Apr 18, 2021

Mainstream Media's War On The People Part 5 - Mainstream Media Run With Right-Wing Spin About Georgia's Voter-Suppression Law Making GOP's Anti Democracy Actions A Partisan Issue Rather Than A Civil Liberties Issue

Background & Context: GOP's War On America: Republicans Take Their Rebellion Against Democracy To The Next Level, Giving Themselves The Power To Overturn Elections Like Dictators

Unsurprisingly, media chose to ignore the voting bills as a civil liberties issue and have begun to treat it like a partisan issue while ignoring important facts. I covered how the GOP have rigged the elections in their favor based on lies to the point of giving them the power to overturn elections - with lies (which they are clearly in favor of) - in the last post and now compare it to a mainstream media view on NBC here. Clearly mainstream media are ignoring important historical realities and civil liberties in painting this partisan view of the voting issue that gives the GOP alot more credit than they are due. Also, while Maddow is on MSNBC she still covers the issues like a non-profit org (such a Media Matters below) to a great extent. News can be done properly.

Media Matters: Mainstream media run with right-wing spin about Georgia's voter-suppression law

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp recently signed a law pushed by state Republicans that aims to curtail voting in the state in response to record-high turnout in 2020 and false claims of voter fraud largely spearheaded by former President Donald Trump and his media allies. The new law is clearly intended to curb voter access and gain GOP control of elections, but some in the mainstream media are still downplaying its worst aspects or suggesting that criticisms and concerns regarding the law are overblown. Some media outlets are also framing its election restrictions in partisan terms, rather than as an attack on voting rights, and boosting partisan GOP spin in their headlines.

Georgia is one of many states where Republicans have recently introduced legislation based on false accusations of voter fraud -- an analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice found that lawmakers in 47 states have already introduced 361 bills with restrictions on voting.

According to a New York Times analysis of Georgia’s new law, there are “16 key provisions that will limit ballot access, potentially confuse voters and give more power to Republican lawmakers,” including restricting the use of drop boxes, banning mobile voting centers except for emergencies, and shortening the time voters have to request an absentee ballot.

Republicans passed and signed the 98-page voting law last week following the first Democratic victories in presidential and Senate elections in Georgia in a generation. President Biden won the state by just 11,779 votes out of nearly five million cast. The new law will, in particular, curtail ballot access for voters in booming urban and suburban counties, home to many Democrats. Another provision makes it a crime to offer water to voters waiting in lines, which tend to be longer in densely populated communities.

The law also gives more power to the Republican-controlled state legislature to take over local voting operations and potentially inject partisanship into the voting process, as Reuters recently reported:

The legislation authorizes the Republican-majority legislature to appoint the state election board’s majority while demoting the elected secretary of state, Georgia’s top election official, to a non-voting position.

It also allows the state board to remove local supervisors it deems derelict and replace them with individuals of its choosing.

That power has alarmed Democrats and civil rights organizations in light of Trump’s unprecedented pressure campaign to overturn the results in key Democratic counties.

But even some election officials from Republican-leaning counties said they opposed allowing the state board to take over local elections, a Reuters survey of the state’s 159 counties found.

While there are some aspects of the law that could expand voter access, these will largely affect smaller, rural counties, as opposed to larger urban areas where many Democratic voters reside. For example, the law mandates the number of drop boxes per county, potentially increasing access in rural areas that previously did not have them while drastically cutting the number available in cities, as The New York Times explained:

For the 2020 election, there were 94 drop boxes across the four counties that make up the core of metropolitan Atlanta: Fulton, Cobb, DeKalb and Gwinnett. The new law limits the same four counties to a total of, at most, 23 drop boxes, based on the latest voter registration data. The number could be lower depending on how many early-voting sites the counties provide.

Yet some mainstream media figures are downplaying the most problematic aspects or intent behind the new Georgia law, instead focusing on individual aspects to suggest that concerns and criticisms about its impact on voters are overblown. Some outlets have also continued to cover the GOP’s nationwide attempt to suppress votes on partisan terms rather than as an attack on voting rights, framing restrictive aspects of the law as criticisms lobbed by Democrats. Some headlines are also boosting GOP talking points and spin, as Republicans and their right-wing media allies work to change the narrative on the law in the face of widespread backlash.

Downplaying the worst aspects and intent behind the Georgia law to suggest that concerns and criticisms are overblown

Some coverage of the law has sought to downplay both the partisan intent behind the legislation and its potential impact. Instead, media figures have suggested to their audiences that Democratic concerns are overblown.

