Voting Rights & Issues

Issues ››› Voting Rights & Issues
  • Neil Gorsuch's Alarming Relationship With A Serial Voting Rights Misinformer

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Newly released emails from President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, evidence an amicable relationship between the judge and National Review contributor and discredited conservative media legal analyst Hans von Spakovsky. The relationship is a sign that Gorsuch could continue Trump’s assault on civil rights from the high court.

    According to emails released by the Senate Judiciary Committee, first reported on by The Nation’s Ari Berman, Gorsuch’s communications with or about von Spakovsky paint a picture of their  friendly relationship. In 2005, Gorsuch wrote “Good for Hans” after then-President George W. Bush nominated von Spakovsky to the Federal Election Commission. In another email that year, Gorsuch praised von Spakovsky for participating in a Bush-era Justice Department conference on the election system at a time when "Though the Justice Department was supposed to investigate both voting discrimination and voter fraud, the latter cause took priority and eventually led to Republican US Attorneys’ being wrongly fired from their jobs for refusing to prosecute fraud cases," as explained by Berman.

    As Berman wrote, “the emails suggest Gorsuch was friendly with von Spakovksy. But it’s far more disturbing if Gorsuch shares Von Spakovsky’s views on voting rights.” As Berman previously pointed out, Gorsuch’s “paper trail on civil-rights cases is slim,” and little is known about his views on voting rights. However, this relationship with von Spakovsky does nothing to reassure voting and civil rights advocates.

    Von Spakovsky is one of the leading conservative media misinformers on voting rights, frequently hyping the false narrative that voter fraud is widespread. In November, von Spakovsky and his frequent partner, John Fund, rehashed discredited evidence to fearmonger about noncitizen voting in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. The op-ed was published even though noncitizen voting is incredibly rare and studies that claim otherwise have been found to be flawed. Von Spakovsky has also erroneously suggested that double voting is not only a problem, but that it could be solved by strict voter ID laws. In 2012, von Spakovsky and Fund wrote a book filled with lies about voting rights.

    Von Spakovsky has used these lies to relentlessly advocate for unnecessarily strict voter ID laws across the nation, which have been shown to systematically disenfranchise voters, especially voters of color. To promote these laws, von Spakovsky has hyped myths and misleading details, claiming that the laws don’t lead to voter disenfranchisement and that they actually speed up the voting process. Additionally, von Spakovsky has also praised blatantly illegal voter suppression tactics.

    While von Spakovsky is often held up as a conservative expert on voting rights, his talking points are incredibly misleading and discredited, and his tactics are shady. His apparent disdain for civil rights and access to justice is supported by more than just his disregard for half a century of progressive voting rights jurisprudence. He has called the modern civil rights movement “indistinguishable” from “segregationists.” Von Spakovsky also has been a proponent of forced arbitration clauses, which are when an “employee or consumer is required to waive their right to sue, to participate in a class action lawsuit, or to appeal.” Forced arbitration is terrible for consumers, and according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, gives less consumers eligibility for financial redress than they would have through class-action settlements.

    Gorsuch’s friendly emails to and about von Spakovsky should trigger alarms among those who are worried about voting rights and civil rights in general. If confirmed, Gorsuch would be ruling on many of these issues from the bench. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, at least 68 bills have been introduced in 2017 alone to restrict access to the ballot in 27 states -- and Trump’s lies about the election and voter fraud are only paving the way for an even wider assault on voting rights. This is to say nothing of Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who has a record of being incredibly hostile toward civil rights, even calling the Voting Rights Act “intrusive.” If Gorsuch’s correspondence with von Spakovsky is any hint, access to basic rights and liberties may only get worse.

  • The White House Put Stephen Miller On Four Sunday Shows To Dodge, Lie, And Attack The Media

    Meanwhile, The White House Freeze-Out Of CNN Continues

    ››› ››› NINA MAST & CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    The Trump administration offered White House senior adviser Stephen Miller -- and reportedly no one else -- to appear on the Sunday morning political talk shows of ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox Broadcasting Co. In his appearances on the four shows, Miller repeatedly dodged questions, made blatantly false claims, and attacked the media. Recent profiles of Miller have highlighted his extreme ideological views, his close relationship with Stephen Bannon, and the “enthusiasm” of white nationalists like Richard Spencer over his role in the administration.

