Sean Hannity’s history of pushing conspiracy theories

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Fox News host Sean Hannity attracted widespread condemnation for pushing conspiracy theories about a murdered Democratic National Committee staffer, but it wasn’t his first time promoting or entertaining such wild claims on air. From claiming that the NFL’s Colin Kaepernick protested the national anthem because he “may have converted to Islam” to implying that former President Barack Obama is a terrorist sympathizer, here are some examples of Hannity embracing conspiracy theories.

  • Conservative media use Gianforte assault to attack early voting

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Conservative media are using Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte’s alleged assault against a reporter to push for ending early voting, because voters who have already cast their ballots in today’s election would not be able to consider the assault charge. Right-wing media have repeatedly attacked early voting, even though it allows more people to participate, results in more accurate vote counts, and reduces barriers to voting, including for people of color. Experts also say most early voters are unlikely to change their votes at the last minute.

    After Gianforte, a Republican running for Montana’s lone seat in the House, was charged on May 24 with assaulting a reporter, conservative media figures used the incident to attack early voting. CNN’s Rick Santorum called the alleged assault “another good reason” to end early voting. MSNBC contributor Katie Packer Beeson tweeted that the incident is “another argument against early voting.” HotAir editor Jazz Shaw retweeted Packer Beeson, adding, “Only one of many examples.”

    Right-wing media have a history of attacking early voting, claiming “there’s no reason” for it and saying it “inevitably increases the potential for fraud.” Some have even argued that it violates the Constitution. These claims, however, have been thoroughly debunked.

    Early voting is extremely important. The Washington Post noted that allowing citizens to vote before the official election day  “addresses systemic barriers” minority voters face, and The New York Times reported that “cutbacks in early voting periods … disproportionately affect minorities.” In 2012, a federal appeals court ruled against early voting restrictions in Ohio, pointing out that decreasing early voting disproportionately hurts voters who are “women, older, and of lower income and education attainment.”

    Additionally, experts note that those who vote early tend to do so in the two weeks leading up to an election and are firmly decided on whom they are voting for, meaning last-minute events, however shocking, are unlikely to change their opinions. And while some may come to regret their decisions come Election Day, those numbers are nothing compared to the number of people who would be disenfranchised by eliminating early voting.

  • Experts: Trump's New Voter Fraud Commission Could Be Used To Suppress Legal Votes

    "We should be focusing on ways to make it easier, not harder, to vote"

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    President Donald Trump’s new commission on “election integrity” is drawing complaints from experts who continue to point out that no evidence exists for Trump’s ongoing claims of widespread voter fraud. 

    For years, conservative media have been overhyping evidence-free allegations of systemic voter fraud in the U.S., often as a pretense to argue for restrictive voter ID laws and other policies that inevitably suppress voting.

    Following his surprising Electoral College win, Trump sought to explain away his popular vote loss by claiming he would have gotten the majority of votes had “millions” of illegal votes not been tallied for Clinton, a conspiracy theory that had been popularized by Alex Jones’ Infowars website.

    This week, Trump signed an executive order forming a “Presidential Commission on Election Integrity,” in part to examine "improper voting, fraudulent voter registrations, and fraudulent voting,” as well as voter suppression. The vice chair of the commission is Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has repeatedly been criticized for his crusade over the issue.

    While the move was predictably cheered by the usual suspects in conservative media outlets, experts on the issue are sounding the alarm, saying the commission is a solution in search of a problem and that it could be used to suppress legal votes.  

    “In general I think the commission is unnecessary,” University of Kentucky College of Law professor Joshua Douglas said via email. “We already know there is not much fraud in the system, and certainly not to the level that Trump has suggested. And having Mike Pence and Kris Kobach lead it means it will have no credibility whatsoever.”

    He added, “Trump will no doubt try to use this commission to support further voter suppression measures. Instead we should be focusing on ways to make it easier, not harder, to vote.”

    Lorraine Minnite, a Rutgers University professor and author of the 2010 book The Myth of Voter Fraud, said, “I think they want to try to create whatever kind of record they think they can create for a justification to propose amendments to tighten up and require nationwide what Kansas requires with proof of citizenship. And who knows what else they would dream up to make it hard to vote.”

    She continued, “It is a pattern we have seen more flagrantly over the past 15 years to promote the idea that voter fraud is rampant in America. There are always some problems with a federal election, but there is just no evidence that voter fraud is rampant.”

    Bill Schneider, a former CNN senior political analyst and current professor of public policy at George Mason University, said there “is just no evidence” to support claims of widespread voter fraud.

    “What’s happening here is that Trump has an obsession,” Schneider said. “He can’t get over the fact that Hillary Clinton won a plurality. He wants to destroy that notion and establish the fact that he is the legitimate winner. He is taking every step he can to try to demonstrate that notion.”

