NBC’s Today Accuses GOP of Minority Voter Suppression

On Thursday’s NBC Today, correspondent Ronan Farrow devoted a five-minute report to promoting liberal claims of Republicans trying to suppress Democratic voter turnout on election day by targeting minority groups with voter ID laws. Farrow warned: “According to one recent survey, one in five voters lives in a state that requires photo ID to vote but don’t know it....a wave of new laws making it tougher than ever just to cast a ballot.”

He highlighted one victim of the policy: “Charda Hanamadas lives in Wisconsin. She's a mother of three and a public schoolteacher. And this year she was told she wouldn't be able to vote.” A soundbite played of Hanamadas declaring: “I just felt so stunned and disenfranchised and angry. I should be able to, you know, go to my middle school two blocks from my house and be able to cast my vote just like every other American....I’m heartbroken.”

Farrow lamented: “This election, 14 states have new voting laws, eight of them limiting the kind of ID you can use.” He then featured a clip from ACLU Voting Rights Project director Dale Ho complaining: “It varies from state to state. In Texas, they accept concealed weapons permits for voting but they don’t accept student ID cards.”

Ho added: “Well, they’re disproportionately poor people, people of color, a lot of students who may be coming from out of state.”

Farrow bolstered the argument: “So far, courts have struck down or narrowed voter ID laws in seven states, finding they discriminate against minorities. One judge writing that in North Carolina ‘the new provisions target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.’”

Tell the Truth 2016

<<< Please consider helping NewsBusters financially with your tax-deductible contribution today >>>

<<< Thank you for your support! >>>

Immediately after pushing the accusations of racism, he noted: “But the laws have numerous defenders.” Looking like a campaign attack ad, grainy footage followed of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Republican nominee Donald Trump raising the issue of voter fraud.

Farrow turned back to Ho and wondered: “There are conservatives who say this is necessary, this is preventing fraud.” The left-wing pundit rejected the notion: “The most recent comprehensive study of voter impersonation found that between 2004 to 2014, there were 31 credible allegations of voter impersonation at the polls....I mean you’re literally more likely to get struck by a lightning bolt than to have someone impersonate you at the polls.”

Farrow fretted: “Ho says the date shows voters targeted by these laws are overwhelmingly Democrats.” He then hinted at the real motivations of the GOP: “Giving some politicians a different reason to defend them.”

Here is a full transcript of the November 3 report:

8:18 AM ET

MATT LAUER: On our ongoing campaign series, Red, White, and You, a trend that could have a big impact on how many people actually vote next Tuesday.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Let's go to NBC investigative correspondent Ronan Farrow, who’s been looking into this. Hi, Ronan, we’ve been hearing a lot about this.

RONAN FARROW: Good morning, guys. Yeah, I think is going to touch a nerve with a lot of people. According to one recent survey, one in five voters lives in a state that requires photo ID to vote but don’t know it. In this election cycle, the situation has gotten a whole lot more complicated, a wave of new laws making it tougher than ever just to cast a ballot.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Confusion at the Polls; Are New ID Laws Making it More Difficult  to Vote?]

CHARDA HANAMADAS: I just felt so stunned and disenfranchised and angry. I should be able to, you know, go to my middle school two blocks from my house and be able to cast my vote just like every other American.

FARROW: Charda Hanamadas lives in Wisconsin. She's a mother of three and a public schoolteacher. And this year she was told she wouldn't be able to vote.

HANAMADAS: I voted in every election since I was 18 years old.

FARROW: But this year, a new voter ID law took effect in Wisconsin limiting the ID you can use at the polls. Charda is a American who emigrated from Ireland when she was just six weeks old. She has an Illinois driver's license, but not a Wisconsin-issued photo ID or current passport. The DMV said she needed naturalization papers, which U.S. immigration services told her would cost $345 and take many months to get. Charda struggles to make her teacher’s salary cover treatment for her twin daughters’ cystic fibrosis. It was too much.

HANAMADAS: I’m heartbroken.

FARROW: This election, 14 states have new voting laws, eight of them limiting the kind of ID you can use.

DALE HO [DIRECTOR, ACLU VOTING RIGHTS PROJECT]: It varies from state to state. In Texas, they accept concealed weapons permits for voting but they don’t accept student ID cards.

FARROW: Dale Ho, the director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, says about 10% of registered voters don't have the right kind of ID.