  • Fake News Purveyors Echo Trump’s Bogus Claims Of Voter Fraud

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Following President Donald Trump’s vow to launch a federal investigation into his debunked claim that there was massive voter fraud in the 2016 election, numerous websites that Media Matters has identified as purveyors of fake news cheered on Trump’s call and falsely claimed there is massive voter fraud in the United States, an argument that has been repeatedly debunked. Nearly all of these websites are supported, in part, by revenue from Google’s advertising service.

  • Voter Fraud Myths Pushed By Trump Have Long Been Propagated By Right-Wing Media

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ & CAT DUFFY

    Throughout his campaign, and continuing now as President, Donald Trump has made a series of baseless claims alleging mass voter fraud in order to either preemptively cast doubt on the election results, or to dispute the fact he didn’t win the popular vote. Trump’s allegations, which ranged from “people are going to walk in” and “vote ten times,” to claiming “he would have won the popular vote had it not been for millions of illegal votes,” and most recently his decision to ask for “a major investigation into voter fraud” are based on a series of myths that right-wing media have pushed for years -- including the arguments that strict voter ID laws are needed to prevent voter fraud, that dead people are voting, and that there is widespread noncitizen voting.

  • We Know The Charlatans Trump Is Relying On For His Dangerous Voter Fraud Lies

    Blog ››› ››› SERGIO MUNOZ

    In a series of tweets by The Washington Post’s Robert Costa, we learned President Donald Trump was relying on “anecdotes about alleged fraud from sprawling network of friends & associates” to enable his latest temper tantrum about nonexistent voter fraud making him the popular vote loser.

    Since the election, Trump has repeatedly claimed that millions of illegal votes swung the popular vote in favor of former Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. After Trump reportedly raised the issue in a meeting with congressional leaders earlier this week, claiming three to five million illegal ballots were cast, he announced on Twitter this morning that he would seek a “major investigation” of supposed voter fraud.

    We know exactly where Trump’s blatant lie came from, and we know exactly who is in the network of hucksters that supplied it to him.

    For the past twelve years, Media Matters has been tracking the nexus between right-wing media and a collection of pseudo-academics and dark money-funded conservative lawyers and activists whose mission has been to roll back decades-old civil rights law, in particular those laws that did so much to help America’s communities of color.

    For these far-right activists, voting rights have always been at the top of their target list, and lies about the prevalence of what is in fact virtually non-existent voter fraud has been their ammunition of choice.

    From conservative pundits like John Fund, Hans von Spakovsky, J. Christian Adams, and Roger Stone to right-wing media platforms supplied by the “alt-right” fringes, Alex Jones, and Fox News, to the lawyers and statehouses who have pushed their reactionary rhetoric, the assault on the Second Reconstruction and core civil rights laws like the Voting Rights Act and various components of the Civil Rights Act has been relentless, and increasingly successful.

    And now, the president is repeating one of their core and repeatedly disproven lies -- that election fraud is a systemic problem. We all have a big problem now, and nonexistent voter fraud sure isn’t it.

    There is literally no honest debate to be had on this point. Voter fraud is not, and never has been, a systemic problem in modern American history. Anyone who tells you differently is lying, and anyone who humors the theory with false equivalence or “devil’s advocacy” is enabling the lie.

    The real problem and horrifying prospect is that the successor to Abraham Lincoln, Lyndon Johnson, and Barack Obama -- all presidents who expanded or protected the franchise -- either believes in this manufactured falsehood, or is happy to spin it further and louder for his personal political vanity.

    Media Matters will continue with allies to expose this lie and its roots in media misinformation and fakery for as long as we can, and we encourage responsible journalists to continue pushing back aggressively on this flagrantly undemocratic and frankly un-American posturing of our newest president.

    And to all the enablers of the voter fraud lie, the self-interested proponents of strict voter ID, the turnout conspiracy theorists, the historical “colorblind constitution” revisionists, the political beneficiaries of voter suppression and purges, now that the President of the United States has caught the carrot -- think hard about what comes next in your role as self-professed guardians of democracy.

    If President Trump sees non-existent voter fraud when he wins, what’s going to happen when he loses?

