Rhode Island Democrats Disprove Media Myth That Voter ID Is ‘Racist’

October 13th, 2012 7:24 AM

Americans who have lost out on their right to vote as a result of fraudulent activity at the ballot box should not expect to attract sympathetic coverage from the New York Times, and other self-proclaimed mainstream outlets. This is particularly true in Rhode Island where ethnic minorities and Democratic lawmakers are disproving the notion that voter identification laws are really about “voter suppression” and “racial discrimination.”  

In response to multiple voter fraud complaints from his own constituents in Providence, Sen. Harold Metts, a black Democrat, led the charge in favor of a new photo voter identification law that is now operative in the Ocean State. Metts is far from alone, however. In fact, despite what the media would have you believe, minorities are more likely to support identification laws than white Americans.

Before getting further into the details, let us consider first a July report from the Times that was highly critical of Pennsylvania’s photo voter ID law. Here, the newspaper quoted elderly residents who claim the new requirements made it difficult for them to acquire the necessary documentation in time for the election, and that there is a deliberate effort at work to disenfranchise minorities. “They’re trying to stop black people from voting so Obama will not get re-elected,” Viviette Appelwhite, a 93 year-old resident, is quoted as saying. As it happens, Appelwhite is also the lead plaintiff in the suitchallenging Pennsylvania’s voter ID law. (Other plaintiffs include: the Homeless Advocacy Project, the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, and the Pennsylvania chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

 In September, Commonwealth Judge Robert Simpson ruled against Appelwhite in a decision upholding the law on constitutional grounds. Contrary to what was reported in the NYT, she had no trouble obtaining a photo ID just one day after the ruling. Earlier this week, however, Judge Simpson issued a new ruling in response to an appeal made to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court blocking full implementation of the law on procedural grounds.

This means that voter ID proponents “lost the battle, but won the war,” as J. Christian Adams, a former Justice Department attorney explains in his post on Pajamas Media. Two weeks ago the Pennsylvania Supreme Court directed Simpson to “make a present assessment of the actual availability of the alternative identification cards.” Since the judge was not convinced PennDOT could distribute enough IDs in time before Election Day, he issued a preliminary injunction.

 But, at the same time, Simpson also rejected arguments claiming the law was unconstitutional. As a result, voter ID will be implemented in full beginning next year. This means individuals can show up at the polls in the current election cycle and still vote without showing identification. But much to the consternation of the plaintiffs, Simpson’s ruling still permits election workers to ask for identification. The judge also ruled in favor of maintaining voter education initiatives that describe how easy it is to obtain the necessary identification forms.

Since Appelwhite now has her photo ID in hand, now might be an opportune time for the NYT to revisit and reconsider its coverage. Here is how the earlier July report opened:

 “A former hotel housekeeper, Ms. Applewhite, who never had a driver’s license, was suddenly without a Social Security card. Adopted and twice married, she had several name changes over the years, so obtaining new documents was complicated. As a result, with Pennsylvania now requiring a state-approved form of photo identification to vote, Ms. Applewhite, a supporter of President Obama, may be forced to sit out November’s election for the first time in decades.”

Apparently, she will be voting with no problem.

The skewed coverage of Times fits in with a larger media agenda that is the subject of a recently released study from the National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR) authored by Justin Danhof, the Center’s general counsel.

“The media are on a quest to deceive the American people into believing that voter integrity measures are racist, suppressive laws written by conservatives to diminish the black, poor and elderly vote,” Danhof says. “Nothing could be further from the truth. Voter ID laws treat every eligible voter equally and with dignity.”

The study entitled “Media Shows Pervasive Bias When Covering Voter ID,”finds that journalists typically place a greater premium on race-baiting than they do on fact checking. They also tend to omit any discussion of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Crawford v. Marion,which upheld Indiana’s strict photo voter ID law. Justice John Paul Stevens, one of the court’s most left-wing justices, wrote for the majority in the 6-3 ruling. 

“The bias is staggering,” Danhof says. “The media needlessly injects race into discussions of race-neutral voter integrity laws almost 150 times more often than it discusses their legal underpinnings. Since 2011, 37 states have passed or considered some form of voter integrity measure. Many of these laws are based on Indiana’s voter ID law that the United States Supreme Court ruled was constitutional only four years ago in the case of Crawford v. Marion.”

To its credit, the July Times report at least acknowledged the Supreme Court ruling in favor of voter ID. But going forward it should also make it clear to readers that the lawsuits Attorney General Eric Holder has filed against voter ID laws across the country are very much in conflict with that same ruling and thus are unlikely to prevail.

At issue, is the 1965 Federal Voting Rights Act (VRA), which was initially set up as a safeguard against racial discrimination. Under Section 5 of the VRA, any changes made to voting laws in certain areas of the country must be approved by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The jurisdictions covered under the federal law are all of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia and parts of California, Florida, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, and South Dakota.

