From the August 11 edition of MSNBC's Disrupt with Karen Finney:
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From the August 9 edition of MSNBC's Hardball:
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Colorado newspaper The Pueblo Chieftain is misrepresenting Colorado's new voting law in order to stoke fears that a recall election targeting Democratic State Sen. Angela Giron will be marred by fraud. The paper's editorial board falsely claimed that the new law would allow individuals who live outside of Giron's district to vote in the election "but then later say they had a change of heart and have abandoned plans to move into that jurisdiction."
Giron is facing recall over her support of legislation to expand background checks on gun sales and limit firearm magazine capacity to 15 rounds. Ballots in the election are to be mailed to voters beginning on August 19.
Claiming that "the Democrats who control the Colorado Legislature have passed a new voting law, one which literally invites fraud," the Chieftain editorial board distorted Colorado law to manufacture a voter registration fraud scenario:
Under the law passed this year, people need only to swear under penalty of perjury that they have lived in Colorado for at least 22 days and reside or plan to reside in the precinct or county where they wish to vote. Once they have done that, they are allowed to cast ballots.
The problem is, if there were groups from outside a jurisdiction who want to affect an election in that jurisdiction, they could vote under the conditions outlined in the new law, but then later say they had a change of heart and have abandoned plans to move into that jurisdiction.
The Chieftain's claim that voting is allowed by those who only profess an intention to move into the district is false. In fact, the new law allows an individual who has already moved into a district to vote immediately, so long as they attest to their intent to stay. Voting from outside of the district is not allowed. Furthermore, prior to the enactment of new voting laws Colorado already had a rarely used same day voter registration provision known as "emergency voting." As the Colorado Springs Independent explains:
Earlier this summer, the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act that helped force states and localities with a history of discrimination to have the Justice Department preclear proposed changes to voting regulations. Representative John Lewis (D-GA), a civil rights icon, described the decision as "a dagger in the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965."
Today marks the 48th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson signing that act into law.
Conservatives are apt to defend gutting the law by arguing that our country has made significant strides in racial equality over the past 48 years. That being the case, one would hope that segregationists' arguments against the Voting Rights Act of 1965 would have been relegated to the dust bin of history, rather than in use by conservatives today to defend discriminatory policies.
Unfortunately, much of the rhetoric used to attack the law and defend the Supreme Court's decision remains rooted in the segregationist defenses of Jim Crow. Regardless of the motives, the use of similar rhetoric shows a lack of historic perspective.
Keith Finley, a professor of history at Southern Louisiana University and author of Delaying the Dream: Southern Senators and the Fight Against Civil Right, has detailed many of the arguments made by Senators from the old South as they fought the Voting Rights Act of 1965 on the floor of the chamber.
One such tactic was to accuse civil rights activists of aggravating racial tensions. According to Finley, Virginia Senator Henry Byrd, an opponent of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, claimed Lyndon Johnson would only increase racial tensions by "inflaming so-called civil rights issues" if he pursued the legislation.
Forty-eight years later, that defense remains a go-to of civil rights antagonists.
Two weeks ago, Fox host Bill O'Reilly told his the audience that civil rights leaders want "to divide the country along racial lines because that's good for business." While O'Reilly was specifically referring to reaction to the George Zimmerman verdict among civil rights leaders, similar sentiment has been expressed throughout the right in defense of the court's decision to gut the Voting Rights Act.
When Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department would use available tools to continue enforcing the Voting Rights Act, Fox's Eric Bolling accused the nation's first black attorney general of "thumbing his nose at the Supreme Court so he can widen the race divide in America." Nina Easton, a Fortune columnist, said on Fox's Special Report that Holder's move was part of an "ongoing electoral strategy by this administration to gin up the black and Latino vote."
The fight to defeat the Voting Rights Act in 1965 also hinged on pivoting away from the central issue of voting rights to the canard of defending the process. According to Finley, Louisiana Senator Allen Ellender claimed race had nothing to do with his opposition to the Voting Rights Act. Instead, Ellender argued that he was simply maintaining the integrity of the electoral process: "the task of making it clear that one is not against voting rights, but only in favor of maintaining voting qualifications, is not always an easy one."
