Sinclair Broadcast Group national correspondent Ahtra Elnashar obscured the nature and scale of Republicans’ legislative onslaught in statehouses against voting rights in her recent report on S.B. 1, the For the People Act, which is designed to protect and expand access to voting.
According to the latest reporting, Republicans in at least 45 states have introduced more than 250 bills aiming to suppress voting following their candidate’s defeat in the 2020 presidential election. The opening paragraph of this March 11 Washington Post report spells out the unprecedented scale of this assault on our voting rights:
The GOP’s national push to enact hundreds of new election restrictions could strain every available method of voting for tens of millions of Americans, potentially amounting to the most sweeping contraction of ballot access in the United States since the end of Reconstruction, when Southern states curtailed the voting rights of formerly enslaved Black men, a Washington Post analysis has found.
In 43 states across the country, Republican lawmakers have proposed at least 250 laws that would limit mail, early in-person and Election Day voting with such constraints as stricter ID requirements, limited hours or narrower eligibility to vote absentee, according to data compiled as of Feb. 19 by the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice. Even more proposals have been introduced since then.
The For the People Act, which was passed by the House on March 3, contains numerous reforms to America’s elections. It would make voter registration easier and more accessible, spending in elections more transparent, and voting by mail more accessible and free for voters, among many other changes. Brennan Center for Justice President Michael Waldman wrote in an article adapted from his Senate testimony on S.B. 1, that the For the People Act “is long overdue and it is urgently needed now.” He cited the widespread legislative effort by the Republican Party to suppress voting:
These bills are being pushed hard. It is only March, and already the governor of Iowa is signing into law significant cutbacks to vote by mail. In Georgia, the legislature is finishing its work on an egregious bill. Some of its proposals would have effectively ended no-excuse vote by mail but preserved it for older voters, who tend to be white and Republican. Another would have repealed automatic voter registration, which had been put in place by the Republican governor. Another proposal would have ended early voting on the Sunday before Election Day, the day used by Black churches for “souls to the polls.” There was a public outcry that has forced some changes, but there are still tremendously harmful provisions that will be moving through the legislature.
These laws affect voters of color, young voters, poor voters. Their intent is often unambiguous. One of the sponsors of these bills in Arizona said the purpose was to make sure that only “quality” voters could vote — not that everyone would have the right to vote. That does not strike me as true to our American spirit.
The For the People Act deals with this in a very important way. It would stop the new wave of voter suppression, cold. It stops it in its tracks, and Congress has the power, the right, the authority — constitutionally and legally — to do this.
Yet the March 24 Sinclair report on the Senate introduction of the For the People Act failed to mention this wave of GOP voter suppression bills. Instead, Sinclair national correspondent Ahtra Elnashar vaguely said Democrats are “eager to see its passage as many states, red and blue, are trying to change election laws.” She also included false GOP talking points that the bill is a “power grab” by Democrats and aims to “encourage voter fraud” when the reality is it protects the rights of all voters, and in-person voter fraud is virtually nonexistent.
A transcript search of the Kinetiq video database revealed this report was aired on at least 64 Sinclair-owned or -operated TV stations in 37 states -- all but two of which have introduced voter suppression bills, according to the Brennan Center’s voting bill tracker and CNN’s additional reporting on North Carolina and Wisconsin.
Elnashar’s decision to exclude information about the Republicans’ efforts to restrict voting in nearly every state does a huge disservice to Sinclair’s local TV audience. Viewers with little knowledge of the situation would be uninformed about the need for the voting rights protections in the For the People Act. Instead, they might believe the GOP lies -- which Elnashar did include -- that it’s little more than a power grab to win elections, when in reality that is likely the purpose of these hundreds of GOP voter suppression bills.
A previous Sinclair national report on the For the People Act, which in late January was aired widely on Sinclair’s huge collection of local TV stations, also pushed GOP lies that it could lead to more voter fraud.