How Concerns About Racial Disparities Become Allegations Of Voter Fraud

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One of the dishonest quirks of cable television that we’ve all become accustomed to is the way old information is often presented as new. This goes beyond calling everything “broken” even if it was “broken” hours before. It seeps into the reporting itself, with things that aren’t new being cast as new.

Sometimes this seems shameful, such as when Fox News repeatedly aired old riot footage in the summer of 2020 to suggest violence was afoot. At other times it is more likely to be attributed to laziness.

That would be my take on a claim made on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show Monday night.

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“Well,” said Hannity, John Fetterman, the Pennsylvania lieutenant governor and Democratic nominee for the US Senate, says that “voter ID laws are racist because he believes minorities don’t have IDs.”

The “now” there seems to relate an article published on Monday on the Fox News website. It’s going through a bunch of old comments by Fetterman about voter ID laws for no clear reason. (As an aside, did you know that party communications teams sometimes compile summaries of their opponents’ comments and buy them from friendly news outlets? I’m not sure what brought me to this.)

This article came out around the same time a December interview with Fetterman doing the rounds on the right. Here’s a clip of it.

A few months earlier, Fetterman had described Voter ID requirements as “a solution to a non-existent voter fraud problem”.

His arguments are absolutely justifiable.

First, while voter fraud occurs, it is almost entirely irrelevant in determining election results, and there is no evidence that fraud goes undetected or unpunished to any significant degree. Donald Trump’s machinations around 2020 are a good example of how useful the specter of voter fraud can be, but this election and the tremendous amount of attention it is being given also shows how rare actual fraud is.

Fetterman says voter fraud is a “nonexistent problem,” which is technically incorrect. It’s like saying shark attacks are a nonexistent problem. Fraud exists – but there’s no point in treating it as a crippling epidemic (or even a regular occurrence) rather than a rare anomaly.

His claim that poor and non-white Americans are less likely to have valid government ID is also accurate. The American National Election Study is a poll conducted around every presidential election. In 2020, ANES found that black Americans are about three times as likely to have neither a valid passport nor a valid driver’s license as whites. Hispanics were more than twice as likely to have neither.

For poorer households, the numbers were even more striking. About a quarter of Black and Hispanic Americans in households with a family income below $50,000 reported not having valid identification in either form.

These are national numbers, so I can’t speak to the Pennsylvania numbers. But the point remains that a voting system that requires possession of a valid driver’s license or passport is a system that disqualifies more non-whites from voting. Putting that kind of restriction in place just to try and eliminate the handful of fraud cases each year is like draining Long Island Sound to prevent people from getting bitten by a hammerhead shark.

Of course, for Hannity, this is all just fodder for portraying Fetterman as a left-wing madman. Hannity introduced the segment by having a reporter ask Pennsylvania voters their opinion on the lieutenant governor’s candidacy, using solicitations as objective as saying that Fetterman’s “big problems are heroin safe zones…or the eviction of the prisons.” .

Hannity then invited Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) to comment on the general election. As Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Scott has double-invested in making the Republican Senate nominees extremely appealing juggernauts. In touting Fetterman’s opponents, he addressed the voter ID issue.

“He wants to commit voter fraud by getting rid of the voter ID,” Scott said. “I mean, this guy is a radical.”

Do you see this flip? Fetterman doesn’t just want to block a voter ID request, he wants to “commit fraud.” Usually this idea goes unspoken because it cannot be justified. Republicans just wink at him or suggest that banning voter ID mandates would allow fraud. In the world of Republican politics after 2020, however, Scott only draws a line.

It is useful at this point to point out that Scott is very familiar with the political usefulness of claiming that elections are tainted with fraud. Running for the Senate for the first time in 2018, he found himself in a close race with the Democratic incumbent by the end of election night. So he began to claim – without evidence – that heavily Democratic districts were counting ballots tainted with voter fraud.

As it turns out, unsurprisingly, there was no significant fraud found. But Scott (with vociferous Attaboys from President Donald Trump) set the stage to contest new ballots, which were added to the total. The idea that elections are riddled with examples of fraud was ready to come to his rhetorical aid. As it turned out, he won by a margin so big that the backstop wasn’t needed.

On Hannity’s show Monday night, Scott did something similar: he suggested that the Democratic nominee for the Senate in Pennsylvania would ensure cheating took place. Making allegations of fraud for his own political benefit.

(But why preach to this choir? Surely Hannity viewers wouldn’t vote for Fetterman anyway? The answer is simple: fundraising. Scott made several direct appeals to people to contribute, showing them the easy way via text message communicated So.)

The whole thing was a neat summary of how fraud allegations are used in politics. Eight months ago, Fetterman offered a defensible cause to oppose voter ID laws. With two months to go before the general election, his position has been called racist by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) or an attempt to encourage voter fraud by Scott.

Not really surprising considering Fettermans lead in the polls.

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