  • On the April 5 episode of CNN’s New Day, co-anchor Alisyn Camerota asked, “Is there some potential upside to some of these laws that it will assuage the anxiety of Republicans” concerned about false claims of voter fraud.
  • National Review’s Rich Lowry was given the last word on the April 4 edition of NBC’s Meet the Press to claim that “no one is going to be disenfranchised because of this law” and argue that attacks on the law are “an outrageous smear.”
  • USA Today opinion piece on April 6 was titled “No, Georgia's new election law is not Jim Crow on steroids: 3 reasons it isn't a big deal.” The sub-headline claimed: “One reason is that liberal reforms to encourage voting by making it easier don't increase turnout very much, so getting rid of them doesn't matter much either.”
  • Writing in The New York Times on April 3, Nate Cohn argued that the law was unlikely to have an impact on voter turnout in Georgia, suggesting that Democratic fears about voter suppression are potentially unfounded. Some questioned the analysis behind his conclusion and the fact that Cohn spent little time discussing the lies on which the legislation was based and its potential impact on local election boards.

Others have also questioned the public backlash by pointing out that some traditionally Democratic states like New York have restrictive voting laws as well.

  • On the April 5 edition of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, co-host Joe Scarborough argued that some criticism of the law has been exaggerated — including Biden’s comparison of its voting restrictions to Jim Crow. Scarborough also questioned Major League Baseball’s decision to move the All-Star Game from Atlanta given the league’s ties to New York, which has its own restrictions on early voting and absentee ballots.
  • On ABC’s This Week on April 4, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Trump administration official Sarah Isgur complained about criticism of the law from Democrats. Christie suggested that the law would actually help to expand voting access, and Isgur complained that “Delaware, Joe Biden’s home state, didn’t even have early voting in 2020.” Isgur also claimed that the law “doesn’t do what the Democrats are afraid it will do,” adding, “They are condemning this Georgia bill without really understanding it.”

Framing the controversy as a partisan battle rather than an attack on voting rights, or boosting GOP talking points

Other outlets lent equal weight to Democratic and Republican messaging on the law, framing the attack on voting rights as a partisan battle in which both sides have merit to their claims. Some outlets also promoted false or misleading talking points from Georgia Republicans in headlines.

  • An Associated Press article explaining the legislation on March 26 reported that “Republican supporters say the law is needed to restore confidence in Georgia’s elections. Democrats say it will restrict voting access, especially for voters of color.”
  • A Washington Post piece on April 5 began by noting, “Opponents of Georgia’s new elections law call it a blatant attack on voting rights. … But Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R), who signed the bill into law last month, insists the opposite.”
  • NPR published an April 3 article titled: “Georgia Governor Criticizes MLB For Buying Into Liberal 'Lies' About New Election Law.”
  • That same day, Talking Points Memo published an article with the headline: “Kemp Goes To Bat For Voting Limits: Accuses MLB Of Caving To ‘Fear And Lies.’”
  • On April 5, CNN shared an article on Twitter referring to Georgia’s restrictive voting laws as “voter integrity laws.”
  • A Washington Post article from April 5 framed the GOP’s attack on voting rights entirely in partisan terms, writing: “Democrats contend it is an attempt by state Republicans to suppress the vote in minority communities and mount a partisan takeover of election administration. ... GOP leaders have pushed back against the charges, arguing that the legislation will make it easier to cast a ballot by expanding voting hours, and they have accused Democrats, including Biden, of partisan-driven hyperbole.”

Media Matters: Georgia’s new voting law needs to be covered as a civil rights issue — not just as partisan politics - Between expanding voting it or suppressing it, there aren’t simply two sides

Georgia Gov. Brain Kemp (R) signed a Republican-backed election bill into law on Thursday that contains sweeping changes to the state’s elections that already have voting rights advocates filing a legal challenge. These changes include introduction of new voter-ID requirements for absentee ballots, limitations on the use of ballot drop boxes, and more legislative control over the elections. And in a bad indication of the environment, state lawmaker Park Cannon, who is Black, was arrested and hauled into a police car after knocking on Kemp’s door during the bill signing.

In the 2020 election, Joe Biden became the first Democrat to win Georgia in a presidential election since 1992. And then in January, Democratic candidates Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff swept the state’s two Senate seats, taking the majority control of the U.S. Senate from the GOP. After an election season with historically high turnout across the country and Democratic wins heavily driven by Black voters support, Republicans in Georgia and across the country have now embarked on a coordinated effort to restrict access to voting.