The DOJ has already moved to block voter ID laws in South Carolina and Texas claiming they are in violation of the VRA. In August, a three-judge panel in United States District Court for Washington D.C. ruled to strike down the Texas law. But Gov. Rick Perry is now challenging the constitutionality of the VRA’s Section 5 and his appeal will likely be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in the term that began earlier this month. If the high court reaffirms voter ID, as is now widely expected, the VRA will go down.

In the meantime, Rhode Island continues to disrupt the media narrative on voter ID. Here is the how the Times reported on the court decision that negated the Texas law.

“The wave of voter ID laws enacted by Republican-led state governments in recent years has created a polarizing debate. Supporters, mostly conservatives, argue that such restrictions are needed to prevent fraud. While there is no evidence of significant levels of voter impersonation — the sort of fraud that would be addressed by ID requirements — they argue that it is just going undetected.”

Contrary to the liberal-leaning paper, in Rhode Island voter fraud has been detected and exposed by Democrats who ardently support the state’s new voter ID law.

Rep. David Cicilline’s primary opponent, Anthony Gemma, told reporters during a press conference this past summer that a private investigation agency he retrained uncovered evidence that demonstrates how Cicilline’s mayoral and congressional campaigns have benefitted from voter fraud since 2002. That was the year Cicilline was elected mayor of Providence. He now occupies the congressional seat previously held by Rep. Patrick Kennedy. The evidence Gemma presented to the media includes video tapes, audio tapes and sworn statements from individuals associated with Cicilline who say they saw and sometimes participated in multiple instances of voter fraud. Gemma also told reporters that the evidence has forwarded to the Rhode Island State Police and the Federal Bureau of  Investigation (FBI). Cicilline prevailed by a wide margin during the Sept. 11 primary.

However the legalities play out with regard to Gemma’s allegations, there is no getting around the hard fact that there is a long history of voter fraud in Rhode Island that calls out for serious reform, Sen. Metts, the lead sponsor of the voter ID bill, said in an interview. Although voter ID laws have stirred controversy in other states, the weight of evidence demonstrates that they are necessary, but must be carefully crafted, he noted.

“We always need to be concerned about potential disenfranchisement, and as lawmakers, we want to be mindful about becoming overly restrictive,” Metts said. “But we can no longer ignore the voter fraud issue. It would be a disservice to the citizens of Rhode Island to ignore either voter fraud or disenfranchisement; we had to bring balance.”

Rhode Island’s new law was tested for the first time during April’s presidential primary, when voters were asked to show drivers’ licenses, passports, birth certificates, or health club IDs. Voters who did not have the necessary identification were permitted to cast provisional ballots. Beginning in 2014, only a photo ID will be accepted, but the state will provide free IDs to anyone who needs them, and provisional ballots will remain in effect for anyone who lacks an ID on Election Day.

“I do feel validated by what has transpired recently, and I think everyone who supports voter ID should feel validated,” Metts said. “I had my own constituents come to me and complain about voter fraud, so we know it happens. Other states should look to Rhode Island as a model for voter ID laws. We did it right, and we did it in a way that was fair.”

Since 2011, Rhode Island is the only state with a Democratic legislature to pass a new voter ID requirement. The laws tend be more controversial in states where both parties are politically competitive and where a few votes could swing close elections, Metts suggested. There is no danger of the law “upsetting the apple cart” and turning Rhode Island into a Republican state, he said.

While there may valid concerns about some of the restrictions attached to certain Voter ID laws, Metts sees room for common ground.

“The keyword is balance,” he said. “There’s always a concern about disenfranchisement, and we should make every effort to ensure that everyone who is eligible to vote can vote. But it has gotten to the point where there is such fear over disenfranchisement that people just buried their heads when it comes time to deal with voter fraud, and that is not healthy for our democracy.”

By raising the bogus specter of racism to undermine and discredit new ID laws, the news media is doing a great disservice to those Americans who are victimized by voter fraud. The list includes Democratic Rep. Anastasia Williams, an African-American from Providence, RI, who was turned away from the polls after someone illegally voted in her place.

While it is fair for the news media to point out that Republicans have been the driving behind most of the new voter ID laws, it routinely fails to inform readers that a broad cross-section of Americans across party and racial lines support those same voter ID laws. In doing so, the NYT, and other liberal-leaning outlets, do a great disservice to those who are the victims of voter fraud.

In fact, polls show that minorities actually favor voter ID by a slightly higher margin than white Americans. John Fund, a senior editor for the American Spectator, who has authored several books on voter fraud, told audience members gathered at the “True the Vote” Summit in Houston earlier this year that those polls results should not be surprising.

“I believe the biggest victims of voter fraud today are minorities,” Fund said. “They obviously support [voter ID]; they think voter fraud is a more serious problem than anyone … Their leadership has failed them by yelling racism in a crowded little theater and by dividing us rather than uniting us. Their entire edifice is built on fraud and misrepresentation.”

The Democrat-dominated elite news media is only too happy to lend a hand. As voter ID laws continue to roll forth and prevail in the courts, expect liberal journalists to turn their attentions to other subjects. Only then will all Americans be able to have more assurance that their vote really does count.