Media should take note that a new Supreme Court voting rights case with important implications for Latinos is being advanced by Edward Blum, an anti-civil rights advocate with past ties to the right's "dark money ATM" and a long history of using the courts to undermine decades of anti-discrimination precedent.
On May 26, the Supreme Court agreed "to decide whether the Constitution requires only eligible voters be counted when forming legislative districts" in a lawsuit brought by anti-Voting Rights Act (VRA) activist Edward Blum:
The lawsuit was advanced by Edward Blum, whose Austin-based Project on Fair Representation has been litigating for years to roll back affirmative action, Voting Rights Act enforcement and other policies intended to benefit minorities.
The group's goal is to remove noncitizens and illegal immigrants from the legislative district count, but the Supreme Court has the option of considering whether other nonvoters should be excluded in calculating voting district sizes, such as minors, felons and even people who are eligible to vote but haven't registered.
The case represents a massive shift from the current system of calculating total residents and would benefit Republicans by shifting electoral clout away from Democratic-leaning urban areas. The change would dilute Hispanic communities' representation and "devastate" Latino voting power. Although currently focused on undocumented immigrant populations, Blum's latest efforts could also exclude minors, felons and eligible but unregistered voters from being counted, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The Project on Fair Representation has seen some success in undermining the VRA. Blum masterminded Shelby County v. Holder in 2013, in which the Court overturned a key section of the VRA that prevented states from making potentially discriminatory changes to election law or district maps without Department of Justice approval. That decision cleared the way for numerous states to pass voter suppression laws in the lead-up to the 2014 midterm elections. In the lead-up to Shelby, Blum was allowed to push falsehoods about the VRA and voter suppression in The Wall Street Journal, while right-wing media figures hyped unfounded fears of voter fraud and distorted the continued need for voter protections.
In addition to voting rights, Blum has gone after affirmative action policies aimed at improving diversity in higher education. Although ultimately unsuccessful in the courts, Blum's affirmative action challenge was based on frequently cited myths about affirmative action's benefits.
Blum's efforts to undermine voting rights and eliminate affirmative action have been bankrolled by the conservative Donors Trust, deemed the "dark money ATM of the conservative movement" by Mother Jones.
Despite Blum's extensive anti-civil rights resume, mainstream media have historically failed to report his ties to conservative dark money, a mistake they should not repeat as his latest voter suppression effort makes its way to the Court.
From the April 15 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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From the April 6 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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From the March 19 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
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From the March 18 edition of Fox News' Special Report With Bret Baier:
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Fox News Host Sean Hannity is criticizing singer John Legend's Oscars speech, which invoked the civil rights movement and the ongoing fight for racial and social justice. In response to Legend's completely accurate statement that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is under attack today, Hannity disagreed and appeared to argue that the seminal civil rights law was irrelevant to strict voter ID laws.
On February 22, Legend and co-writer Common won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for "Glory," from the film Selma, a historical drama about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s fight for equal voting rights. In his acceptance speech, Legend noted that the civil rights struggle represented in the movie continues "right now": "We wrote this song for a film that was based on events that were 50 years ago, but we say that Selma is now, because the struggle for justice is right now. We know that the Voting Rights Act that they fought for 50 years ago is being compromised right now, in this country, today."
On the February 23 edition of his show, Hannity complained that Legend "decided to make all things political." Even though Legend didn't explicitly bring up voter ID laws in his speech, Hannity went on to suggest that it was inappropriate for Legend to "equate the Voting Rights Act with showing an ID to get to vote so we can keep honesty and integrity in our elections ... I like John Legend as a musician, but he doesn't know anything about politics":
From the January 23 edition of Premiere Radio Network's The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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From the December 3 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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A recent study indicated that viewers of Fox News are far more likely than viewers of other TV news to believe that voter fraud is a more significant problem than voter suppression, an unsurprising finding given the network's misleading reports on voter ID laws and in-person voter fraud.
