Voting Rights & Issues

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  • Right-Wing Media Use Wisconsin Primary Turnout To Dismiss Discriminatory Impact Of Voter ID Laws


    Right-wing media figures are using the high April 5 voter turnout during the presidential primary in Wisconsin, which has a voter ID law, to dismiss concerns about the discriminatory impact of such laws. But experts say conclusions about the impact of voter ID laws cannot be drawn based only on high voter turnout, and several media outlets reported that the law did harm potential voters in the state's primary.

  • Here Are The Big Players In The Inevitable Smear Campaign Against Judge Merrick Garland

    ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    As President Obama reportedly prepares to announce Judge Merrick Garland to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court, media should be prepared to hear from several right-wing groups dedicated to opposing the nominee, no matter who it is. These advocacy groups and right-wing media outlets have a history of pushing misleading information and alarmist rhetoric to launch smear campaigns against Obama's highly qualified Supreme Court nominees, using tactics including, but not limited to, spreading offensive rumors about a nominee's personal life, deploying bogus legal arguments or conspiracy theories, and launching wild distortions of every aspect of a nominee's legal career.

  • Will Moderators Finally Discuss Voting Rights At Tonight's GOP Debate?

    Republican Candidates Have A Record Of Supporting Measures That Disenfranchise Communities Of Color

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LOPEZ

    Debate moderators at the nine Republican (and six Democratic) presidential primary debates so far have not asked a single question regarding voting rights or restrictive voter ID policies despite the Republican presidential candidates' long histories of supporting policies that undermine voting rights.

    The February 25 Republican debate, hosted by CNN and Telemundo, presents a particularly important opportunity to question candidates on their stances regarding voting rights, as it will be "the only RNC-sanctioned Republican debate broadcast by a Spanish-language network," catering to an audience that is likely familiar with voting rights discrimination.

    The absence of questions regarding Republican candidates' positions on voting rights and voter ID laws during the first nine Republican debates -- hosted by Fox News, CNN, CNBC, Fox Business, ABC News, and CBS -- was especially jarring during the first one, which was hosted by Fox News on the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.

    While Democratic debate moderators have not asked questions about voting rights either, it is the Republican candidates who have a long history of undermining voting rights:

    • Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) supported a 2012 purge of voter rolls despite concerns that it disproportionately targeted minority and likely Democratic voters, and he "blew off" concerns about the impact of restrictive voter ID laws;
    • Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed off on legislation that rolled back voting rights by limiting early voting and eliminating same-day voter registration;
    • Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) not only praised the Supreme Court for a resolution that weakened the Voting Rights Act, but also attempted to amend voter registration laws to require proof of citizenship before registration;
    • Dr. Ben Carson has given voter ID laws an "enthusiastic endorsement" in his book One Vote; and
    • Front-runner Donald Trump has baselessly speculated that the "voting system is out of control" saying that, in his opinion, people "are voting many, many times."

    Evidence strongly discredits the candidates' alarmist rhetoric about voter fraud and the need for voter ID laws, which disproportionately disenfranchise racial and ethnic minorities and economically disadvantaged voters. And experts agree that such laws tackle a "virtually non-existent" problem: Voter impersonation is "more rare than getting struck by lightning," data shows that the systems already put in place to verify voters actually work, and election experts have explained both that rare instances of double voting seldom turn out to be fraud and that they would not be prevented by strict voter ID laws.

    There is no shortage of questions moderators could ask Republican presidential candidates about voting rights, given their public support for measures that would make voting more difficult for minorities. Since Spanish-speaking media play a crucial role in informing the increasingly significant Latino vote, tonight's Telemundo debate presents an important opportunity to hold politicians accountable.


    Media Matters searched the Time magazine transcripts of the August 6, 2015, September 16, 2015, November 11, 2015, and January 15, 2016, Republican debates, the Washington Post transcripts of the October 28, 2015, December 15, 2015, January 28, 2016, and February 13, 2016, Republican debates, and the CBS News transcript of the February 6, 2016, Republican debate, as well as the New York Times transcript of the October 14, 2015, Democratic debate, the Time magazine transcripts of the November 14, 2015, February 4, 2016, and February 11, 2016, Democratic debates, and the Washington Post transcripts of the December 19, 2015, and January 17, 2016, Democratic debates for the terms "voting rights," "voter ID," "disenfranchise," and "voter fraud."

