Debunking the Left’s Propaganda on Voting

COMMENTARY Election Integrity

Debunking the Left’s Propaganda on Voting

Oct 1st, 2021 5 min read
COMMENTARY BY
Hans A. von Spakovsky

Election Law Reform Initiative and Senior Legal Fellow

Hans von Spakovsky is an authority on a wide range of issues—including civil rights, civil justice, the First Amendment, immigration.
The claim that there is a wave of voter suppression going on across the country that requires expansion of the [Voting Rights Act] is simply false. Hill Street Studios / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

HR 4 would amend the Voting Rights Act to give partisan bureaucrats in the Justice Department the power to veto changes in state election laws.

Voter ID laws are in place in numerous states ... because courts agreed they are not discriminatory and do not represent a tangible burden on voters.

[HR 4] is an extraordinary violation of state sovereignty, federalism, and the democratic process.

A Senate subcommittee last week held a hearing filled with the same old tiresome propaganda that the left has peddled for a decade to attack commonsense election reforms as a racially motivated plot to “suppress” votes. 

Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth.

The subject of the hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on the Constitution was HR 4, a bill dubbed the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which the House passed in August on a straight party-line vote. 

HR 4 would amend the Voting Rights Act to give partisan bureaucrats in the Justice Department the power to veto changes in state election laws, including those affecting voter registration, voter ID requirements, and maintenance of accurate registration lists. 

Five witnesses testified at the hearing, three called by Democratic senators, including the subcommittee chairman, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and two called by Republican senators, including Ted Cruz and John Cornyn of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah. 

The Democrats’ three witnesses were a professor from the University of Southern California’s Gould School of Law and the heads of two liberal advocacy organizations. I was one of the witnesses called by the Republicans, as was Maureen Riordan, a 20-year veteran of the Justice Department who now works for the Public Interest Legal Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to improving election integrity.

From the way the three liberal witnesses described America, you would think it wasn’t 2021 but 1878, the year Reconstruction ended and Union troops withdrew from the former Confederate states.

They apparently live in a fantasyland where racial discrimination is widespread and prevents Americans, specifically minority voters, from being able to cast ballots in elections. According to these three speakers, voter ID requirements are part of this sinister plot even though such requirements are supported overwhelmingly by Americans, regardless of color or political affiliation.

Unfortunately, the Senate Democrats who attended the hearing supported these outrageous claims. 

As I told Blumenthal’s subcommittee in my testimony

The claim that there is a wave of voter suppression going on across the country that requires expansion of the [Voting Rights Act] is simply false. Efforts to enhance the integrity of the election process through reforms such as voter identification requirements and improvements in the accuracy of statewide voter registration lists are not voter suppression. 

On voter ID, for example, the data is clear that such a requirement does not prevent any eligible individuals from voting and yet the proposed legislative reforms treat it as a suspect, discriminatory practice. A 2019 survey of 10 years of turnout data from all 50 states found that state voter ID laws ‘have no negative effect on registration or turnout, overall or for any group defined by race, gender, age, or party affiliation.’ Voter ID laws are in place in numerous states like Indiana, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Kansas, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Texas because courts agreed they are not discriminatory and do not represent a tangible burden on voters.

We have also seen evidence of this in the steady increases in registration and turnout in states that have implemented much-needed election reforms intended to improve access, integrity, and security, as well as in the steady decrease in the number of enforcement cases being brought by the Justice Department due to a decreasing number of violations of federal law.  … [D]uring the entire eight years of the Obama administration, the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department filed only four cases to enforce Section 2 of the VRA [Voting Rights Act] …

In … fact, the Obama administration filed far fewer Section 2 enforcement actions than the Bush administration, which filed 16 such cases. The record over the past two decades, and particularly in the last 10 years, provides no evidence to support the claim, which has been asserted many times, that there are widespread, systematic, unlawful voter suppression actions being taken against minority voters by state and local jurisdictions. …

This can also be seen in Census Bureau reports on registration and turnout. … The bureau’s report on the 2012 election showed that black Americans voted at a higher rate than whites nationally (66.2% vs. 64.1%). Other examples abound. According to the Census Bureau’s reports … for the 2016, 2018, and 2020 elections, Mississippi … had a higher overall turnout of citizen voters than Connecticut, New York, and Delaware. The turnout, respectively, for Mississippi was 67.7%, 54.2%, and 70.3% in each election. The citizen turnout in the other three states according to the Census Bureau was less for each election year. …

Moreover, the turnout of black citizens … exceeded that of whites … in Mississippi in each of those elections. The same cannot be said for Connecticut, New York, and Delaware, in which the vote of whites exceeded that of blacks in some elections, while the reverse was true in others. Georgia … also had a higher overall percentage of turnout of its citizens according to the census reports than New York in the 2016, 2018, and 2020 elections, and the turnout percentage of black citizens was also higher in Georgia in the 2018 (59.6%) and 2020 (64%) elections than in New York in both elections (51.3% and 62.7%).

The Census Bureau’s recent release of its 2020 election survey of voter turnout also clearly demonstrates that there has been no wave of ‘voter suppression’ keeping American voters from registering and voting or that requires amending the [Voting Rights Act] and expanding the power of the Justice Department.  

Instead, the Census Bureau reports that the turnout in last year’s election was 66.8%—just short of the record turnout of 67.7% of voting-age citizens for the 1992 election. This was higher than the turnout in President Barack Obama’s first election, which was reported as 63.6% by the Census Bureau. 

I wasn’t asked a single question by any of the Democrat senators who attended the hearing, perhaps because they had no way of countering the fact that states such as Georgia and Mississippi, which they and their three witnesses have criticized as racist havens of voting discrimination, actually have higher turnout in many elections than their own home states.

Facts are a stubborn thing.

The confrontation between Cruz and the liberal witnesses about voter ID was quite educational, as it reflects the witnesses’ refusal to recognize reality—that voter ID laws are not racist and are fully supported by the American public. 

The Gould Law School professor claimed that Texas’ voter ID requirement is racist despite the fact that, as I told Cruz, federal judges held that Texas’ current law was nondiscriminatory and in compliance with the Voting Rights Act. Even the Obama Justice Department agreed.

The Democrats on the subcommittee totally ignored the testimony of Riordan, who described the partisan and unprofessional behavior that she personally witnessed by Justice Department lawyers who would be empowered by HR 4 to reject state election laws and regulations.

They obviously did not want to hear this and declined to ask her any questions, either.  

As I concluded in my testimony:

It is not 1965 and there is no longer any justification for giving the federal government the ability to veto the election laws and regulations that citizens and their elected representatives choose to implement in their respective states.

[HR 4] is an extraordinary violation of state sovereignty, federalism, and the democratic process since it would take away the ability of the residents of each state and their elected representative to determine the rules under which their elections will be conducted. 

It is a very dangerous bill and there is no justification for it whatsoever.

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal