Voting Rights & Issues

Issues ››› Voting Rights & Issues
  • Right-Wing Media Misinterpret North Carolina Post-Election Audit To Fearmonger About Voter Fraud

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Right-wing media are citing a North Carolina statewide audit of votes cast in the 2016 election to stir fears of widespread voter fraud. The audit itself, however, found that ineligible votes “represented a small fraction of the 4.8 million ballots cast” and found no evidence of rampant voter fraud in North Carolina, conclusions that align with other studies that have also found no evidence of widespread voter fraud.

  • Iowa Newspapers Largely Fail To Explain How New Bill Will Roll Back Voting Rights

    Papers Also Omit The Cost Of The Bill From Reports

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Iowa newspapers have largely failed to explain the components of a new strict voter ID law aiming to restrict voting rights that Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican, is expected to sign this week. By neglecting to mention these provisions in a majority of their news stories, Iowa outlets are omitting information about how the law could disenfranchise an estimated 260,000 voters in Iowa in upcoming elections and add to the state’s ongoing budget problems.

    Branstad is expected to sign a bill that would require Iowans to present specific types of government-issued photo ID to vote. Additionally, the bill includes provisions to cut down early voting, eliminate straight-ticket voting, and reduce the number of days for absentee voting. Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate's office estimates that the law “would cost about $1 million to fully implement” even as the “lawmakers already had to make budget cuts” as the state faces “a roughly $110 million shortfall.”

    The top three Iowa newspapers, however, largely failed to include these details in their reporting on the bill between February 1 and April 14. A Media Matters analysis found:

    • Only 11 out of 30 news articles included information about changes to absentee voting.

    • Only 6 out of 30 news articles included information about changes to early voting.

    • Only 12 out of 30 news articles included information about the elimination of straight-ticket voting.

    • Only 11 out of 30 news articles included information about the cost of the bill.

    • Only 9 out of 30 news articles included information about the possible widespread voter disenfranchisement the law could cause.

    The results did vary from paper to paper. For example, the Des Moines Register generally covered these changes and impacts in news articles more than the Cedar Rapids Gazette and Quad Cities Times. However, the Quad City Times published significantly fewer news articles than either the Register or the Gazette, which published nearly the same amount.

    All these provisions that top Iowa newspapers largely failed to report have consequences for voters. In Iowa alone, nearly 700,000 voters requested absentee ballots during the 2016 election. If the bill passes, the changes to absentee voting would likely disenfranchise many of those voters. Early voting is also extremely important, especially for voters of color. As The Washington Post reported, early voting “addresses systemic barriers” minorities face when it comes to voting, adding, “costs associated with voting — in lost pay, in childcare, in transit fares — are higher for minorities and the poor. Which is why they are among the largest beneficiaries of early, flexible voting.” And straight-ticket voting is also an important resource for voters. In a decision that placed an injunction on Michigan’s straight-ticket voting ban, a federal judge wrote that “straight-party voting helps to save time in the voting process,” and banning the practice “would have a larger impact on African-American populations than white ones.”

    Several articles did call out the false notion of voter fraud, which Republicans used to argue for this bill. Eleven of 30 articles noted that widespread voter fraud does not exist. Two articles referenced a specific report by the Associated Press which found that the state had "only been informed of 10 votes that were potentially improper out of 1.6 million cast statewide" in 2016. The report noted that "most of the instances were mistakes rather than fraud, and may not have been stopped by an identification requirement."

    Additionally, the coverage largely neglected to explain the widespread voter disenfranchisement the law could create. Only nine of the 30 articles mention the fact that thousands are at risk of being ineligible to vote. Most of those mentions explained specifically that voters could be ineligible because they may not have the proper ID. According to The Nation, the bill could disenfranchise the 260,000 eligible voters in the state who “don’t have a driver’s license or non-operator ID.”

    The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Iowa found that the Iowa bill “would make voting more difficult and more confusing for voters.” Voter disenfranchisement has been a consequence of similar voter ID laws, often hitting minority voters the hardest. By not explaining the specific measures in the bill, and the costs attached when it becomes the law, Iowa newspapers largely failed to equip their readers with the proper knowledge about the proposed legislation.

    Methodology

    Media Matters used Nexis to search The Des Moines Register, The Quad City Times, and The Cedar Rapids Gazette for all permutations of the word “vote” within 50 words of either “ID” or “identification” in articles between February 1 and April 14. News articles were included in this study if they were primarily about the state’s proposed voting rights law.

    Articles were then coded for mentions of the cost of the bill and changes made to absentee voting, early voting, and straight-ticket voting, as well as mentions of the fact that voter fraud is not widespread, the ability for the law to disenfranchise voters, and the AP report on the lack of voter fraud in Iowa in 2016.

    Chart by Sarah Wasko

  • VIDEO: Media Can't Ignore The Voices of Activists

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH & JOHN KERR

    In a time of historic protests and activism against bigoted and hateful policies of President Donald Trump and his administration, news outlets need to scrap the so-called “fair and balanced” panels of pundits and politicians speculating and judging protests from a studio.

    Since day one of the Trump administration, there have been organized efforts around the country to protest the president’s policies. These include the Women’s March On Washington in January which mobilized an estimated 3.6 to 4.6 million protestors around the world, demonstrations at airports across the U.S. a week later to protest banning and detaining Muslim travelers, the International Women’s Day Strike, the upcoming Tax Day March in April to pressure Trump to release his full tax returns, the People’s Climate March in the same month, and the Immigration March in May. Journalists can no longer ignore the activists, organizers and protestors who are taking to the streets and to town halls across the country to demand accountability and change.

    Media have dismissed the protests as spectacles, alleged that they are being staged, or falsely claimed that the protesters are paid to show up. Activists have been central to the evolution of American democracy and have fought for policies that are more inclusive and that better their communities.

    News outlets need to let activists tell their stories.

  • 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?