Voting Rights & Issues

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  • Pro-Trump media are pushing a new voter fraud conspiracy theory

    Far-right sources are claiming that thousands of voters “unregistering” in Colorado are evidence of “mass voter fraud”

    ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT

    Thousands of Coloradans have withdrawn their voter registrations in the wake of the Trump administration's election integrity commission’s request for personal voter data. Far-right media are claiming that the people canceling their registrations are “illegal” voters removing themselves from the rolls. In reality, deregistrations have been attributed to voters’ concerns over the confidentiality of their personal data, as well as their distrust of the Trump administration's commission. 

  • New member of White House “election integrity” committee has written that Trump is an ignorant, authoritarian con man

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    President Donald Trump is so obsessed with nonexistent voter fraud that, in a virtually unprecedented step, he’s appointed to his “election integrity” commission someone who harshly criticized him during the 2016 presidential primary. And J. Christian Adams, a PJ Media columnist and Republican election lawyer who has portrayed the president as an authoritarian business failure who duped his voters, is so eager to strip voters of their access to the ballot that he took the job.

    Adams is in many ways a classic Trump nominee, with a record of vicious, racially tinged attacks on progressives and high-profile conservative media appearances. But Adams stands out in a key way -- during the Republican primary, he repeatedly criticized then-candidate Trump, highlighting his “authoritarian nature,” savaging him for “fleec[ing]” veterans charities and average Americans, and comparing his “issues-free” presidential campaign to the film Idiocracy.

    In May, the White House announced the creation of the Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, a “rogue’s gallery of the country’s worst voter suppressors” with a mandate to find proof of virtually nonexistent voter fraud and issue proposals to make it harder to vote. The commission’s formation followed months of fact-free claims from Trump that he had lost the popular vote because of millions of illegal votes. Adams, who was announced last night as the newest member of the commission, will fit right in -- his selection was criticized by journalists and experts who focus on voting rights.

    Trump has famously refused to appoint otherwise qualified individuals who criticized him during the presidential campaign. But during the Republican presidential primary, Adams, a supporter of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), repeatedly lashed out at Trump, portraying him as a con man and a buffoon who appealed to cultural animosity but had no solutions. Adams’ appointment suggests that either the White House is so eager to add another opponent of voting rights to the panel that officials ignored Adams’ past commentary, or there was a breakdown in the vetting process that allowed him to slip through.

    Adams largely ignored Trump in his writings until late January 2016, when a narrowing Republican field left Trump as the front-runner. In a column endorsing Cruz, Adams highlighted Trump’s “bombast and authoritarian nature” and claimed that his understanding of a key issue “is a mile wide and an inch deep.” He also accused Trump of “looking through the world through the lens of race” because he said that he would have support from the African-Americans, Hispanic, and Asian-American communities.

    A few weeks later, Adams issued a blistering column on “Donald Trump's Record of Business Failures and Bluster.” “Trump's business history,” Adams wrote, “reveals someone skilled at making money at the expense of other Americans while his businesses fail, and a man who will say almost anything about these failures.” Running through the litany of failed Trump businesses, he pointed out, “When [Trump] outsources jobs to China or rips off those who attended Trump University, it is American workers who bear the cost of his dealings, not Donald Trump.” He also took a shot at Trump’s propensity for relying on Ivanka, Don Jr., and Eric Trump, writing, “Instead of hiring top talent, the record shows Trump seems to prefer hiring his children.”

    “Unfortunately, the real culture of Donald Trump is a culture of bombast, bluster, and serial business failure,” Adams concluded. “Perhaps this is the sort of person Americans want in the White House. Or perhaps they don’t know the sort of person Trump is.”

    In a third piece in late February peppered with references to the movie Idiocracy, Adams wrote that the “Trump campaign is an issues-free zone” and that the candidate’s “policy depth reaches its limits when he says ‘things will be wonderful, great, wonderful. Wonderful and great.’” After listing a series of issues where Trump had not taken firm positions, Adams concluded, “It's almost as if Trump running for president is one big bit. He's putting us on, showing what suckers Americans have become” and “playing the country with a campaign built around insult and the hollowest of slogans and promises.”

    But as the primary campaign came to a close, Adams became just another Trump-supporting sucker. This shift came in light of Trump’s fact-free attacks on elections and the possibility that he would support harsh new restrictions on voting rights. The day after the election, Adams claimed that voter fraud was a key factor preventing Trump from winning the popular vote, and he urged the Justice Department to “prioritize voter fraud prosecutions of the crimes that occurred yesterday and in early voting.” He has since been a staunch supporter of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in large part due to his believe that Sessions will “fight voter fraud.”

    His apparent contempt for the president notwithstanding, Adams’ appointment makes sense given that the White House is trying to assemble voter fraud fabulists to offer proposals that restrict voting. Adams, who was hired during the Bush administration’s illegal politicization of the Justice Department, became famous in the right-wing media for his role in initiating and promoting the myth that the Obama Justice Department engaged in racially charged corruption in a 2008 voter intimidation case involving the New Black Panthers Party. After a storm of manufactured controversy, the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility reviewed the handling of the case and found no evidence to support Adams’ claims.

    Adams nonetheless parlayed the attention he garnered in conservative circles for accusing the administration of the first black president of anti-white racism into a columnist gig at PJ Media, a book deal, and numerous appearances on Fox News. Along the way, he’s made a series of racially charged comments, comparing campus diversity committees to “South Africa's apartheid regime,” claiming that black majorities in some U.S. counties exhibit the same “sense of racial animus” as seen amid the “legally sanctioned terror against the white minority” in Zimbabwe during “the transition from white rule to black rule,” and accusing critics of his New Black Panthers fable of using “the same excuse” that Southern segregationists used to write off the murder of three civil rights workers in Neshoba County in 1964.

    Perhaps this is the sort of person White House officials want on their commission. Or perhaps they don’t know the sort of person Adams is.

  • 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.