Right-wing media have repeatedly defended the need for strict voter ID laws while denying the reality of voter suppression -- particularly in the run-up to the midterm elections. On the November 2 edition of America's News HQ, National Review Online contributor Hans von Spakovsky argued that it was "not true" that strict voter ID laws can "suppress minority voters," even though there were already concrete examples of people of color, women, and the poor being turned away from the polls this past election because they didn't have the type of identification required to vote. Even though a federal court has called one voter ID law an "unconstitutional poll tax," right-wing media have previously called such restrictive ID requirements "a good thing."
Fox News was back on the supposed harmlessness of strict voter ID again on the November 12 edition of The O'Reilly Factor. Host Bill O'Reilly rejected a federal court's uncontroverted finding that implementation of Texas' new voter ID law "may prevent more than 600,000 registered Texas voters (about 4.5% of all registered voters) from voting in person for lack of compliant identification," as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted in her dissent from the Supreme Court's refusal to block the law. O'Reilly's guest, fellow Fox News host Eric Shawn, concluded that Ginsburg's prediction was "[n]ot true" because a roundup of disenfranchised voters compiled by the Brennan Center for Justice listed only "about 12" instances of voters being turned away in Texas:
Segments like the one on the Factor might explain why viewers of Fox News disproportionately believe that voter fraud is a bigger problem than voter suppression, despite evidence to the contrary. As Talking Points Memo reported, a new study from the Public Religion Research Institute suggests that "people who consider Fox News their most trusted TV news source say that 'people casting votes who are not eligible to vote' is the bigger problem while most people who trust other news stations (CNN, broadcast news, or public television) say that eligible voters who are denied the right to vote is the bigger issue in voting today."
Right-wing media outlets are criticizing Loretta Lynch, the highly-qualified attorney that President Obama has nominated to replace outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, by attacking her support of voting rights litigation and claiming her membership in one of the country's leading African-American sororities is "controversial."
On September 25, Holder announced that he would step down as attorney general, but would stay in office until his replacement was confirmed. The president nominated Lynch to the post on November 8, citing her extensive legal experience and stating that "it's pretty hard to be more qualified for this job than Loretta." Even conservative figures appear to agree, with Republican Senator Lindsay Graham calling her a "solid choice." News Corp Chairman Rupert Murdoch echoed Graham's sentiment, noting that the nominee has a "reputation for fairness and strict legality." Lynch is a Harvard Law graduate, has decades of experience as a successful and widely praised federal prosecutor, and has served as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York since 2010, when she was confirmed by unanimous consent.
But after Obama's announcement, conservative media ignored her qualifications and began to attack Lynch anyway, falsely accusing her of partisanship. Breitbart.com was so eager to find fault in her nomination that it went after the wrong Lynch, erroneously claiming that she was involved in former President Bill Clinton's defense during the Whitewater investigation in 1992. In reality, it was a different attorney named Loretta Lynch who defended the president during the probe that cleared the Clintons; the current nominee Lynch was serving in the U.S. attorney's office at the time.
The attacks have continued even after Breitbart.com issued a correction to its story. On the November 11 edition of Lou Dobbs Tonight, host Lou Dobbs claimed Lynch's membership in one of the country's leading African-American sororities was "controversial" because Holder's wife, a classmate of Lynch's, also pledged Delta Sigma Theta.
A Media Matters study on the coverage of key policy issues in nightly news' midterm election broadcasts finds that 65 percent of network news segments that dealt with the midterm elections failed to discuss the policy issues most important to the American people.
Election experts have observed that a heavy dose of congressional redistricting after the 2010 elections has polarized the nation and given Republicans an advantage in elections for years to come, but the practice's impact on election outcomes was all but ignored during the major cable news outlets' 2014 election night broadcasts.
From the November 4 edition of Fox News' Your World With Neil Cavuto:
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This Election Day, a number of states are implementing strict new voter ID laws and registration policies in a high-turnout election for the first time. These measures have been found to have the potential to disenfranchise thousands of voters -- typically people of color, young voters, and women -- who are unable to obtain select forms of ID or are caught in flawed voter purges, but right-wing media figures frequently argue that these laws do not suppress the vote.
