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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

When it comes to voting rights, conservatives have to play dumb.

Over the last half-decade, Republican-led states have engaged in a concerted effort to limit voting rights that has not been seen since the civil rights struggle of the 1960s.

“From 2011 to 2015, 395 new voting restrictions have been introduced in 49 states, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, and 21 states have adopted new laws making it harder to vote, 14 of which will be in effect for the first presidential cycle in 2016,” wrote The Nation‘s Ari Berman, whose new book Give Us The Ballot tells the story of the modern battle to win the right to vote and the five-decade conservative effort to undo it.

Hillary Clinton called out several of her Republican rivals this week for their efforts to limit voting rights while proposing some simple yet radical ways to make it easier to vote, including automatic voter registration.

“She doesn’t know what she’s talking about,” Chris Christie told CBS’ Face the Nation in an interview that aired Sunday morning.

The New Jersey governor  — like all Republicans, with the occasional exception of Rand Paul — has to ignore both the broad GOP effort to keep Democrats from voting (an effort that conservatives have candidly or indirectly acknowledged several times) and his own personal contribution to it. Christie vetoed early voting in 2013 after Superstorm Sandy exposed problems with the state’s voting system.

GOP presidential candidates Scott Walker and Rick Perry passed laws that will deny the vote to hundreds of thousands of citizens in their states. But they’re amateurs compared to Jeb Bush, who was governor when purges of the voter rolls targeting minority voters may have helped swing Florida’s electoral votes to his brother George W. Bush twice.

Echoes of the stolen 2000 presidential election could be heard clearly in 2014, when Chris Christie argued that Republicans needed to win so they could maintain control over “voting mechanisms.” As head of the Republican Governors Association when the Bridgegate investigation targeted his administration, Christie set a record by raising over $100 million. And since then, he has distributed “generous gifts” to show appreciation to his donors.

While the conservative Supreme Court has gone on a rampage of undoing campaign finance laws, throwing out limits on donors and allowing unlimited anonymous donations to campaign organizations, actual voting keeps getting harder — but only for certain Americans.

Black, Latino, and Asian voters all have to wait longer to vote than their white peers. They also tend to vote Democratic more often, which is exactly the point. Republicans think voting should be harder, but buying an election should be easier, because they’re so much better at attracting the .01 percent of donors who sway our politics than voters. Here are five ways that Republicans use “voting mechanisms” to undermine the will of the people.

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1. Ensuring long lines.
Republicans didn’t steal the 2012 election, but they sure tried. Voters in mostly Democratic areas of Florida had to wait up to 9 hours to cast their ballots. Theodore Allen, an associate professor of industrial engineering at OSU, took a look at voting in central Florida and found that as many as 49,000 voters did not vote because of the long lines. Those who did not vote favored Obama by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, 30,000 to 19,000. There’s also evidence that long lines helped George W. Bush take Ohio in 2004.

2. Inventing crimes that do no exist.
Voter ID laws have become the fashionable rage among Republicans during the past six years, even though there’s no evidence that they do anything but disenfranchise voters. Since 2000, more than a billion ballots have been cast. A recent study found that only 31 cases of voter fraud were discovered during that entire time. Hence we get that dark, disgusting satire of the guys who tell us 30,000 gun deaths a year mean we should enforce current laws, while they invent new government regulations to deter a crime rarer than looting after a lightning strike. These voter ID laws poll well because the public assumes good faith and doesn’t recognizes the Kafkaesque obstacles that many poor and elderly have to get through to pay for new documentation that could cost as much in today’s dollars as the unconstitutional poll taxes of our past.

It’s hard because the laws’ Republican backers purposely make those procedures difficult — by excluding forms of identification to hinder the Democratic voters they’d like to disenfranchise.

3. Registration restrictions.
Clinton’s elegant call for automatic voter registration cuts to the core of the right’s hypocrisy on voting. The right-wing movement that decries bureaucracy and trumpets the Founders’ cry of “No taxation without representation” in fact loves red tape and barriers to democracy, in order to keep “them” from the polls. When North Carolina introduced the most draconian anti-voting rights bill since Selma — made possible by a Republican landslide that apparently proved voting fraud was rampant — the Tarheel State canceled same-day voter registration. Proof-of-citizenship laws have exactly the opposite impact their supporters claim to want.