The same tactic is alive and well nearly five decades later and is made frequently by those advocating for strict voter ID laws, which experts say will disenfranchise minority voters.
When Mother Jones' David Corn published the internal deliberations of Groundswell, a right-wing listserve, one of the debates he highlighted centered on the issue of voter ID laws:
A high-priority cause for Groundswellers is voter identification efforts--what progressives would call voter suppression--and when Groundswellers developed a thread on their Google group page exploring the best way to pitch the right's voter identification endeavors as a major voting rights case was pending in the Supreme Court, the coalition's friendly journalists joined right in. Dan Bongino, the ex-Secret Service agent and 2012 Senate candidate, kicked off the discussion: "We need to reframe this. This narrative of the Left has already taken hold in MD. The words 'Voter ID' are already lost & equated with racism. Maybe a 'free and fair elections initiative' with a heavy emphasis on avoiding ANY voter disenfranchisement combined with an identification requirement which includes a broader range of documents."
In response, Tapscott suggested, "How about 'Election Integrity'?" And Gaffney weighed in: "I like it." Fitton noted that Judicial Watch had an "Election Integrity Project." Boyle proposed, "Fair and equal elections," explaining, "Terms 'fair' and 'equal' connect with most people. It's why the left uses them." Then came True the Vote's Anita MonCrief: "We do a lot under the Election Integrity Banner. Does not resonate with the people. Voter Rights may be better. We really have been trying to get the messaging right."
Hans von Spakovsky, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation and leader in the conservative movement's war on voting, wrote in USA Today that voter ID laws were "to ensure the integrity of our election process."
Rush Limbaugh told his audience that Democrats only oppose voter ID laws "because that would have a very negative impact on cheating."
Finley points to Herman Talmadge, a Senator from Georgia, who claimed the 1965 Voting Right Act was unnecessary because the "[right to vote] is probably the most protected right we have." Echoes of Talmadge could be heard in the aftermath of the Supreme Court's decision this summer. The Wall Street Journal argued the Voting Right Act was "no longer necessary" due to "American racial progress."
Speaking about the Supreme Court's decision on Fox, network contributor Andrew Napolitano cheered the court's ruling, claiming the section stuck down "worked so well" that "the procedure is not necessary anymore."
Von Spakovsky claimed in 2011 there was "a complete lack of evidence that the type of systematic discrimination that led to [the 1965 Voting Rights Act's] initial passage still exists."
This 48th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act provides conservative media figures an opportunity to revisit the historical context of the language they use to confront issues of races, and begin to engage in a real conversation.
Among the many connections between right-wing media and the conservative legal movement as revealed in Mother Jones' report on Groundswell, the leading participation of conservative Justice Clarence Thomas' wife on issues that may be before the Supreme Court raises significant conflict of interest concerns.
Virginia "Ginni" Thomas has not been shy about her tea party activism on topics that come before Justice Thomas and present a clear conflict, pursuant to the Code of Conduct for United States Judges. However, because Supreme Court Justices refuse to be bound by these rules of ethics, Justice Thomas continues to participate in decisions that his wife is involved in through her right-wing advocacy, activism that in some cases is paid.
The recent Groundswell memoranda obtained by David Corn of Mother Jones reveal that these conflicts are getting worse.
Ginni Thomas was the founder and leader of Liberty Central, a political nonprofit "dedicated to opposing what she characterizes as the leftist 'tyranny' of President Obama and Democrats in Congress." The group was funded by Harlan Crow, frequent patron of the Thomas' projects and causes and a financial supporter of right-wing campaigns such as the "swift boat" attacks on then-presidential candidate John Kerry and the advertising push to confirm President George W. Bush's Supreme Court nominees. Crow also serves on the board of the American Enterprise Institute, whose Edward Blum brought the two most recent attacks on the Voting Rights Act and affirmative action before the Supreme Court. Justice Thomas favored Blum's positions against progressive precedent on both civil rights issues.
