Sunday's New York Times was troubled by attempts by Republican state leaders to impose uniformity in voting rules and predictably made it a racial matter in "New G.O.P. Bid to Limit Voting in Swing States."
According to the front-page story, after a Supreme Court ruling last year loosened restrictions, "swing states under Republican control are embracing significant new electoral restrictions on registering and voting," which "shake up fundamental components of state election systems." Reporters Steven Yaccino and Lizette Alvarez Pivotal fretted that "Republicans in Ohio and Wisconsin this winter pushed through measures limiting the time polls are open, in particular cutting into weekend voting favored by low-income voters and blacks, who sometimes caravan from churches to polls on the Sunday before election."
The language was loaded throughout the story:
Democrats in North Carolina are scrambling to fight back against the nation’s most restrictive voting laws, passed by Republicans there last year. The measures, taken together, sharply reduce the number of early voting days and establish rules that make it more difficult for people to register to vote, cast provisional ballots or, in a few cases, vote absentee.
In all, nine states have passed measures making it harder to vote since the beginning of 2013. Most have to do with voter ID laws. Other states are considering mandating proof of citizenship, like a birth certificate or a passport, after a federal court judge recently upheld such laws passed in Arizona and Kansas. Because many poor people do not have either and because documents can take time and money to obtain, Democrats say the ruling makes it far more difficult for people to register.
Of course the Koch brothers make a cameo appearance:
Voting experts say the impact of the measures on voter turnout remains unclear. Many of the measures have yet to take effect, and a few will not start until 2016.But at a time when Democrats are on the defensive over the Affordable Care Act and are being significantly outspent by conservative donors like the Koch brothers, the changes pose another potential hurdle for Democratic candidates this year.
The reporters dismissed GOP concerns over vote fraud and characterized the Republican arguments over the importance of fairness and uniformity for voting in cynical terms.
In so doing, Republicans in these states shifted their strategy away from concerns over fraud, which have proved largely unfounded, to a new rationale that suggests fairness: uniformity.
Republican lawmakers and election officials argue that to avoid voter confusion and litigation urban and rural counties should follow the same rules.
Citing the absence of evidence documenting organized fraud in Ohio, critics said the moves would lead to even longer lines in urban districts already plagued by them.
“They know when they are taking away early voting exactly who it’s affecting,” said Ed FitzGerald, the executive of Cuyahoga County and a Democratic candidate for governor.
A Heritage Foundation report didn't find vote fraud concern "unfounded," finding numerous examples, and pondered why requiring photo ID was racist only when it came to elections: "Are government offices (including the Department of Justice in Washington), banks, bars, airlines, and drug stores racist and hate-filled for refusing entry or service to those without a photo ID? Potential employers won’t hire someone who cannot prove their identity; in fact, that is a requirement of federal law."
Other recent reporting and editorializing make clear the Times' distaste for fighting vote fraud and its eagerness to cast the fight in a racial light.
In a March 21 editorial, "Suppressing the Vote," the Times stated bluntly that vote fraud didn't exist: "In recent months, it seemed that judges were beginning to see through the pretense of such laws, whose proponents insist they are necessary to protect 'election integrity' despite the lack of any significant evidence that voter fraud of any kind exists."
A March 16 editorial, "Ohio Mistrusts Democracy," harshly criticized the state for reducing early voting from 35 days down to 29 and making absentee voting "much more difficult" by requiring voters to answer "complicated questions" and (gasp) "pay their own postage," writing:
Ohio Republicans must not think their political candidates can win a fair fight against Democrats. They've decided to rig the state's election system in their favor, deliberately making voting harder for people who tend to vote Democratic, particularly minorities and the poor.
And a March 20 story by Fernanda Santos on Kansas and Arizona being allowed to require proof of citizenship to vote reiterated the liberal line: "There has been little evidence of in-person voter fraud or efforts by noncitizens to vote, but the poor and minorities are likely to be affected."