But for some in the media, the issue of voting rights is just another political game between the parties, rather than an important struggle for constitutional rights.

Earlier on Thursday, for example, National Journal tweeted out an article that played the both-sides maneuver against coverage of congressional Democrats H.R. 1 bill, which passed the House on March 3 and is meant to protect voting rights, and Republican efforts to make voting more difficult.

Georgia isn’t just some “overheated” political play

Simply put, whether people can or cannot vote should not be viewed as equivalent positions in the course of political debate.

Politico, for example, had an item in Friday morning’s Playbook highlighting Thursday’s events in Georgia with the title, “Your Move, Democrats.”

YOUR MOVE, DEMOCRATS — “Sweeping changes to Georgia elections signed into law,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Gov. Brian Kemp quickly signed a vast rewrite of Georgia’s election rules into law Thursday, imposing voter ID requirements, limiting drop boxes and allowing state takeovers of local elections after last year’s close presidential race. Kemp finalized the bill just over an hour after it cleared the General Assembly, leaving no doubt about its fate amid public pressure against voting restrictions.

“Protesters outside the Capitol said the bill would disenfranchise voters, calling it ‘Jim Crow 2.0.’ State Rep. Park Cannon, D-Atlanta, was arrested by state Troopers after knocking on Kemp’s office door to try to witness the bill signing. He briefly interrupted his prepared remarks as Cannon was forcibly removed from the building by officers.”

National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar also tweeted that the Democrats’ “overheated” allegations of voter suppression might just spur on greater voter mobilization.

Kraushaar then remarked that “raising the flag of voter suppression is one of the more effective ways to turn out your base.” He quickly attracted some critical responses:

Kraushaar also claimed that the bill “doesn’t do nearly as much as advertised,” overlooking the political atmosphere in which far more extreme proposals have circulated and were changed only after vigorous public protest. Republican lawmakers unsuccessfully tried to abolish no-excuse absentee voting — available since 2005 and used heavily by Democratic voters in 2020 — and tried to curtail early voting on Sundays, which has traditionally been used by Black church leaders to mobilize voters. (Kraushaar simply noted that “Souls to the Polls remains in Georgia,” without any acknowledgement of just how hard people had worked on the ground to keep it.)

The fact that a less extreme bill passed is not simply a non-story if it followed weeks of controversy and efforts to prevent something even worse.

The Georgia legislation exists because of Democratic victories propelled by Black voters — plus Trump’s Big Lie

Kemp said after signing the bill: “There’s no doubt there were many alarming issues with how the election was handled, and those problems, understandably, led to a crisis of confidence in the ballot box here in Georgia.”

Of course, this “crisis of confidence” about the 2020 election result exists because it was stirred up by Fox News, other right-wing media, and Republican politicians and activists pushing the Big Lie advanced by former President Donald Trump that the election was stolen from him. Most notoriously in Georgia’s case, Trump threatened Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, with prosecution if he did not help to reverse Biden’s victory in the state.

And now, this new law strips the secretary of state of their position as the chair of the state board of elections. Instead, a majority of the board will now be appointed by the legislature, and the board will have the ability to suspend and replace local county elections officials.

Georgia Public Broadcasting notes that the law caps the number of counties where the state board could replace the local officials at four. This number may be enough to take control of the counties with larger populations where both Joe Biden and the new Democratic senators carried their victories with overwhelming margins in the Atlanta metro area.

And perhaps most notoriously, the new law makes it a crime to give food or water to voters waiting in lines. The important context here is that voters in Georgia, especially in minority communities, had to wait in line for up to 11 hours to vote last year. Academic studies have also shown that “relative to entirely-white neighborhoods, residents of entirely-black neighborhoods waited 29% longer to vote and were 74% more likely to spend more than 30 minutes at their polling place.”

Simply put, urban areas with large minority populations are routinely not given enough resources and polling places, thus causing them to have to wait in line for much longer in order to vote. Though the new law does take some steps to correct this longstanding problem, a person might be suspicious at why delivering any basic rations to people in long lines that might still exist would also be forbidden.

And that particular provision has people calling for more civil disobedience in the 2022 elections — which could potentially result in yet more arrests. 

Media's War On The People

The Murdoch/Fox War On The People

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