Voting Rights & Issues

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  • The Wall Street Journal Baselessly Speculates Virginia Governor “Is Acting In Contempt Of Court” For Restoring Voting Rights To Former Felons

    Blog ››› ››› SALVATORE COLLELUORI

    The Wall Street Journals editorial board criticized Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe for continuing his effort to restore voting rights to former felons, echoing an unfounded Virginia GOP claim that McAuliffe, a Democrat, “is acting in contempt of the court that has rebuked him.”

    On April 22, McAuliffe issued an order restoring voting rights to approximately 206,000 Virginians who lost them due to prior felony convictions. Nearly 13,000 Virginians subsequently registered to vote. But the speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, William Howell, filed a lawsuit against McAuliffe seeking to stop the restoration of rights to this group of people, arguing the governor did not use his authority properly. The Virginia Supreme Court agreed, halting McAuliffe’s executive action and bumping those who had registered off the voting rolls.

    After the state Supreme Court ruled, McAuliffe again began restoring voting rights to former felons, but on a case-by-case basis, which the court had specifically suggested as an acceptable alternative. As explained by the governor’s office, “While it is our position that the Governor’s April 22nd action was clearly constitutional by any reasonable standard, he will proceed with individual restorations in accordance with the Virginia Supreme Court’s order and the precedent of governors before him.”

    But the Journal still took issue with the latest round of restorations in a August 12 editorial, baselessly suggesting that McAuliffe “is acting in contempt of the court that has rebuked him” and claiming that if McAuliffe “gets away with” restoring voting rights, we would be “well down the road to tyranny”:

    President Obama has charted new levels of executive defiance, but even he hasn’t refused to obey a Supreme Court ruling. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has sought to follow Mr. Obama’s executive hubris, and now he’s gone further and is acting in contempt of the court that has rebuked him.

    In July the Virginia Supreme Court struck down his executive order restoring voting rights to 206,000 felons. Under Virginia law the Governor can grant clemency on an individual basis. But the justices wrote that “Governor McAuliffe’s assertion of ‘absolute’ power to issue his executive order” runs “afoul of the separation-of-powers principle” in the Virginia constitution. The individual clemency power, the court admonished, “does not mean he can effectively rewrite the general rule of law.”

    [...]

    The Democratic Governor claims he is restoring these voting rights by the thousands on an “individual” basis. And he says he plans to do so for all of the more than 200,000 remaining felons by the time his term ends.

    This is contempt of both the court and the legislature, or what is known as the “suspension” of a law simply because an executive disagrees with it. This is why the Founders wrote the Constitution to protect against such actions by kings, and Virginia Republicans have now gone to court again to stop him. Their filing last week, submitted by former U.S. Assistant Attorney General Chuck Cooper, argues that Mr. McAuliffe’s mass restoration orders “have precisely the same scope, precisely the same effect, and accomplish precisely the same unconstitutional suspension of Virginia’s felon-disenfranchisement law.”

    The Journal provides no proof that McAuliffe is violating any court order or not evaluating the restorations on a case-to-case basis as his office described, a process which the Journal explicitly admits is legal under Virginia law, noting that the “Governor can grant clemency on an individual basis.” As McAuliffe’s court filing explains, voting rights were individually restored to “most but not all of the [12,521] people who had previously registered” and to “an additional 6,957 persons, all of whom had requested to have their rights restored, and he did so, again, through individualized orders after a case-by-case review process.” This procedure follows the guidance of the court, which found such an individualized review to be unobjectionable, affirming that “the Governor can use his clemency powers to mitigate a general rule of law on a case-by-case basis.”

    The Journal is no friend to expanded voting rights, especially when the denial of rights disproportionately harms minorities, as barring former felons from voting does. Its opinion pages have argued against the restoration of the Voting Rights Act and for restrictive Voter ID laws.

    And that background makes the Journal’s hostility to McAuliffe’s actions unsurprising. The denial of voting rights for felons has long had a disproportionately negative impact on African-Americans in Virginia. As Erika Wood, the former deputy director at the Brennan Center for Justice, explained in a 2010 Richmond Times Dispatch op-ed, “There is ample evidence in the historical record that” the law denying former felons the right to vote “is firmly rooted in Jim Crow, and its intended effects continue today,” when “one in every six African Americans in Virginia, and one in four African-American men, is permanently disenfranchised under this law. African Americans make up only one fifth of Virginia’s population, but over half of those are disenfranchised.”

