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.
Fox News' Gretchen Carlson criticized Cosmopolitan magazine for writing about politics and endorsing candidates on the same day Fox's Megyn Kelly teamed up with the magazine for a Facebook Q&A.
Cosmopolitan expanded its coverage to include politics in August, launching its "#CosmoVotes" campaign which focuses on candidate endorsements, coverage of "women-centric issues," and a "social media effort" to encourage readers to vote, particularly in the upcoming midterm elections.
On the November 3 edition of The Real Story, host Gretchen Carlson criticized Cosmopolitan's foray into politics, suggesting the magazine is "taking it a step too far," because "they basically say some kind of snarky words about any Republican candidate, calling them 'troubling,' 'an extremist who rails against the poor,' 'an anti-choice radical.'" Carlson noted that other women's magazines have covered the 2014 midterm elections highlighting both Republicans and Democrats, but questioned Cosmopolitan's decision to endorse certain candidates, saying, "A lot of people are probably wondering why fashion magazines are getting into politics and actually endorsing candidates but that is the world that we live in now":
National Council of La Raza (NCLR), a leading Hispanic civil rights group, issued a statement responding to Fox News' baseless claim that the organization had encouraged voter fraud.
After NCLR retweeted a link to an October 27 article from the Washington Post which features an infographic of the different levels of identification required to vote in each state, the hosts of Fox & Friends responded by suggesting the organization was promoting voter fraud.
On October 30, NCLR responded to Fox's suggestion that the organization may be promoting fraudulent voting in a statement on its blog. Pointing to the "fact-free" Fox & Friends segment, the organization explained that its mission is nonpartisan and "works to promote the civic and political participation of the Hispanic community" by helping qualified voters to perform their civic duty. Countering Fox's claim, NCLR asserted that calling its sharing of the article "fraud" was "not only woefully incorrect" but also "irresponsible and deliberately deceptive":
NCLR is a nonpartisan organization that works to promote the civic and political participation of the Hispanic community. Informing eligible Latino voters about whether their state has a voter ID requirement is a way to educate them about what they need to do to vote on Election Day--no different than sharing information about their polling locations. To suggest that sharing basic information about voting requirements is an attempt at fraud is not only woefully incorrect, it is irresponsible and deliberately deceptive.
Like the vast majority of Americans, we believe in fair elections, which is why we will continue to work hard to ensure that every eligible Latino voter makes it to the voting booth this November.
Fox's claim that NCLR had promoted voter fraud by attempting to explain voting requirements to Latinos ignored the already significant obstacles presented by voter ID laws to this demographic group. According to a 2012 report by the NALEO Educational Fund, although Latino voter turnout has "reach[ed] historic highs," the demographic is still "likely to lag behind comparable participation rates of Americans of other races and ethnicities" due to lack of outreach, language accessibility, and "knowledge of voting procedures and requirements." The organization explained that in particular, "restrictive changes enacted to voting policy" such as requiring government-issued photo identification cards, "will have a worse effect on the Latino electorate than on all voters in the aggregate."
Right-wing media outlets have used misleading voter fraud stories to stoke fears of rampant voter fraud in the months leading up to the 2014 midterm elections. But experts state that voter fraud in the U.S. is virtually non-existent and that voter ID laws would actually disenfranchise voters.
The hosts of Fox & Friends wondered whether a Washington Post infographic that shows the different levels of documentary identification required to vote in each state promotes voter fraud, and they also cast suspicion on the intentions of the country's leading Hispanic civil rights advocacy group that highlighted the article on Twitter.
The Washington Post published an informational piece on October 27 that summarizes which states in the U.S. require or request photo ID, another form of documentary ID, or a non-documentary form of identification to vote. The source The Washington Post relied on, the National Conference of State Legislatures, makes clear that the article and graphic focus on documentary identification, of which strict voter ID -- a photo ID requirement that is selective about which photo IDs are acceptable -- is the most stringent type. As the NCSL explains, not all states require documentary identification. Other states have " 'non-documentary' ID requirements, meaning voters must verify their identity in other ways, such as by signing an affidavit or poll book, or by providing personal information. In addition, all states have procedures for challenging voter eligibility."
But on the October 30 edition of Fox & Friends, hosts Steve Doocy, Anna Kooiman, and Brian Kilmeade highlighted the fact that the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), a Hispanic advocacy group, retweeted the Post article. Doocy suggested the Post is encouraging voter fraud, and Kooiman cast suspicion on NCLR's promotion of the article:
DOOCY: Are they, is The Washington Post promoting voter fraud or just doing a public service?
KOOIMAN: Well, I mean, The Washington Post just put it out there, but this immigration group tweeted it, and then La Raza retweeted it, and it wasn't just, you know, nonpartisan. It had the hashtag #TurnOutForWhat, which is the pro-Democrat hashtag.