Ginni Thomas' direction of Liberty Central was heavily criticized in the run-up to the Supreme Court's decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act because Justice Thomas "was planning to rule on the healthcare law when his wife, a conservative lobbyist, has made so much money challenging the law." As U.S. News & World Report explained, this paid activism continued even after Ginni Thomas stepped down from Liberty Central to form a separate lobbying firm, Liberty Consulting:
[J]ust days after healthcare law was upheld (with Clarence Thomas dissenting), new financial forms show that Thomas's wife, Ginni, continued to rake in a profit from opposing healthcare reforms in 2011--even after she previously came under fire for doing so.
According to Thomas's 2011 financial disclosure report form, filed on May 15 and obtained Friday by Whispers, the Thomas's invested up to $15,000 in the political lobbying firm Liberty Consulting, where Ginni Thomas continues to earn a salary and benefits. The firm lobbied actively against the healthcare law, according to liberal news magazine Mother Jones.
Ginni formed Liberty Consulting after she was criticized for her work at Liberty Central, a non-profit tea party organization that also lobbied against the health care law.
In March of this year, Liberty Central was the subject of a letter sent to the IRS by Common Cause, a nonprofit that works for government accountability. The letter argued that Liberty Central violated the proportionality rule for non-profits because the majority of its activities were designed to help Republican candidates.
Ginni later stepped down from Liberty Central, but her involvement in conservative politics extends beyond these two groups. Among Ginni's former employers is the Heritage Foundation, another vocal critic of the healthcare law. She also currently works as a "special correspondent" for the conservative website The Daily Caller.
In January 2011, Justice Thomas "inadvertently" left out information about his wife's employment, including earnings over the past 13 years that added up to as much as $1.6 million.
Fox News has failed to report on allegations of election fraud in Colorado, a silence that is at odds with the network's tendency to hype election fraud as a widespread phenomenon, even when the allegations are minimal or dubious.
The election fraud allegation stems from an effort to recall two Democratic Colorado legislators, Senate President John Morse and Sen. Angela Giron, over their votes in favor of Colorado's new gun violence prevention laws. Supporters of Morse are calling for a criminal investigation into whether Kennedy Enterprises, hired by the National Rifle Association-backed Basic Freedom Defense Fund to collect signatures in support of the recall, forged the signatures of individuals who did not support the recall, including one individual who has been deceased for two years.
On July 18, a Denver judge certified recall petitions against Morse and Giron, setting the stage for a September 10 recall election. Supporters of Morse are now questioning this certification, as the signature of Twila Peach, who died two years ago, was reportedly not invalidated by the Colorado Secretary of State's screening process.
Colorado Springs NBC affiliate KOAA spoke to Peach's husband who noted that the recall petition is signed Twila Peach, even though he said she always signed her name as Twila Sue. A man who claims that his name was misspelled when his signature was forged also spoke to KOAA about his inclusion in the recall petition:
From the July 25 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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After initially misreporting and downplaying the damage done to the Voting Rights Act (VRA) by a recent Supreme Court decision, Fox News almost completely ignored the law until the Department of Justice (DOJ) indicated it will once again be enforced.
As was expected by election law experts, Attorney General Eric Holder has announced that the DOJ will once again enforce the VRA against Texas' recent changes to its election practices, which federal courts have already blocked as racially discriminatory. Because these previous injunctions were based on the "preclearance" powers of Sections 4 and 5 of the VRA -- now nullified by the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling June 25 in Shelby County v. Holder that Section 4 was outdated -- the DOJ is bringing its new lawsuit under a different provision, Section 3.
Despite host Shannon Bream's promise to keep her panel "straight," a segment on the July 25 edition of Fox News' America Live featuring conservative Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen inaccurately explained the new VRA action and repeated long-debunked GOP talking points on voter ID.
Thiessen's claim that voter ID laws "don't disenfranchise anybody" because there are ID requirements for other government services that are not fundamental constitutional rights is not only a silly comparison, it's sloppy.
The Washington Times declared the real "obstacle to civil rights" is Attorney General Eric Holder and "offensive provisions" of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), not voter suppression.
Despite right-wing media's incessant, tone-deaf, and inaccurate discussion of race and civil rights in America in the aftermath of the George Zimmerman trial, conservative outlets have barely reported on Congress' current attempts to fix the VRA.