  • Prosecutors Investigating Trump Campaign CEO Steve Bannon For Being Registered To Vote In FL County He Didn’t Live In

    While Breitbart News Pushed Voter Fraud Myths

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    NBC News reports that Florida prosecutors are now investigating Donald Trump’s campaign chief executive Stephen Bannon after a report from The Guardian alleged that he is registered to vote in Florida, “at an empty house where he does not live.” Bannon was the executive chairman of Breitbart News, which has peddled myths about voter fraud for years.

  • O’Reilly’s Proof That Voter Fraud Exists Was Debunked On His Own Show Four Years Ago

    Blog ››› ››› THOMAS BISHOP

    Fox News host Bill O’Reilly argued that Mitt Romney’s failure to receive any votes in the 2012 presidential election in 59 divisions in Philadelphia was evidence that widespread voter fraud exists presidential elections. This claim was investigated and proved false on O’Reilly’s show one week after the 2012 election.

     O’Reilly invited lawyers Kimberly Guilfoyle and Stacy Schneider to discuss the prevalence of voter fraud in presidential elections. While both Guilfoyle and Schneider agreed that voter fraud is extremely rare, O’Reilly pointed to “reports in Philadelphia that nobody voted for Romney” as proof that voter fraud exists and asked if these reports have been investigated. From the August 16 edition of The O'Reilly Factor:

    O’Reilly himself investigated and debunked these allegations in 2012. Following the election, O’Reilly hosted Fox’s Megyn Kelly to investigate the “shenanigans” and why Romney got zero votes in a number of Philadelphia divisions. Kelly explained that “the same thing happened to John McCain” in 2008 because “the divisions with the unanimous Obama votes have large black, inner-city populations.”

    Furthermore, following the 2012 election, The Philadelphia Inquirer investigated the claim of voter fraud and the voting patterns in those 59 divisions in Philadelphia and reported that they are overwhelmingly Democratic, black, and politically uniform:

    • About 94 percent of the 633 people who live in that division are black. Seven white residents were counted in the 2010 census.

    • In the entire 28th Ward, Romney received only 34 votes to Obama's 5,920.

    • Although voter registration lists, which often contain outdated information, show 12 Republicans live in the ward's 3rd division, The Inquirer was unable to find any of them by calling or visiting their homes.

    • Four of the registered Republicans no longer lived there; four others didn't answer their doors. City Board of Elections registration data say a registered Republican used to live at 25th and York Streets, but none of the neighbors across the street Friday knew him.

    • The ward's 15th division, which also cast no votes for Romney, also cast no votes for McCain in 2008. Thirteen other Philadelphia precincts also cast no votes for the Republican in both 2008 and 2012.

    • Nationally, 93 percent of African-Americans voted for Obama, according to exit polls, so it's not surprising that the president did even better than that in some areas.

     

  • Fox News Mainstreams Trump's "Conspiratorial" Claims Of A “Rigged” Election

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Fox News is helping bolster and mainstream “conspiratorial” and “preposterous” claims made by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump that the presidential election will be “rigged” and “illegitimate.” The charges originated with Trump allies and conspiracy theorists Roger Stone and Alex Jones, who directed Trump to “begin talking about” a “rigged” election “constantly.”

  • Trump Invokes Right-Wing Media's Voter Fraud Myth To Support Voter ID Laws

    ››› ››› NINA MAST

    Echoing a right-wing media myth, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump claimed recent court rulings striking down voter restrictions would cause the presidential election to be “rigged” because voter ID laws prevent people committing in-person voter fraud by not allowing them to keep “voting and voting and voting." In reality, in-person voter fraud is extremely rare and voter ID laws disproportionately harm minority voters.

  • James O’Keefe Is Still Not a Journalist

    ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Since 2009, self-described “guerilla journalist” James O’Keefe has repeatedly embarrassed himself while attempting to launch undercover stings targeting government agencies, media outlets, and  liberal organizations and institutions.