    Michael McDonald, director of the U.S. Election Project at the University of Florida -- who has been involved in the ACLU’s legal action against Kobach – offered skepticism of the commission’s work.

    “I’m skeptical given Trump’s recent statements, his firing of Comey,” McDonald said. “The integrity of this commission itself will be suspect because it likely won’t have the ability to look independently, or to look at Trump’s claims that there were 3 to 5 million illegal votes.”

    The American Civil Liberties Union, which has filed several legal challenges in Kansas targeting Kobach’s efforts to limit voting rights and prosecute alleged fraudulent voters, said it has filed a Freedom of Information Act request "seeking information that the Trump administration is using as the basis for its voter fraud claims."

    “President Trump is attempting to spread his own fake news about election integrity,” Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said in a statement about the commission. “Such claims have been widely debunked, but he is still trying to push his false reality on the American public. It is telling that the president’s choice to co-lead the commission is none other than Kris Kobach, one of the worst offenders of voter suppression in the nation today. If the Trump administration really cares about election integrity, it will divulge its supposed evidence before embarking on this commission boondoggle.”

  • Right-Wing Media Turn To Misinformers, Hacks, And Extremists To Defend Trump's Voter Suppression Commission

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Following President Donald Trump’s announcement that he is setting up a commission to review voter fraud allegations -- which experts have decried as a pathway for voter suppression -- right-wing media repeatedly hosted and quoted guests to promote the commission and Trump’s (false) allegations of fraud. These guests and sources are noted liars, nativists, and extremists.

  • This Reporter Couldn't Be More Wrong About Anti-Trump Activism

    Fact Check: A Historic Number of Activists Have Taken To The Streets To Protest The Trump Regime

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH

    New York Times White House correspondent Michael Shear claimed during the May 5 edition of CNN’s Inside Politics that there hasn’t been “the [same] kind of intense activism on the Democratic side” against President Donald Trump and his administration as there was “instantly in the Tea Party revolt” against former President Barack Obama.

    Shear must not have been paying attention, because he couldn’t be more wrong about the scope of activism against Trump. Here are some numbers for Mr. Shear:

    • On Trump’s first day in office, an estimated 3.2 to 5.2 million people marched in the Women’s March across the United States and even more people marched around the world. There was even a march in Antarctica.

    • Estimates vary on attendance for marches and demonstrations opposing Trump’s proposed Muslim ban. But some estimates put 8,000 people at the U.S. Capitol and 10,000 people at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office in New York. Others outlets estimated that 7,000 people protested at Los Angeles International Airport, and an activist leader told NBC that 12,000 signed up for the protest at Battery Park in New York.

    • An estimated 125,000 marched on April 15, the weekend before Tax Day, to demand that Trump release his tax returns. Shear’s New York Times even had a correspondent embedded with the Tax March in New York.

    • On April 22, Earth Day, at least 10,000 people took part in the March for Science in Washington, D.C., along with thousands more in New York and at hundreds of sister marches around the world.

    • On Trump’s 100th day in office, roughly 200,000 people took part in the People’s Climate March in Washington to demand action against global climate change.

    • By contrast, the largest protest during Obama’s first few months was the Tea Party protest on Tax Day 2009. A nonpartisan analysis showed that it drew 300,000 total attendees across the country despite heavy promotion and participation by Fox News and major conservative donor groups.

    This is a time of historic protests and activism against the bigoted and hateful policies of President Donald Trump. Activists have been central to the evolution of American democracy and have fought for policies that are more inclusive and that better their communities. Shear’s dismissal of the efforts of millions of Americans is line with the outdated tradition of mainstream news outlets speculating about and judging protests from a studio, rather than reporting real information from the scene or interviewing activists and protestors.

    Media should do better.

  • Right-Wing Media Misinterpret North Carolina Post-Election Audit To Fearmonger About Voter Fraud

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Right-wing media are citing a North Carolina statewide audit of votes cast in the 2016 election to stir fears of widespread voter fraud. The audit itself, however, found that ineligible votes “represented a small fraction of the 4.8 million ballots cast” and found no evidence of rampant voter fraud in North Carolina, conclusions that align with other studies that have also found no evidence of widespread voter fraud.

  • Iowa Newspapers Largely Fail To Explain How New Bill Will Roll Back Voting Rights

    Papers Also Omit The Cost Of The Bill From Reports

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Iowa newspapers have largely failed to explain the components of a new strict voter ID law aiming to restrict voting rights that Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican, is expected to sign this week. By neglecting to mention these provisions in a majority of their news stories, Iowa outlets are omitting information about how the law could disenfranchise an estimated 260,000 voters in Iowa in upcoming elections and add to the state’s ongoing budget problems.

