Fox's Johnson Promotes Disenfranchising Voter I.D. Laws While Exaggerating Fraud Claims
Research ››› ››› REMINGTON SHEPARD
On Fox & Friends, Fox Legal Analyst Peter Johnson Jr., promoted regulations requiring voters to provide I.D. when voting and suggested that "people who are not allowed to vote" or who "vote twice" has been a problem in election years. However, a photo I.D. requirement would effectively disenfranchise some Americans and voter fraud is not a significant problem.
Johnson Jr. Advocates For Restrictive I.D. Laws To Limit "People Who Are Not Allowed To Vote" Or Who "Vote Twice"
Johnson Jr.: "If You're Registered To Vote, Then There Should Be Proof Of Registration." During the December 22 broadcast of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Fox legal analyst, Peter Johnson Jr., promoted making people show I.D. at polling places, a measure he suggested would resolve the problem of people voting "who are not allowed to vote" and the problem of people "vot[ing] twice." From the broadcast:
STEVE DOOCY (co-host): Okay. So do voter I.D. laws discriminate against minorities? According to a poll, 22 percent believe they do. 69 percent of you believe they do not.
JOHNSON: Yeah, you know, we have -- in 31 states, there is voting I.D. requirements. Fifteen or 16 of those states have a photo requirement and in 16 other states now, there is pending legislation to impose an I.D. Now, when you go to the -- people go to the bank or someplace else and you want to cash a check, do you use I.D.?
DOOCY: You can't check -- you can't do it without it.
JOHNSON: Yeah. Did -- when you entered the building today, did you use I.D.?
DOOCY: Uh, Yeah.
JOHNSON: Ok, When you get on an airplane, do you use I.D.?
DOOCY: Many, many times.
JOHNSON: How about Amtrak, do you use I.D. sometimes?
DOOCY: They do ask for I.D.
JOHNSON: Once in a while. What's the big problem?
DOOCY: We do it all the time.
JOHNSON: If you're a registered voter, then there should be proof of registration. And so to listen to this. And we hear it every election cycle, saying oh, no. The Republicans are trying to suppress your vote. They don't want you to vote. Well, it should be prosecutors, Republicans and Democrats across the country should not want people who are not allowed to vote to vote or to vote twice. That should be the law. It shouldn't be a political hot potato. It's really simple.
JOHNSON: Say yeah, I'm Peter Johnson, I'm entitled to vote, here is my voter registration card. Here is my passport or here is driver's license or state I.D. yeah, I'd like to vote. Thank you very much. Not a big deal. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 12/22/11, emphasis added]
Voter I.D. Laws Have Kept Many Eligible Voters -- Including The Elderly, Racial Minorities And Nuns -- From Voting
LA Times: Indiana Voter ID Law "Ke[pt] Nuns, Students From Polls. The Los Angeles Times reported in a May 7, 2008 article: "A dozen nuns and an unknown number of students were turned away from polls Tuesday in the first use of Indiana's stringent voter ID law since it was upheld last week by the U.S. Supreme Court." From the LA Times article, headlined "ID law keeps nuns, students from polls":
A dozen nuns and an unknown number of students were turned away from polls Tuesday in the first use of Indiana's stringent voter ID law since it was upheld last week by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The nuns, all residents of a retirement home at Saint Mary's Convent near Notre Dame University, were denied ballots by a fellow sister and poll worker because the women, in their 80s and 90s, did not have valid Indiana photo ID cards.
Though state officials reported no significant problems, advocates monitoring polling places said there was occasional confusion.
"We were at one polling place for a few hours and picked up three or four different stories of people being turned away," said Gary Kalman of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group in Washington. "I don't have numbers about how widespread it is."
"It's the law, and it makes it hard," said Sister Julie McGuire, who was working at the polling place and had to explain to the nuns that they could not vote. "Some don't understand why."
