The mainstream media have treated Donald Trump’s claim that the election will be rigged against him as a dangerous threat to the very legitimacy of the American election system. And they’ve warned that his call for poll “observers” to prevent people in “certain parts” of Pennsylvania from voting “five times” reeks of intimidation. They’re right on both counts.
But at the same time, the corporate media, especially on television, have largely ignored the actual attempts to rig state and local elections across the country through laws that make it much harder for certain people to vote. Voter suppression—that Republican-generated roster of voting restrictions that disproportionately impact minorities, students, and other traditionally Democratic voters–comes in many guises. There are strict voter ID laws requiring hard-to-come-by documents; illegitimate purges of the voting rolls; hurdles to voter registration; cut backs on early voting days; reductions in polling places, often resulting in three- and four-hour lines. Courts have recently blocked or weakened restrictions in six states, but voter suppression in one form or another will likely affect hundreds of thousands of people in this, the first presidential election without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act, which was gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013
“The only reason that the Republicans can get away with a policy that is beyond unconscionable is that the MSM don’t really seem to care,” Neal Gabler wrote on BillMoyers.com. “More, Republicans count on the media not caring.”
Of course, not all media have ignored voter suppression. In addition to great work by local papers, you’ll find plenty of aggressive coverage in print and online, from the New York Times’s Michael Wines, who reported recently on how sheriff’s deputies in Sparta, GA, track down black people to question their registrations to MSNBC Digital national reporter Zachary Roth, author of The Great Suppression, who says there’s evidence to suggest that voter suppression can swing elections. “The best example might be the 2014 race in Texas’s only competitive congressional district, which the Republican won by just over 2,400 votes,” Roth told me. A Rice University study found that in the confusion and misinformation surrounding the state’s new voter ID law, some 14,000 registered voters in the Latino-majority district didn’t vote because they mistakenly believed they lacked the proper ID.