New Report Disputes Fox's Long-Time Trumpeting Of Voter ID Laws

Blog ››› ››› ELLIE SANDMEYER

Willie Mims

Fox News has consistently denied that voter ID laws discriminate against minority groups and disenfranchise legal voters, yet after just one day of implementation, Alabama's voter ID restriction has already discredited these claims.

In 2011, Alabama passed a state law requiring voters to present a photo ID in order to be allowed to cast a ballot, but implementation of the law was delayed due to a Voting Rights Act's (VRA) formula that required jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination to "preclear" their election rule changes with the Department of Justice. The preclearance rule was gutted in the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court decision, and Alabama's June 4 primary election was the first opportunity for the state's voter ID law to take effect.

Fox News has claimed that DOJ protections are no longer necessary to ensure that voter rights are protected against discriminatory state laws, attacking claims that voter ID laws are discriminatory as a "liberal ruse" to gain minority votes, and panning the idea that such requirements would suppress votes. In June 2013, Fox host and attorney Megyn Kelly hosted National Review Online's Andrew McCarthy to argue that race-based voter suppression "has long ago passed to the dustbin of history," calling anyone who thinks otherwise demagogues and "race hucksters." On May 21, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy claimed that no Republican "wants to take away the right to vote."

These claims were put to the test this week, as Alabama's voter ID law went into effect.

According to a report by MSNBC's Zachary Roth, 93-year-old Willie Mims was turned away from the polls because he lacked photo ID and was denied the opportunity to cast a provisional ballot:

Willie Mims, 93, showed up to vote at his polling place in Escambia County Tuesday morning for Alabama's primary elections. Mims, who is Africa-American, no longer drives, doesn't have a license, and has no other form of ID. As a result, he was turned away without voting. Mims wasn't even offered the chance to cast a provisional ballot, as the law requires in that situation.

[...]

Jenny McCarren of Empower Alabama, a progressive group that gave Mims a ride to the polls, recounted the story for msnbc. McCarren said Mims's voter file showed he has voted in every election since 2000, as far back as the records go.

How many Alabamans lack ID isn't known - in part because the state made no effort to find out before the ID law. But nationwide, most studies put the figure at around 11%, and as high as 25% for African Americans.

Days earlier, The Washington Post reported that new evidence from a University of Southern California study found that "discriminatory intent underlies legislative support for voter identification laws," which the Post said raises "questions about the constitutionality of voter ID laws." The study examined the reactions of real lawmakers in order to reach its conclusions:

Is bias in responsiveness to constituents conditional on the policy preferences of elected officials? The scholarly conventional wisdom is that constituency groups who do not receive policy representation still obtain some level of responsiveness by legislators outside of the policy realm. In contrast, we present a theory of preference-induced responsiveness bias where constituency responsiveness by legislators is associated with legislator policy preferences. Elected officials who favor laws harming minority groups are also less likely to engage in non-policy responsiveness to minority groups. To test this proposition, we conducted a field experiment in 28 U.S. legislative chambers. Legislators were randomly assigned to receive messages from Latino, Anglo, English-speaking, and Spanish-speaking constituents asking if a driver's license is required for voting. If legislators supported voter identification, Latino constituents were less likely than Anglo constituents to receive communications from legislators. The implication is that discriminatory intent underlies legislative support for voter identification laws.

Both of these findings reinforce facts that Fox has been denying for years. Voter ID laws can disenfranchise voters -- particularly minorities, students, and the elderly.

As the Brennan Center pointed out, "free IDs are not equally accessible to all voters," and laws requiring voters to show ID put a burden on low-income individuals, disproportionately affecting the ability of traditionally Democratic-voting demographics to cast a ballot. According to Brennan Center data, 11 percent of Americans say they do not possess government-issued photo identification, and this number includes "25 percent of African Americans, 16 percent of Hispanics, and 18 percent of persons aged 65 and older." 

Republicans have previously admitted that the impetus behind GOP efforts to pass discriminatory voter ID laws and other voting restrictions is a desire to win elections. Listing accomplishments of the GOP-led state legislature in 2012, Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R) proclaimed:

TURZAI: Pro-Second Amendment? The Castle Doctrine, it's done. First pro-life legislation - abortion facility regulations - in 22 years, done. Voter ID, which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.

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Elections, Voting Rights & Issues, Justice & Civil Liberties
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