HO: Well, they’re disproportionately poor people, people of color, a lot of students who may be coming from out of state.

ZACK MOORE: I'm trying to get a Wisconsin ID so I can vote.

DMV WORKER: Okay.

MOORE: I don't have my birth certificate but I got everything else.

FARROW: In September, a voter advocacy group recorded a Wisconsin DMV turning away this resident, Zack Moore, who’s homeless.

MOORE: I’m trying to figure out the other process, like how long would that take?

DMV WORKER: 6 to 8 weeks.

MOORE: I’m disappointed at the government. I guess they’re trying to keep people from voting, I guess.

FARROW: Zack had a Social Security card, pay stubs, and an Illinois ID, but not a birth certificate. That entitled him to a temporarily voter ID under Wisconsin law, but Zack was repeatedly told that wasn’t an option.

And when we showed students at nearby University of Wisconsin, Madison the list of valid forms of identification, some were surprised.

FARROW: Do you have one of those forms of ID with you on campus?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN [STUDENT]: No. The only thing I have is a passport, but that's at home.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN [STUDENT]: I do not have one of these forms of ID.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN B [STUDENT]: I do not, actually.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN B [STUDENT]: On campus, no.

FARROW: Molly McGrath, of the voter advocacy group, Vote Riders, is pushing back against the laws.

MOLLY MCGRATH: New voters have to learn about the law and what ID they need to show. It’s a learning curve for everyone.  

FARROW: She helped record Zack and others being turned away from registration, stories that led a federal judge to order an investigation. So far, courts have struck down or narrowed voter ID laws in seven states, finding they discriminate against minorities. One judge writing that in North Carolina “the new provisions target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.” But the laws have numerous defenders.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER [R-WI]: In our state, we have a photo ID requirement that’ll make it easy to vote, hard to cheat.   

DONALD TRUMP: But you’ve got to get those ballots. Some places they probably do that four or five times.

CLETA MITCHELL: We’ve seen it with in-person fraud, the voter rolls are not pristine.

FARROW: Cleta Mitchell is a conservative lawyer and activist.

MITCHELL: You can have people showing up and they don't present ID, so how does anybody know whether or not there was fraud committed?

FARROW: There are conservatives who say this is necessary, this is preventing fraud.  

HO: The most recent comprehensive study of voter impersonation found that between 2004 to 2014, there were 31 credible allegations of voter impersonation at the polls.

FARROW: Thirty-one?

HO: Thirty-one in a period in which over one billion ballots were cast. I mean you’re literally more likely to get struck by a lightning bolt than to have someone impersonate you at the polls.

FARROW: Ho says the date shows voters targeted by these laws are overwhelmingly Democrats. Giving some politicians a different reason to defend them.  

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Hillary Clinton is about the weakest candidate the Democrats have ever put up and now we have photo ID. And I think photo ID is gonna make a little bit of a difference as well.

HANAMADAS: If I could say one message to politicians who are supporting these voter ID laws, I would say let me vote, I'm an American, I’ve earned my right to vote, let me vote.

FARROW: After weeks of lobbying from Vote Riders, Charda had a breakthrough this week. The DMV saying they would make an exception to their rules and give her a temporary voter ID. But she says no one should have to fight to vote the way she has, and according to the data, a lot of people never win that fight. A study by the Government Accountability Office showing that states with these laws see a drop in turnout of about one to two percentage points. Guys, that may not seem like a lot, but in a lot of close states, that could be enough, tens of thousands of people, to swing the race.

LAUER: You gotta make a phone call, you gotta go online, find out exactly what’s required in your state.

FARROW: Find out exactly, right. But for certain people – you know, some homeless people who don't have proper identification, disproportionately it’s people of color, as we mentioned –  there are serious obstacles to getting these forms of ID.

GUTHRIE: A timely story Ronan, thank you very much.

FARROW: Thanks guys.

GUTHRIE: By the way, you can see more of our Red, White, and You series exclusively on the NBC News app on Amazon Fire TV.


Please support NewsBusters today! [a 501(c)(3) non-profit production of the Media Research Center]

DONATE

Or, book travel through MRC’s Travel Discounts Program! MRC receives a rebate for each booking when you use our special codes.

BOOK NOW

Tell the Truth 2016 NBDaily Campaigns & Elections 2016 Presidential Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats NBC Today Video Ronan Farrow