“State laws requiring voters to submit documentary evidence of citizenship in order to register to vote are already having a dramatic and harmful effect on citizens’ ability to participate in the political process in the states that have them,” Demos’ lead counsel Stuart Naifeh found. “Conversely, they do almost nothing to reduce voter registration fraud, a problem that barely exists in the first place.” (Incidentally, the most notorious instance of alleged voter fraud in recent years involved right-wing commentator Ann Coulter, but the Republicans defended her.)

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4. Opposing disclosure.
While Republicans will go to extraordinary lengths to demand identification from potential voters, they’re equally insistent on blocking any transparency from donors. GOP 2016 candidates including Jeb Bush have given their support to dark money groups that could raise unlimited money from anonymous sources. The DISCLOSE Act would require speedy disclosure of those donations and their sources, from both the political action groups masquerading as “social welfare non-profits” and from labor unions. Republicans in the Senate blocked it.

5. Gutting the Voting Rights Act — and refusing to fix it.
When the Supreme Court’s ruling in Shelby County v. Holder gutted Sections 4 and 5 of the “crown jewel” of the civil rights movement — the Voting Rights Act — that wasn’t an accident of history. Conservatives had been plotting to undo the legislation since President Johnson signed it into law in 1965, although Republicans in both the Senate and House had overwhelmingly voted yes. The court’s ruling was based on invented jurisprudence and ignored the continued necessity of the law. “The Southern states that were previously subject to ‘pre-clearance’ have been particularly aggressive in curbing voting rights,” Ari Berman wrote. Some have called the decision as bad as Plessy v. Ferguson, which legalized segregation.

And as soon as the court removed the requirement of pre-clearance, which has fundamentally transformed the American electorate, Texas, Alabama, North Carolina and Mississippi sped into action to implement requirements that had been deemed discriminatory in recent years. Now the same people who undid the VRA are challenging the notion of “one person, one vote” that has played a major role in increasing minority representation.

Facing a demographic tsunami that, if current voting patterns hold, could shrink the GOP into a regional party, Republicans have decided to build a levee that cannot hold, instead of seeking higher ground. When called out for what they’re doing, all they can do is pretend that they aren’t the disenfranchisers we’re looking for.

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Rep. Bennie Thompson

Photo by Customs and Border Protection (Public domain)

Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) Friday afternoon announced the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack has issued subpoenas to 14 Republicans from seven states who submitted the forged and "bogus" Electoral College certificates falsely claiming Donald Trump and not Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election in their states.

The Chairman appeared to suggest the existence of a conspiracy as well, noting the "the planning and coordination of efforts," saying "these so-called alternate electors met," and may know "who was behind that scheme."