Indiana requires voters who come to the polls show a photo ID issued by the state or the federal government. The law was pressed by Republicans citing voter fraud and opposed by Democrats and the ACLU, who argued that it would disenfranchise voters. [Los Angeles Times, 5/7/08]
Brennan Center For Justice Estimates "More Than Five Million Voters Could Be Affected By The New Laws." New York University's Brennan Center for Justice issued a report estimating that newly enacted restrictions on voting, including implementing photo ID laws, "could make it significantly harder for more than 5 million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012." From the Brennan Center for Justice:
1. 3.2 million voters affected by new photo ID laws. New photo ID laws for voting will be in effect for the 2012 election in five states (Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin), which have a combined citizen voting age population of just under 29 million. 3.2 million (11 percent) of those potential voters do not have state-issued photo ID. Rhode Island voters are excluded from this count, because Rhode Island's new law's requirements are significantly less onerous than those in the other states.
2. 240,000 additional citizens and potential voters affected by new proof of citizenship laws. New proof of citizenship laws will be in effect in three states (Alabama, Kansas, Tennessee), two of which will also have new photo ID laws. Assuming conservatively that those without proof of citizenship overlap substantially with those without state-issued photo ID, we excluded those two states. The citizen voting age population in the remaining state (Alabama) is 3.43 million; 240,000 (7 percent) of those potential voters do not have documentary proof of citizenship.
3. 202,000 voters registered in 2008 through voter registration drives that have now been made extremely difficult or impossible under new laws. Two states (Florida and Texas) passed laws restricting voter registration drives, causing all or most of those drives to stop. In 2008, 2.13 million voters registered in Florida and, very conservatively, at least 8.24 percent or 176,000 of them did so through drives. At least 501,000 voters registered in Texas, and at least 5.13 percent or 26,000 of them did so via drives.
4. 60,000 voters registered in 2008 through Election Day voter registration where it has now been repealed. Maine abolished Election Day registration. In 2008, 60,000 Maine citizens registered and voted on Election Day.
5. One to two million voters who voted in 2008 on days eliminated under new laws rolling back early voting. The early voting period was cut by half or more in three states (Florida, Georgia and Ohio). In 2008, nearly 8 million Americans voted early in these states. An estimated 1 to 2 million voted on days eliminated by these new laws.
6. At least 100,000 disenfranchised citizens who might have regained voting rights by 2012. Two states (Florida and Iowa) made it substantially more difficult or impossible for people with past felony convictions to get their voting rights restored. Up to one million people in Florida could have benefited from the prior practice; based on the rates of restoration in Florida under the prior policy, 100,000 citizens likely would have gotten their rights restored by 2012. Other voting restrictions passed this year that are not included in this estimate. [Voting Law Changes In 2012, Brennan Center for Justice, October 2011; Brennan Center for Justice, 10/3/11]
NY Times: In One Indiana County, 32 "Voters Had Their Ballots Thrown Out" Because Of Voter ID Laws. From a January 7, 2008, New York Times article:
After Ms. [Valerie] Williams grabbed her cane that day and walked into the polling station in the lobby of her retirement home to vote, as she has done in at least the last two elections, she was barred from doing so.
The election officials at the polling place, whom she had known for years, told her she could not cast a regular ballot. They said the forms of identification she had always used -- a telephone bill, a Social Security letter with her address on it and an expired Indiana driver's license -- were no longer valid under the voter ID law, which required a current state-issued photo identification card.
"Of course I threw a fit," said Ms. Williams, 61, who was made to cast a provisional ballot instead, which, according to voting records, was never counted. Ms. Williams -- who has difficulty walking -- said she was not able to get a ride to the voting office to prove her identity within 10 days as required under the law, and her ballot was discarded.
A brief filed with the Supreme Court by the Marion County Board of Elections, the state's largest voting jurisdiction
and a defendant in the case, said Ms. Williams -- who is a black Republican -- and 31 other voters had to cast provisional ballots because they showed up at the polls without the state-required ID, which can include a driver's license, a passport, a state-issued ID or some other government-issued photo identification. Because they also failed to appear later at county offices with the identification required to validate their identities, all of these voters had their ballots thrown out, records show. In interviews, many of these voters said they could not find transportation or could not afford the IDs.
