Voting Rights & Issues

Issues ››› Voting Rights & Issues
  • After Previously Ignoring Crucial Stories, Mainstream Media Finally Giving Trump Scrutiny

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is claiming that the media is “rigging the election” in response to increased scrutiny and an influx of investigative reporting on Trump’s business dealings, his taxes, his rhetoric about sexual assault, and accusations of sexual assault against the nominee. But the media scrutiny of Trump is a drastic change from the overwhelming and positive coverage Trump received throughout the primaries, and his claims ignore the way the press, particularly television news, has often ignored -- or downplayed reporting on -- Trump’s improprieties. Veteran reporters have called this lack of initial vetting “bad journalism.”

  • Will Megyn Kelly Stand Up Against Donald Trump’s Racial Voter Intimidation?

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Megyn Kelly devoted weeks of her Fox News program in 2010 to pushing fraudulent claims that the Justice Department engaged in racially charged corruption by failing to act against two members of the New Black Panther Party who had supposedly intimidated voters at a Philadelphia polling station during the 2008 election. Will she devote similar coverage to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s declarations that his overwhelmingly white supporters should engage in “racial voter intimidation on Election Day” to prevent nonexistent voter fraud?

    On Election Day 2008, two members of the New Black Panther Party stood outside a polling station in Philadelphia dressed in all-black clothing displaying the group’s characteristic insignia. One carried a nightstick; the other was a registered Democratic poll watcher. After video of the pair went viral and Republican poll watchers complained, the Justice Department opened an investigation. While no individual ever came forward to say they had been intimidated from voting, the Obama Justice Department sought and received default judgment against the New Black Panther member who had carried the nightstick, dropping initial cases against the other one, as well as the organization and its leader.

    This should have been a local news story detailing a single interaction at one of the tens of thousands of polling places across the country. But because the defendants, the new president elected that day, and the attorney general he would nominate to lead the Department of Justice (DOJ) were all black, it became a cause celebre on the right.

    The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, whose board had been packed with conservatives under President George W. Bush, opened an investigation, even as the group’s vice chair warned that the case was “small potatoes.” And J. Christian Adams, a Republican activist who had been hired as part of the Bush administration’s effort to politicize the Justice Department, left government and publicly declared that the case was an indication of racially charged corruption at President Obama’s DOJ.

    Adams would find a ready champion for his baseless accusations at Fox News: Megyn Kelly. Days after he first leveled his allegations in a Washington Times op-ed, he sat for a two-part interview with the Fox daytime anchor. Those were the first of an astonishing 45 segments Kelly would run on the story over the next two weeks, totaling more than three and a half hours of airtime. The rest of the network would support her effort to manufacture a scandal, with Fox evening shows devoting an additional 50 segments to the story over the same period. A year later, she would devote just 20 seconds to an independent review of the case, which concluded that no wrongdoing had occurred.

    Critics pointed out that that Kelly’s obsession with the case crossed the line into “embarrassing race-baiting” and a “minstrel show,” which resulted in “fear and distrust of their DOJ [caused] by round-the-clock videos of one racist idiot brandishing a nightstick for a couple hours in 2008.” Even on her own show, Fox personalities criticized Kelly for “doing the scary black man thing” and noted that she had no evidence for her claims of misconduct by a supposedly corrupt or racially biased Obama administration.

    Kelly’s obsession with nonexistent voter intimidation supposedly perpetrated by black men raises questions about how she will react now that the Republican nominee for president is suggesting that his supporters engage in a nationwide campaign of voter intimidation in minority neighborhoods.

    Trump has been warning his supporters since at least August that the “election is going to be rigged” and that they need to be “watching closely, or it’s going to be taken away from us.” During a rally earlier this month in central Pennsylvania, he revived the argument, urging his fans to band together and “watch your polling booths, because I hear too many stories about Pennsylvania, certain areas. I hear too many bad stories and we can’t lose an election because of you know what I’m talking about.” On Twitter, he has warned of “large scale voter fraud” at “many polling places.”

    As Slate chief political correspondent Jamelle Bouie has noted, Trump’s “rhetorical time bombs... could be the catalyst for actual intimidation and violence, before and after Election Day. And if that violence and intimidation strikes, it will be against the chief targets of Trump’s campaign: people of color.”

    During the debate over the New Black Panthers case, Kelly furiously denied claims that she was less concerned about voter intimidation against people of color than intimidation against white people. And in the past, she has openly admitted that there is no “overwhelming” evidence of voter fraud in U.S. elections. Those positions require her to denounce Trump’s push for voter intimidation.

    If she doesn’t, it will suggest that she’s fully bought into Fox’s race-war mentality.

  • Univision Explains How Trump’s Bogus Voter Fraud Crusade Could Intimidate Minorities From Voting

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In response to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s baseless claims that there is “large-scale voter fraud happening on and before election day,” Univision pointed out the intimidating and deterring effect the claims could have on minority voters.