Despite Fox & Friends' attempt to attribute a nefarious intention to the article and NCLR, strict voter ID laws have become a significant obstacle to many Americans attempting to vote, and because of ongoing legal challenges, the requirements to vote in many states are in flux. Eligible voters in Texas have already been turned away because of the state's restrictive voter ID law, which was recently blocked and then reinstated. A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) study found that similar laws in Kansas and Tennessee brought voter turnout down 1.9 and 2.2 percentage points, respectively -- which amounted to 122,000 fewer votes. As The Washington Post explained in its summary of the report, "[y]oung people, black people, and newly registered voters were the groups that were more likely to see bigger drops in turnout."
Courts and social scientists have repeatedly found strict voter ID laws to be racially discriminatory toward or linked to bias against voters of color. Researchers at the University of Southern California found that when they emailed state legislators posing as a voter asking whether or not he could vote without a driver's license, "legislators who had supported voter ID laws were much more likely to respond to 'Jacob Smith' than to 'Santiago Rodriguez.'" The Washington Post's Wonkblog further summarized the findings:
"The fact that legislators supporting voter identification responded so much l[ess] to the Latino name is evidence anti-Latino bias, unrelated to electoral considerations, might be influencing these public policies," they write.
A University of Delaware study found that white survey respondents who saw a picture of black voters were more likely to support voter ID laws than those who were shown an image of white voters or no image. And two experts from the University of Massachusetts Boston wrote in The Washington Post's Monkey Cage blog that "restrictions on voting derived from both race and class":
The more that minorities and lower-income individuals in a state voted, the more likely such restrictions were to be proposed. Where minorities turned out at the polls at higher rates the legislation was more likely enacted.
More specifically, restrictive proposals were more likely to be introduced in states with larger African-American and non-citizen populations and with higher minority turnout in the previous presidential election.
And the Fox hosts' concern about supposed "voter fraud" is unfounded -- studies and investigations have found that in-person voter impersonation, the kind of fraud that voter ID laws are supposed to prevent, is so rare that it is almost nonexistent.
In its most recent effort to defend discriminatory and unnecessary strict voter ID laws, National Review Online has resorted in the past week to recycling debunked myths about this type of voter suppression, most recently linking voter ID to noncitizen voting, which is an unrelated issue.
With the midterm elections coming up, right-wing media are aggressively lying about voter ID laws and voter fraud, and NRO is no exception. NRO has previously praised Texas' strict voter ID law -- which has been found to be racially discriminatory in both intent and effect -- called for the remaining protections available under the Voting Rights Act to be repealed or limited, and dismissed concerns over Wisconsin's voter ID law, which has the potential to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters when it goes into effect.
In just the past week, NRO writers have doubled down on nearly all of these poorly supported right-wing positions. National Review editor Rich Lowry defended Texas's strict voter ID law -- which a federal judge determined to be an "unconstitutional poll tax" -- by arguing that the disenfranchisement these laws cause is justified by the potential for in-person voter impersonation, even though that kind of fraud is virtually non-existent. Lowry also incorrectly claimed that strict voter ID laws require the same level of identification needed to buy a gun. NRO contributor Hans von Spakovsky wrote in The Wall Street Journal that "moves to shore up election integrity have been resisted by progressives" who are challenging the legality of voter ID laws "without evidence that such efforts suppress minority turnout" -- despite the fact that a recent report found a decrease in voter of color turnout in two states was attributable to strict voter ID. For good measure, von Spakovsky, a discredited proponent of restrictive election rules, also conflated other forms of voter fraud with in-person impersonation, the only type of fraud voter ID prevents.
The dissembling continued with another NRO contributor, Mona Charen, offering more of the same in a post titled "The Voter-ID Myth Crashes." Charen seized on a contested study of the rate of noncitizen voting to claim that "[b]eing asked to show a photo ID can diminish several kinds of fraud, including impersonation, duplicate registrations in different jurisdictions, and voting by ineligible people including felons and noncitizens," but buried the fact that "[v]oter-ID laws will not prevent noncitizens from voting."
Academics and experts are casting doubt on the merits of a new study, promoted by right-wing media, which estimates that a small percentage of non-citizens vote and might sway the outcome of elections.
Conservative media figures pointed to the news that 145 immigrants' names were flagged on North Carolina's voter rolls as proof of potential voter fraud in the upcoming election. But the discovery of these names actually disproves the potential for voter fraud, as the state's board of election is now confirming the citizenship of individuals who were flagged.
As strict voter ID laws are put into effect ahead of the midterm elections, recent judicial opinions and social science studies continue to poke holes in right-wing media's defense of voter suppression.