  • Media Try To Delegitimize Union Voters Who Helped Clinton Win Nevada Caucuses


    Following Hillary Clinton's "decisive win" in the Nevada Democratic caucuses, media are attempting to undermine and delegitimize the votes of union members, claiming that Clinton was the beneficiary of a "controlled vote" thanks to "self-neutered" "service-union bosses." This anti-union argument suggests that union members do not make their own voting decisions.

  • Fox Resorts To Bogus "Voter Fraud" Claims To Downplay Clinton Caucus Victory

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Fox News scandalized ordinary Iowa Democratic caucus procedures to baselessly suggest former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won a Des Moines, IA, precinct through "voter fraud."

    During the February 3 broadcast of Fox & Friends, host Heather Nauert claimed that "voter fraud" benefiting Clinton may have occurred because "Votes at a Des Moines high school were counted by hand. The first count had Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders just separated by five votes. After a second count, Clinton gained more votes but counted different people."

    Fox & Friends then aired video from Des Moines Democratic Precinct No. 43 of three apparent supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) questioning Clinton's vote total after a second count of voters.

    In scandalizing the multiple voter counts, Nauert misunderstands the mechanism by which voters are counted at Democratic precincts.

    Fox News also deceptively chose which portion of video from the precinct site to air, focusing only on the complaints of three voters. Fox News did not air the caucus chair explaining that it was extremely unlikely that a further recount of voters would change the delegate apportionment from Precinct No. 43. Fox News also failed to air the caucusgoers' vote on whether an additional recount was needed. According to full video available online, the vast majority of Sanders supporters joined Clinton supporters in declining to recount.

    Here are several ways in which Fox's segment distorted and misunderstood the Iowa Democratic caucus process:

    Multiple Voter Counts Are A Normal Part Of The Process. When caucusgoers arrive at their precinct they divide themselves into what are called "preference groups" for various candidates. After everyone has formed preference groups, a count is made. Any "preference group" that does not include at least 15 percent of total on-site voters is not considered viable. These voters then have the option of joining a "preference group" that is viable. Unless every single caucusgoer initially joins a viable "preference group," there is always going to be a reshuffling of voters and second count.

    As The Caucus Chair Explained, It Was Highly Unlikely That A Recount Would Have Changed Delegate Appointment From The Precinct. Video of the Precinct No. 43 dispute indicates that three Sanders supporters were concerned that several Clinton supporters were included in her total count despite possibly having left the Clinton "preference group" after the first vote. The caucus chair explained that in his belief, this discrepancy had been accounted for, with three people having been identified as leaving, but he said that he would put forward a motion to recount anyway. Before the motion, the chair explained, "By the way, just so you know, the difference here will not change the delegate math. There are only nine delegates, I do not believe it will change the delegate math, but that being said I could be wrong." Even in the unlikely event that a recount did change delegate apportionment, it would have been a swing of one of approximately 11,000 county-level delegates awarded during the caucuses. (And as The Des Moines Register explained, the county-level delegates awarded at individual precincts have far less significance compared to the statewide delegate equivalents that "determine the outcome on caucus night.")

    The Vast Majority Of Voters, Regardless Of Who They Supported, Did Not Want A Recount. In video that Fox News failed to air, nearly all the people in the room can be seen raising their hands against having an additional count of voters. Sanders supporters are on the right side of the image:

    The type of conduct that Fox News falsely claimed occurred at Precinct No. 43 wouldn't even fall within what experts consider to be voter fraud. As the Brennan Center for Justice explained, voter fraud is "fraud by voters" and "occurs when individuals cast ballots despite knowing that they are ineligible to vote, in an attempt to defraud the election system," which bears no resemblance to what Fox News purported to demonstrate in its video. Fox News frequently makes baseless claims about widespread voter fraud -- often in support of restrictive voter ID laws -- even though actual in-person voter fraud is extremely rare.