    In an October 12 article, Univision reported that Donald Trump is galvanizing his supporters to sign up as “observers” at polling locations on election day in order to fight back against what he calls “large-scale voter fraud.” The claims contradict extensive evidence that demonstrates in-person voter fraud is virtually non-existent. Univision spoke to Latino electorate experts who pointed out that the presence of “observers” at polling locations “intimidates” and suppresses minority voters. Univision highlighted concerns from Hispanic groups about “tactics like these” because they “generate a hostile environment,” especially for first-time voters and pointed out that “Trump’s words graze a dangerous line between legal and illegal.”

    While this line of attack was initially propagated by right-wing media -- which continue to assist Trump in pushing these false claims -- Univision joins others in condemning these statements as “bogus” and “irresponsible.” Translated from the Univision article:

    Donald Trump has started to spread a new message to his followers: vote and then go to “other communities” to make sure “that no one robs the election from our hands.” Hispanic leaders fear that the mogul’s politics of fear might damage voter turnout.

    [...]

    Even in the campaign’s website, people can sign up to be observers of the elections.

    From long experience, Hispanic leaders know that this type of tactics intimidate minority voters.

    “We have seen similar strategies before, where they assign people to observe, who basically scare Hispanics and tell them off. Even when they don’t say anything, their presence and the way they dress intimidates,” explained Arturo Vargas, executive director of NALEO.

    [...]

    Vargas insisted that tactics like this “generate a hostile environment, especially for people who are voting for the first time and that’s why it’s important for those participating to know their rights.”

    The director of NALEO also insisted that it’s necessary for the Department of Justic to place the largest possible amount of observers in polling places.

    [...]

    Trump’s words graze a dangerous line between legal and illegal.

    In 1982 a decree was issued based on multiple complaints about the intimidation of minority voters between 1970 and 1980.

    The decree specified that the Republican party should not carry out any security activity in voting locations where the ethnic and racial composition is a factor to decide to monitor these areas.

    The order expires in 2017 and can be renewed by the Supreme Court.

  • In Slate, Election Law Expert Explains That Hurricane Matthew Could Be A “Nightmare In The Making,” Spurring Trump Election Conspiracy Theories

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In an article for Slate, University of California law professor Richard Hasen explained that in addition to the devastating human tragedy brought on by Hurricane Matthew, the storm could also inflict “dire electoral implications” that could fuel Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s claims of election rigging.

    Donald Trump has consistently pushed voter fraud conspiracy theories throughout this election, including invoking right-wing media’s voter fraud myth to support strict voter ID laws and suggesting that the election might be rigged, despite repeated debunkings by numerous media outlets.

    In an October 6 article, Hasen warned that Hurricane Matthew “may have dire electoral implications” since Florida is “key to Donald Trump’s chances of victory” and the storm “could have major impacts on voter registration and voting.” Hasen pointed to Hurricane Sandy as an empirical example of a natural disaster that caused “a number of negative effects on [an] election” including reduced turnout, polling location consolidation, and rumored voter fraud. Hasen called the potential scenario “a nightmare in the making” because “we already have Donald Trump telling voters that the election is rigged” so “any attempt to try to accommodate … voters will be second-guessed, challenged, and likely litigated”:

    If Hurricane Matthew is as devastating to Florida as forecasters have predicted, it could be a human tragedy costing people their lives, health, homes, and personal property. Beyond that initial tragedy, though, the storm also may have dire electoral implications, potentially affecting the outcome of the 2016 presidential election and landing emergency election litigation from Florida once again before the (now-deadlocked) United States Supreme Court.

    Florida is seen as a state key to Donald Trump’s chances of victory over Hillary Clinton for the presidency, and this storm could have major impacts on voter registration and voting.

    Voter registration in Florida closes in just five days. According to Professor Dan Smith of the University of Florida, in the last five days of registration in 2012, 50,000 Florida voters signed up to vote. Many who might normally sign up to vote at the last minute are now following Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s order to flee the affected areas of the state, and they are not likely to register to vote on their way out or drop ballots in closed post offices or soon-to-be-flooded post office boxes. Hillary Clinton’s campaign has already called for voter registration deadlines to be extended, but the Republican governor has already turned down that request.

    [...]

    We can also learn much of what post-storm voting could look like from the response to Superstorm Sandy, which hit the Eastern Seaboard in 2012, and caused great damage in New York and New Jersey just before Election Day. According to a study by Professor Robert M. Stein of Rice University, Sandy had a number of negative effects on the election in the impacted regions. Turnout went down. Polling places were consolidated. Jurisdictions differed in how they treated displaced voters. There was confusion and chaos in some affected areas.

    Perhaps most disturbingly, some New Jersey jurisdictions relaxed rules for voting on the fly, including allowing voting by fax and by email. These measures violated New Jersey law, and a Rutgers study found that they may even have led to some fraudulent voting.

    Just imagine if any of this happens in Florida after Matthew. We already have Donald Trump telling voters that the election is rigged. Any attempt to try to accommodate, or fail to accommodate, voters will be second-guessed, challenged, and likely litigated.

    [...]

    With Trump’s uncertainty about whether he would concede a close election to Clinton, this is a nightmare in the making. Let’s hope, for the sake of Floridians and all of us, that this storm is not as bad as it appears it will be.

  • 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.”