    Branstad is expected to sign a bill that would require Iowans to present specific types of government-issued photo ID to vote. Additionally, the bill includes provisions to cut down early voting, eliminate straight-ticket voting, and reduce the number of days for absentee voting. Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate's office estimates that the law “would cost about $1 million to fully implement” even as the “lawmakers already had to make budget cuts” as the state faces “a roughly $110 million shortfall.”

    The top three Iowa newspapers, however, largely failed to include these details in their reporting on the bill between February 1 and April 14. A Media Matters analysis found:

    • Only 11 out of 30 news articles included information about changes to absentee voting.

    • Only 6 out of 30 news articles included information about changes to early voting.

    • Only 12 out of 30 news articles included information about the elimination of straight-ticket voting.

    • Only 11 out of 30 news articles included information about the cost of the bill.

    • Only 9 out of 30 news articles included information about the possible widespread voter disenfranchisement the law could cause.

    The results did vary from paper to paper. For example, the Des Moines Register generally covered these changes and impacts in news articles more than the Cedar Rapids Gazette and Quad Cities Times. However, the Quad City Times published significantly fewer news articles than either the Register or the Gazette, which published nearly the same amount.

    All these provisions that top Iowa newspapers largely failed to report have consequences for voters. In Iowa alone, nearly 700,000 voters requested absentee ballots during the 2016 election. If the bill passes, the changes to absentee voting would likely disenfranchise many of those voters. Early voting is also extremely important, especially for voters of color. As The Washington Post reported, early voting “addresses systemic barriers” minorities face when it comes to voting, adding, “costs associated with voting — in lost pay, in childcare, in transit fares — are higher for minorities and the poor. Which is why they are among the largest beneficiaries of early, flexible voting.” And straight-ticket voting is also an important resource for voters. In a decision that placed an injunction on Michigan’s straight-ticket voting ban, a federal judge wrote that “straight-party voting helps to save time in the voting process,” and banning the practice “would have a larger impact on African-American populations than white ones.”

    Several articles did call out the false notion of voter fraud, which Republicans used to argue for this bill. Eleven of 30 articles noted that widespread voter fraud does not exist. Two articles referenced a specific report by the Associated Press which found that the state had "only been informed of 10 votes that were potentially improper out of 1.6 million cast statewide" in 2016. The report noted that "most of the instances were mistakes rather than fraud, and may not have been stopped by an identification requirement."

    Additionally, the coverage largely neglected to explain the widespread voter disenfranchisement the law could create. Only nine of the 30 articles mention the fact that thousands are at risk of being ineligible to vote. Most of those mentions explained specifically that voters could be ineligible because they may not have the proper ID. According to The Nation, the bill could disenfranchise the 260,000 eligible voters in the state who “don’t have a driver’s license or non-operator ID.”

    The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Iowa found that the Iowa bill “would make voting more difficult and more confusing for voters.” Voter disenfranchisement has been a consequence of similar voter ID laws, often hitting minority voters the hardest. By not explaining the specific measures in the bill, and the costs attached when it becomes the law, Iowa newspapers largely failed to equip their readers with the proper knowledge about the proposed legislation.

    Methodology

    Media Matters used Nexis to search The Des Moines Register, The Quad City Times, and The Cedar Rapids Gazette for all permutations of the word “vote” within 50 words of either “ID” or “identification” in articles between February 1 and April 14. News articles were included in this study if they were primarily about the state’s proposed voting rights law.

    Articles were then coded for mentions of the cost of the bill and changes made to absentee voting, early voting, and straight-ticket voting, as well as mentions of the fact that voter fraud is not widespread, the ability for the law to disenfranchise voters, and the AP report on the lack of voter fraud in Iowa in 2016.

    Chart by Sarah Wasko

  • VIDEO: Media Can't Ignore The Voices of Activists

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH & JOHN KERR

    In a time of historic protests and activism against bigoted and hateful policies of President Donald Trump and his administration, news outlets need to scrap the so-called “fair and balanced” panels of pundits and politicians speculating and judging protests from a studio.

    Since day one of the Trump administration, there have been organized efforts around the country to protest the president’s policies. These include the Women’s March On Washington in January which mobilized an estimated 3.6 to 4.6 million protestors around the world, demonstrations at airports across the U.S. a week later to protest banning and detaining Muslim travelers, the International Women’s Day Strike, the upcoming Tax Day March in April to pressure Trump to release his full tax returns, the People’s Climate March in the same month, and the Immigration March in May. Journalists can no longer ignore the activists, organizers and protestors who are taking to the streets and to town halls across the country to demand accountability and change.

    Media have dismissed the protests as spectacles, alleged that they are being staged, or falsely claimed that the protesters are paid to show up. Activists have been central to the evolution of American democracy and have fought for policies that are more inclusive and that better their communities.

    News outlets need to let activists tell their stories.