Mary-Jo Criswell, 71, who -- like Ms. Williams -- an Indiana voter cited in the case before the Supreme Court, had her vote thrown out in November after she was told the identification she had used in previous elections -- a bank card with a photograph, a utility bill and a phone bill -- no longer sufficed. [The New York Times, 1/7/08]
And Actual Instances Of Voter Fraud Are Few And "Scattered"
Supreme Court Plurality Actually Found Only "Scattered Instances Of In-Person Voting Fraud." The Supreme Court plurality in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board did not find widespread in-person voter fraud, the type of fraud that a requirement that voters show identification at their polling places is meant to address. Rather, it found only "scattered instances" of such fraud. From the plurality opinion in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board:
Judge Barker cited record evidence containing examples from California, Washington, Maryland, Wisconsin, Georgia, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Miami, and St. Louis. The Brief of Amici Curiae Brenan Center for Justice et al. in Support of Petitioners addresses each of these examples of fraud. While the brief indicates that the record evidence of in-person fraud was overstated because much of the fraud was actually absentee ballot fraud or voter registration fraud, there remain scattered instances of in-person voter fraud. For example, after a hotly contested gubernatorial election in 2004, Washington conducted an investigation of voter fraud and uncovered 19 "ghost voters." Borders v. King Cty., No. 05-2-00027-3 (Super. Ct. Chelan Cty., Wash., June 6, 2005) (verbatim report of unpublished oral decision), 4 Election L. J. 418, 423 (2005). After a partial investigation of the ghost voting, one voter was confirmed to have committed in-person voting fraud. Le & Nicolosi, Dead Voted in Governor's Race, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Jan. 7, 2005, p. A1. [U.S. Supreme Court, Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, 4/28/08]
Justice Department Report Shows Very Few Prosecutions For Illegally Casting Ballots. According to a report by the Public Integrity Section of the Justice Department, from October 2002 through September 2005, the Justice Department charged 95 people with "election fraud" and convicted 55. Among those, however, just 17 individuals were convicted for casting fraudulent ballots; cases against three other individuals accused of casting fraudulent votes were pending at the time of the report. In addition, the Justice Department convicted one election official of submitting fraudulent ballots and convicted five individuals of registration fraud, with cases against 12 individuals pending at the time of the report. Thirty-two individuals were convicted of other "election fraud" issues, including Republicans convicted of offenses arising from "a scheme to block the phone lines used by two Manchester [New Hampshire] organizations to arrange drives to the polls during the 2002 general election." In other words, many of these convictions were connected to voter suppression efforts, not voter fraud. Several other people listed in the report were convicted of vote-buying. [Department of Justice, accessed 6/14/11]
NYU's Brennan Center: Allegations Of Voter Fraud "Simply Do Not Pan Out" And Distract From "Real [Election] Problems That Need Real Solutions." From a 2007 report by The Brennan Center for Justice:
Perhaps because these stories are dramatic, voter fraud makes a popular scapegoat. In the aftermath of a close election, losing candidates are often quick to blame voter fraud for the results. Legislators cite voter fraud as justification for various new restrictions on the exercise of the franchise. And pundits trot out the same few anecdotes time and again as proof that a wave of fraud is imminent.
Allegations of widespread voter fraud, however, often prove greatly exaggerated. It is easy to grab headlines with a lurid claim ("Tens of thousands may be voting illegally!"); the follow-up -- when any exists -- is not usually deemed newsworthy. Yet on closer examination, many of the claims of voter fraud amount to a great deal of smoke without much fire. The allegations simply do not pan out.
These inflated claims are not harmless. Crying "wolf" when the allegations are unsubstantiated distracts attention from real problems that need real solutions. If we can move beyond the fixation on voter fraud, we will be able to focus on the real changes our elections need, from universal registration all the way down to sufficient parking at the poll site. Moreover, these claims of voter fraud are frequently used to justify policies that do not solve the alleged wrongs, but that could well disenfranchise legitimate voters. Overly restrictive identification requirements for voters at the polls -- which address a sort of voter fraud more rare than death by lightning -- is only the most prominent example. [Brennan Center for Justice, accessed 6/14/11]