  • Voter Fraud Experts: Trump’s “Bizarre” Claim Of Illegal Votes Could Lead To Severe Voter Restrictions

    Journalists Urged To Call Out “Bogus” Assertion

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    President Donald Trump’s continued bogus claims that between three and five million illegal votes were cast in the 2016 presidential election have drawn concern and criticism from voter fraud experts who say the allegation hurts the new administration’s credibility and paves the way for severe voter restrictions.

    Trump, who first tossed out the baseless allegation following a victory where he won the Electoral College but lost the popular vote, reportedly doubled down on the claim during a meeting Monday with congressional leaders. Asked about the issue at Tuesday’s press briefing, White House press secretary Sean Spicer declined to back down from the assertion, saying, “the president does believe that.”

    Trump went a step further on Twitter this morning, tweeting: “I will be asking for a major investigation into VOTER FRAUD, including those registered to vote in two states, those who are illegal and.... even, those registered to vote who are dead (and many for a long time). Depending on results, we will strengthen up voting procedures!”

    Trump’s lie that millions voted illegally came from conspiracy theorists like radio host Alex Jones, whose Infowars website began propagating the false claims shortly after the November 8 election. Right-wing media have been claiming for years that there’s widespread voter fraud despite evidence to the contrary.

    But election experts who have studied voter fraud repeated the long-held view that such widespread activity did not occur in this election and would be “impossible” to undertake. Several also urged reporters to continue asking for proof and evidence and make clear there is no basis for such a charge.

    “Neither the president nor his press secretary has produced any evidence to back up their fraud claim,” said Bill Schneider, a visiting professor at the UCLA department of communication studies and former senior political analyst for CNN. “The press has to insist that they produce evidence of such a sensational claim. Unless they do, it should be reported as a bogus argument with no proven validity.”

    Schneider went on to explain why such fraud claims are inaccurate, calling them “absurd.”

    “Every state controls its own voting laws (and in some states, it's done by local communities),” he said via email. “It would be impossible to perpetrate voter fraud on that scale without attracting attention from the authorities.”

    Other experts agreed.

    Philip B. Stark, a professor of statistics at the University of California, Berkeley, said, “Every investigation of voter fraud that has taken place has found this is in the ones and twos, not hundreds, thousands and certainly not millions. There’s evidence that it’s not true and there is no evidence that it is true. There is research that can be done.”

    Rick Hasen, a law professor specializing in election law at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, said, “I don’t think there is any proof whatsoever of illegal voting in the thousands, much less in the millions, much less that affected the outcome in any state. There are safeguards in place to make sure that this doesn’t happen, both before the fact and after the fact. The rates of non-citizen voting are extremely low, despite people looking for it.”

    Hasen also urged reporters to continue correcting the record, saying, “It’s important to point out that the claims are false and that they are not backed by any credible evidence.”

    He added that Trump and Spicer’s choice to perpetuate the myth “undermines people’s confidence in the electoral process and I think it can provide the justification for restrictive voting rules. Many more legitimate voters are going to be disenfranchised by these rules than illegitimate voters being barred from voting.”

    Lorraine Minnite, author of the 2010 book The Myth of Voter Fraud and a Rutgers University professor of political science, said Trump’s claim is “bizarre.” She also offered concern that it could lead to unfair voter restrictions.

    “In the past, the use of these false allegations has been to create public opinion for laws that restrict voting, I assume that’s still the strategy,” she said in an interview. “I don’t think they care about evidence.”

    Michael McDonald, director of the U.S. Election Project at the University of Florida, called voter fraud a “relatively rare event,” and agreed this may be a first step toward tighter voter I.D. laws and other restrictions.

    “When Republicans take control of government they look to consolidate their power and one way to do this is enact voter identification,” McDonald said in an interview. “My impression here is not so much that this is a falsehood, the goal here is to provide a pretext to pass a federal law to amend the national requirement for voting.”

    Joshua A. Douglas, a University of Kentucky College of Law professor who specializes in voting rights and election law, also co-edited a 2016 book, Election Law Stories.

    He said Spicer’s comments to the media about Trump's voter fraud conspiracy “undermine” the press secretary’s legitimacy: “The American public can’t know if he can be trusted. It also lays the groundwork for voter suppression laws.”

    “When the next voter bill gets proposed, they can point to this as evidence for why,” Douglas added. “If you tell the public something enough times they can believe it.”

    He also said, “the press should be willing to call them out when they make falsehoods and call on them to provide evidence.”