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Chris Cuomo

News Literacy Week 2022, an annual awareness event started by the News Literacy Project, a nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to making everyone “smart, active consumers of news and information and equal and engaged participants in a democracy” has closed out. From January 24 to 28, classes, webinars, and Twitter chats taught students and adults how to root out misinformation when consuming news media.
There’s no downplaying the importance of understanding what is accurate in the media. These days, news literacy is a survival tactic. One study estimated that at least 800 people died because they embraced a COVID falsehood — and that inquiry was conducted in the earliest months of the pandemic. About 67 percent of the unvaccinated believe at least one COVID-19 myth, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
It’s not that accurate information isn’t available; people are rejecting reports of vaccine efficacy and safety because they distrust the news media. A third of Americans polled by Gallup said they have no trust at all in mass media; another 27 percent don’t have much at all.
Getting people to believe information presented to them depends more on trust than it does on the actual data being shared. That is, improving trust isn’t an issue of improving reporting. It’s an issue of improving relationships with one’s audience.
And that’s the real news problem right now; some celebrity anchors at cable news outlets are doing little to strengthen their relationships with their audiences and a lot to strengthen their relationships with government officials.
The most obvious example is how CNN terminated Prime Time anchor Chris Cuomo last month for his failure to disclose the entirety of his role in advising his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, on the sexual harassment accusation that unfolded in Albany, a scandal that eventually led to Andrew Cuomo’s resignation.
But there are others. Just this month, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol revealed that another anchor on another cable news network, Laura Ingraham of Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle, texted then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows last January, advising Meadows how Trump should react to reports of possible armed protests at state capitols around the country. This revelation followed the story that Sean Hannity, host of the eponymous news hour at Fox News, also texted Meadows with advice last year.
And while he didn't advise a government official, CNN anchor Don Lemon revealed information not available to the public when he texted embattled Empire actor Jussie Smollett to tip him off about the Chicago Police Department’s wavering faith in his story about an assault. That’s from Smollett’s own sworn testimony.
When English philosopher Edmund Burke joked about the press being the Fourth Estate — in addition to the First, Second and Third (the clergy, nobility and commoners, respectively) — his point was that, despite their influence on each other, these “estates” — bastions of power — are supposed to be separate.
The Fourth Estate will always be an essential counterweight to government. But, since Donald Trump was elected in 2016, we’ve been so focused on stopping an executive branch from pressing the press to support an administration's agenda — either by belittling journalists or threatening to arrest them for doing their jobs — that we’ve ignored the ways that it affects and influences other Estates, and not necessarily through its reporting.
That is, we have news personalities-cum-reporters who are influencing government policy — and not telling us about it until it’s too late.
The United States has fostered an incredible closeness between the Second Estate — which in 2021 and 2022 would be political leaders — and the Fourth Estate. About a year ago, an Axios reporter had to be reassigned because she was dating one of President Biden’s press secretaries. Last year, James Bennet, the former editorial page editor of the New York Times and brother of Colorado Senator and 2020 Presidential candidate Michael Bennet, had to recuse himself publicly from the Gray Lady’s endorsement process. In 2013, the Washington Post reported at least eight marriages between Obama officials and established journalists.
To be clear, there aren’t any accusations that anyone just mentioned engaged in anything other than ethical behavior. But I, for one, don’t believe that James and Michael Bennet didn’t discuss Michael’s campaign. I don’t think the Axios reporter and her West Wing-employed boyfriend — or any journalists and their federally employed spouses, for that matter — didn’t share facts that the public will never know. Such is the nature of family and intimacy.
And as long as those conversations don’t affect the coverage of any news events, there’s nothing specifically, technically wrong with them. But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t damaging.
As these stories show, when we don’t know about these advisor roles, at least not until someone other than the journalist in question exposes them, it causes a further erosion of trust in news media.
What’s foolish about the Cuomo, Ingraham, Hannity, and Lemon improprieties is that they don't necessarily need to be the problem they’ve become. Cuomo’s show contained opinion content like 46 percent of CNN’s programming. An active debate rages on as to whether Fox News is all opinion and whether or not it can rightly even be called opinion journalism since its shows are so studded with inaccuracies and lies.
What that means is that Cuomo, Ingraham, Hannity, and Lemon are allowed to take a stand as opinion journalists; Cuomo and Lemon never really worked under a mandate of objectivity and Ingraham and Hannity likely wouldn’t honor it if they did. Indeed, a certain subjectivity — and explaining how it developed for the journalist — is part of an opinion journalist’s craft. To me, little of these consulting roles would be problematic if any of these anchors had just disclosed them and the ways they advised the people they cover.
But they didn’t. Instead, the advice they dispensed to government employees and celebrities was disclosed by a third party and news of it contributes to the public’s distrust in the media. While personal PR advisory connections between journalists and politicians haven’t been pinpointed as a source of distrust, they may have an effect. Almost two-thirds of respondents in a Pew Research poll said they attributed what they deemed unfair coverage to a political agenda on the part of the news organization. No one has rigorously examined the ways in which individual journalists can swing institutional opinion so it may be part of the reason why consumers are suspicious of news.
Cleaning up ex post facto is both a violation of journalistic ethics and ineffective. Apologies and corrections after the fact don't always improve media trust. In other credibility contests, like courtroom battles, statements against one’s interests enhance a person’s believability. But that’s not necessarily true of news; a 2015 study found that corrections don’t automatically enhance a news outlet’s credibility.
It’s a new adage for the 21st century: It’s not the consulting; it’s the cover-up. Journalists need to disclose their connections to government officials — up front — to help maintain trust in news media. Lives depend on it.

Chandra Bozelko did time in a maximum-security facility in Connecticut. While inside she became the first incarcerated person with a regular byline in a publication outside of the facility. Her “Prison Diaries" column ran in The New Haven Independent, and she later established a blog under the same name that earned several professional awards. Her columns now appear regularly in The National Memo.


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