On the same day that The Times' editors dismissed President Obama's historic speech on the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by claiming "the only things the president had in common with Trayvon was a skin of a dark hue and a fondness for partying and smoking pot," the editorial board touched on the issue and claimed the real "threat to voting rights" was Congress' preliminary attempts to remedy the damage to the VRA caused by the infamous Shelby County v. Holder decision. From the July 23 editorial:
Democrats in Congress are trying to restore the offensive provisions of the Voting Rights Act as though the Supreme Court had not declared them unconstitutional. The legislative scam was put on display at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, with the legislation presented as the usual liberal morality play, "From Selma to Shelby County: Working Together to Restore the Protections of the Voting Rights Act."
When the voting law comes up for consideration, Republicans shouldn't be bullied into restoring provisions that would block voter-ID statutes enacted by the states. Much to the chagrin of congressmen looking for cheap and easy votes, Jim Crow lies in a graveyard in Alabama, and he isn't coming back. There's not a single Southern governor left standing in a schoolhouse door. The obstacle to civil rights is [Attorney General Eric] Holder, who wants to keep the backdoor of the polling station unlocked to make it easier to dilute the integrity of the ballot.
Continuing the recent trend in right-wing media, The Times pretends that Congressional concern for the VRA after the conservative justices in Shelby County gutted its most important provisions is only a "liberal morality play." In fact, the VRA has a long history of overwhelming bipartisan support, reauthorized most recently by President George W. Bush in 2006. After Shelby County was decided, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) immediately "signaled a concrete interest in repairing the parts" of the VRA that were struck down. More significantly, conservative Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) is actively leading the current bipartisan effort to repair the historic civil rights law.
The Times, however, followed the lead of Fox News and avoided any mention of Sensenbrenner's prominent involvement. Instead, The Times chose to focus on encouraging members of Congress to show "backbone," even if they are "called a racist," and refuse to reauthorize the sections of the VRA that successfully blocked racially discriminatory voter ID laws in the last election cycle.
Seventeen months after Fox News became briefly fixated on Republican claims that hundreds of dead voters had cast ballots in South Carolina, those allegations have been completely debunked by an investigation by law enforcement that found no evidence of voter fraud.
The South Carolina "dead voter" claim sprang from testimony from Kevin Schwedo, the director of the state's Department of Motor Vehicles, who said on January 11, 2012, that more than 950 residents were recorded as having cast a vote after their reported death date. Schwedo made clear that this could have been the result of data errors or voters dying after casting an absentee ballot, but the state's Republicans, led by Attorney General Alan Wilson, seized on the report as evidence of widespread voter fraud.
Wilson took his campaign to Fox News, where he received a platform for softball interviews from several anchors. The network used the "dead voter" story to promote South Carolina's voter ID law, which had been blocked by the Justice Department.
Again, these claims were always dubious - deceased voter fraud claims are often revealed as unfounded, the result of data errors or other explanations.
Indeed, on July 3 the public release of an investigation by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) provided the answer we anticipated: No voter fraud was found, no charges filed. As of noon E.T. on July 8, Fox had not reported on those findings.
From the July 1 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Right-wing media are offering multiple false reassurances to those outraged at the Supreme Court's attack on voting rights in Shelby County v. Holder, while failing to report on the progress of one possible fix.
In the aftermath of Shelby County, which held that Congress' extensive 2006 findings of ongoing voter suppression did not justify the Voting Rights Act's formula for determining which jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination must "preclear" their election changes, right-wing media are incorrectly claiming that this decision will not have an adverse effect on voting rights.
Repeating the lie that the preclearance requirement in Section 5 of the VRA - gutted when the Supreme Court invalidated the formula within Section 4 that determines which jurisdictions are subject to it - was insignificant, right wing-media continue to argue that only a "small part" of this historic civil rights law was struck down.
In their day-after analysis of Shelby County, the editors of the National Review Online proclaimed the preclearance process to be "worthless," adding "[t]he decision brings an end to the automatic and perpetual punishment of states that are guilty of crimes in decades past. It does nothing else."