The right-wing media have repeatedly claimed that these laws are not racially discriminatory, do not affect minority voter turnout, and maintain the integrity of the election system. Fox News has referred to recent court decisions striking down voter ID laws as illegal or unconstitutional "setbacks" and questioned the timing of the courts' intervention on behalf of the right to vote. Right-wing media have also railed against attempts to stop voter purges, despite the fact that reports have discovered "Hispanic, Democratic and independent-minded voters are the most likely to be targeted" in these methodologically unsound attempts to find ineligible voters.
Repeatedly discredited National Review Online contributor Hans von Spakovsky has been particularly vocal in his support of these unnecessary and redundant election measures, dismissing concerns of "chaos at the polls" even though hundreds of thousands of voters are at risk. On the November 2 edition of Fox News' America's News HQ, von Spakovsky again promoted strict voter ID laws and registration checks and claimed that "this idea" that voter ID laws can "suppress minority voters, we know is not true":
But qualified voters are already being turned away from the polls or purged from the rolls in states that have enacted these new Republican-pushed measures, despite right-wing media's promises that such laws would have no negative effect.
Radio host Laura Ingraham dismissed the sometimes insurmountable barriers voter ID laws can create to disenfranchise eligible voters to argue that voters deterred by ID requirements must not care enough about the country to vote.
On the November 4 edition ofher radio show, Ingraham suggested that "if it's too difficult for you to get a government issued ID in the states that require IDs," then "I don't really want you voting":
If you just sit it out election after election then -- well frankly if you make that decision not to vote, then I don't really want you voting. I'm kind of glad you didn't vote. Right? If you can't be bothered to get to the polls every few years, or if you can't be bothered to fill in an absentee ballot, or it's too difficult for you to get a government issued ID in the states that require IDs [...] I get this feeling that if you can't be bothered to go to the polls, then good. You can't care that much about the country, or you must be so uninformed that you think it's all going fine.
But the difficulty of obtaining an ID has been well-documented, and voter ID laws disproportionately burden low-income voters. A report from The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University's School of Law explained that, for the "11 percent of eligible voters who lack the required photo ID," transportation issues and limited operating hours can be roadblocks. It found that almost 500,00 eligible voters both "do not have access to a vehicle and live more than 10 miles from the nearest state ID-issuing office open more than two days a week," and many of them live in areas with limited public transportation options. It also reported that many offices that issue IDs have severely limited hours:
- For example, the office in Sauk City, Wisconsin is open only on the fifth Wednesday of any month. But only four months in 2012 -- February, May, August, and October -- have five Wednesdays. In other states -- Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Texas -- many part-time ID-issuing offices are in the rural regions with the highest concentrations of people of color and people in poverty.
The report also pointed to the costs of obtaining IDs, which can be higher than the discriminatory "poll taxes" that were banned during the civil rights era:
More than 1 million eligible voters in these states fall below the federal poverty line and live more than 10 miles from their nearest ID-issuing office open more than two days a week. These voters may be particularly affected by the significant costs of the documentation required to obtain a photo ID. Birth certificates can cost between $8 and $25. Marriage licenses, required for married women whose birth certificates include a maiden name, can cost between $8 and $20. By comparison, the notorious poll tax -- outlawed during the civil rights era -- cost $10.64 in current dollars.
And voters have spoken out about the difficulties they faced in attempting to obtain ID. The Guardian detailed the story of a Texas man, Eric Kennie, who will be unable to vote in the midterm elections because of the state's strict voter ID law:
To get an EIC, Kennie needs to be able to show the Texas department of public safety (DPS) other forms of documentation that satisfy them as to his identity. He presented them with his old personal ID card - issued by the DPS itself and with his photo on it - but because it is more than 60 days expired (it ran out in 2000) they didn't accept it. Next he showed them an electricity bill, and after that a cable TV bill, but on each occasion they said it didn't cut muster and turned him away.