Conservative author David Freddoso believes that liberal commentators like Chris Matthews, who attacked conservatives for being racist (among other things), ran a voter suppression campaign against conservatives during the 2012 election. His assertion was that these tactics were used “to tar conservatism and shame conservatives out of participating in politics.”
There is a fairly new phenomenon emerging called “media-induced voter suppression,” however, if that’s what Freddoso is getting at, he’s misinterpreting what it means, according to Ballotpedia. Voter suppression in general is a strategy to prevent or discourage voters from engaging in their right to vote, for the purpose of influencing the outcome of an election. Media bias, particularly when it’s so skewed that all it’s focusing on is the negative, not reporting any of the positive for one side of an issue or election, can, in fact, influence electoral outcomes, either intentionally or unintentionally. Media-induced voter suppression actually centers on issues like early reporting of polling results, from later time zones into earlier time zones (i.e., reporting results in the Eastern time zone where polls have closed, while they’re still open for another 3 hours in the Pacific time zone), and on reporting the results of various exit polls throughout Election Day. This can result in people becoming discouraged, based on that information, and deciding not to vote.
A big issue with claiming that MSNBC was running a voter suppression campaign is that Freddoso ignores all the other types of voter suppression Republicans tried to ramrod into law in various states. Media-induced voter suppression, regardless of what definition he is using, is a lot less heinous, because while it may discourage you from going to the polls, it does not have a way to prevent you from voting, should you decide to go to the polls despite what you hear.
One of the most common suppression tactics attempted by the GOP during the 2012 election cycle was voter ID laws, including requiring a government-issued photo ID to vote, or, going even further, requiring an official document proving citizenship in order to vote. Up to 11% of Americans don’t have a government issued ID, and up to 7% don’t have documented proof of citizenship, according to the ACLU.
Those numbers may not appear to be much, but both of these tactics can disproportionately affect students, minorities, the elderly, and the disabled, all of whom can have problems getting through all the administrative procedures and affording the cost of obtaining such ID. For people on low fixed incomes, for students, and for the poor, even a $25 fee can be too expensive. These groups tend to lean Democratic.
Furthermore, according to an article on ProPublica, NYU’s Brennan Center also found that people living in rural areas can have trouble getting to ID offices, which are often located in towns and cities that may be hours away from where they live, which adds to the cost of getting appropriate ID. That is, of course, assuming they have a working vehicle in which to travel. Many don’t. In Texas, these complaints were brushed aside as a consequence of choosing to live in such areas; however, many legal scholars say that voter ID laws present a real, financial barrier to voting.
Despite the GOP’s insistence that these laws are only to protect against in-person voter fraud, the Brennan Center, the Independent Voter Network (IVN), and others, have found that in-person voter fraud is very rare. According to the IVN, the News 21 Voting Rights Project investigated documented cases of voting fraud and compiled them into a database. They found 10 reported cases of in-person voter fraud. It also found 491 cases of absentee ballot fraud and 400 cases of registration fraud.
Another common voter suppression tactic was restricting early voting and access to the polls. In fact, in Florida, the Palm Beach Post reported that former GOP leaders, including former Florida Republican chairman Jim Greer, admitted that the goal of restricting access to early voting was because early voting tends to favor Democrats. Former governor Charlie Crist agreed with that assessement.
The Post also reported that Wayne Bertsch, who used to oversee elections on local and state levels, admitted to knowing that reducing Democratic turnout was the goal of such laws.
Ohio’s Republican government also attempted various restrictions on early voting, even going so far as to restrict hours of voting in the final three days leading up to the election, after the courts overturned their total ban on early voting during that time. Ohio passed a law allowing early voting all the way up through the weekend prior to an election after the 2004 election cycle, but saw that blacks, who tend to vote Democratic, took more advantage of that in some of the more heavily populated counties than other groups in 2008.
A biased media, with biased commentary, whether it can be termed as media-induced suppression or not, still only discourages people from voting, and does not actually prohibit them from doing so. If Freddoso wants to discuss actual voter suppression, he should look at laws that the GOP wants passed that would prohibit people from exercising their right to vote.