On the June 26 edition of America Live, Fox News host Megyn Kelly dismissed the idea that "racism was given the stamp of approval officially by the Supreme Court yesterday." Her guest, NRO contributing editor Andrew McCarthy, repeated the right-wing myth that voter suppression that engages in systematic racial discrimination "has long ago passed to the dustbin of history" and progressives who cannot recognize its demise are demagogues and "race hucksters." From America Live:
Right-wing media marked the Supreme Court's devastating Shelby County v. Holder decision by ignoring, trivializing, and downright misrepresenting its dire consequences for one of the most effective civil rights laws of all time, as well as for millions of American voters.
Tossing aside history, legal precedent, and congressional intent, the conservative bloc of the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965 in Shelby County, a sharply split 5-4 opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts. In a twisted reading of this crown jewel of civil rights law, the conservative majority invalidated the provision within the VRA that prevents states and local jurisdictions from enacting racially discriminatory election practices, reasoning that this vital protection against voter suppression is instead an impermissible restriction on the highly dubious "equal sovereignty" of southern states.
Rather than acknowledge the documented voter suppression that the VRA has effectively and consistently kept at bay from the voting rights struggles of the civil rights era through the 2012 elections, right-wing media are echoing the Supreme Court's blow to the VRA, misrepresenting Shelby County as something other than an attack on the American right to vote.
Fox News host Jon Scott, in a Happening Now segment leading off Fox's coverage of the decision, chose to trivialize and confuse the radical decision as "the president took another shot you might say, a bit of a smackdown" by the Supreme Court. The consequences stretch much further than that.
Contrary to this horserace description, the VRA has never been a political manifestation of the executive. The VRA is rather Congress' chosen bipartisan method to effectuate the right to vote in the Fifteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, repeatedly updated and reauthorized because of incessant and ongoing voter suppression, and upheld as constitutional four separate times by the Supreme Court.
Nevertheless, later in the day, Fox News senior legal analyst Andrew Napolitano continued in the vein of his colleague by astonishingly asserting "nobody is seriously claiming today...that there is systematic efforts on the part of the government in the south to keep people of color from voting."
Instead, right-wing media figures like Rush Limbaugh chose to tout the decision as a victory against people who allegedly discriminate against whites, such as the "civil rights community" that wants "perpetual discrimination."
Fox's Andrew Napolitano ignored the Voting Rights Act's recent history of protecting voters from racially discriminatory measures to celebrate the Supreme Court's decision to strike down one of the Act's key provisions.
On the June 25 edition of Fox News' America Live, Fox senior legal analyst Andrew Napolitano discussed a Supreme Court decision to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. The section established a flexible formula for demonstrating voter suppression among jurisdictions that then required those areas to "pre-clear" changes to voting laws with the Department of Justice. Napolitano applauded the decision, citing the Court's opinion that the section "worked so well" that "the procedure is not necessary anymore. The conditions that caused Congress to create that procedure have been eradicated by the procedure." When host Megyn Kelly pointed out criticism from civil rights leaders to the decision, Napolitano responded, "It would have been a major setback had this been invalidated in 1965 when it was enacted, but no one is seriously complaining today":
Despite Napolitano's claims to the contrary, the Voting Rights Act has continued to protect voters from discriminatory voting changes. Legal analyst Andrew Cohen criticized the decision in a post at The Atlantic, noting that Section 4 was "invoked more than 700 times between 1982 and 2006 to block racially discrimination [sic] voting measures." A Mother Jones article quoted Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who, in her dissent to the decision, pointed out "eight examples of race-based voter discrimination in recent history" such as:
Fox Business host Stuart Varney baselessly suggested non-citizens will now be compelled to vote as the "end result" of the Supreme Court's decision that Arizona cannot trump federal election law and make it harder for its citizens to register to vote.
In its 7-2 decision in Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council, the Supreme Court rejected Arizona's argument that its state registration law is immune to the federal National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) of 1993, an "open and shut" decision authored by conservative Justice Antonin Scalia that was handed down only three months after oral arguments.
Varney, however, responded to the breaking news that the Court had struck down yet another unconstitutional Arizona law by claiming the decision would not only allow non-citizens to vote, they will now go forth and do so. His guest, Fox News senior legal analyst Andrew Napolitano, while admitting Arizona has a terrible record at enacting constitutional legislation, added to the misinformation by incorrectly asserting "the states decide what the standards are for voting." From the June 17 edition of Varney & Company: