CNN Portrays Disabled Woman as Victim of Court’s Voter ID Decision

During a segment on Monday’s "The Situation Room," host Wolf Blitzer and CNN justice correspondent Kelli Arena framed the Supreme Court decision upholding Indiana’s "strict" voter ID law according to the liberal view (a law so "strict" that it calls for the voter show photo ID before voting). Arena’s report offered three critics of the decision to only one supporter, who happened to be Indiana’s Secretary of State. One of the three critics was a quadriplegic who apparently "had to pay more than $100 to get documentation to prove who she was" before getting an ID in Indiana. After Arena’s report, Blitzer tried to spin this as a decision by Republican-appointed justices, despite the fact it was John Paul Stevens, one of the Court’s most liberal members, who wrote the opinion. [audio available here]

Blitzer introduced Arena’s report by describing the decision as having "an enormous impact," and asked Arena to describe "the enormity of what the U.S. Supreme Court has decided." She then first harkened back to the Bush v. Gore decision in 2000. "The 2000 presidential race raised questions about election integrity. And Democrats say today's Supreme Court ruling may raise even more."

Arena then played three sound bites in a row of critics of the voter ID law. In the first sound bite, Donna Brazile charged that the "voter ID scam is a suppression tactic used by many people to undermine the right to vote in this country." In the second, Melissa Madill, identified as an "Indiana voting rights advocate," stated that it was "infuriating that people who really need to impact the system the most are being denied the right to do so." In the last sound bite, Karen Vaughn, who Arena introduced as "a quadriplegic who doesn't have a driver's license or a passport," and who "had to pay more than $100 to get documentation to prove who she was," accused the supporters of the law of not caring about people like her.

In the only sound bite from a supporter of the law, Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita explained that "[i]t's so easy for someone to claim that I'm -- that they're somebody else and steal an election that way." Arena then immediately countered this claim, citing two infamous liberal groups. "But there's little hard evidence to back that up. The ACLU and People for the American Way say there's evidence instead to suggest that disadvantaged voters will have a hard time. In past elections in Ohio and Florida, some voters reportedly complained that poll workers tried to turn them away even with proper ID." Of course, Arena didn’t say whether these reports were accurate.

After the end of Arena’s report, Blitzer made the following observation about the case:

NewsBusters.org - Media Research CenterBLITZER: [T]oday's 6-3 high court ruling reflects a splintered U.S. Supreme Court. Justice John Paul Stevens, the chief dissenter in Bush versus Gore, in that ruling back in 2000, wrote the majority opinion this time. He was appointed by Gerald Ford. The five other justices supporting the majority opinion include some of its most conservative members. All were nominated by Republican presidents. The three justices who dissented, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer -- all dissented in the Bush versus Gore court decision as well. Souter was nominated by the first President Bush; Ginsburg and Breyer were nominated by Bill Clinton.

Note how Blitzer pointed out how all six justices who upheld the voter ID law were "nominated by Republican presidents" and "include some of its most conservative members," despite Stevens’ reputation as a liberal. Also, the dissenters are merely identified as who nominated to the Court, and not as liberals.

The full transcript of Arena's report, which began five minutes into the 4 pm Eastern hour of Monday’s "The Situation Room," along with Blitzer's observation:

KELLI ARENA (voice-over): Remember this? Protests, hanging chads, charges of voter intimidation. The 2000 presidential race raised questions about election integrity. And Democrats say today's Supreme Court ruling may raise even more.

DONNA BRAZILE, DIRECTOR, DNC VOTING RIGHTS INST.: The voter ID scam is a suppression tactic used by many people to undermine the right to vote in this country.

ARENA: In upholding Indiana's strict voter ID law, the toughest in the nation, the high court cleared the way for other states to follow suit. Voting rights advocates say the impact will be felt most heavily among the poor, the elderly, minorities, people who tend to vote Democratic.

MELISSA MADILL, INDIANA VOTING RIGHTS ADVOCATE: It's actually infuriating. It's infuriating that people who really need to impact the system the most are being denied the right to do so.

ARENA: The hurdles are real for people like Karen Vaughn, a quadriplegic who doesn't have a driver's license or a passport. She had to pay more than $100 to get documentation to prove who she was.

NewsBusters.org - Media Research CenterKAREN VAUGHN, VOTING RIGHTS PLAINTIFF: They just don't care. We're unimportant.

ARENA: Indiana isn't the only state to require ID. More than 20 states ask voters to present identification, including most of the key battleground states. Election officials say the laws are necessary to prevent fraud.

TODD ROKITA, INDIANA SECRETARY OF STATE: It's so easy for someone to claim that I'm -- that they're somebody else and steal an election that way.

ARENA: But there's little hard evidence to back that up. The ACLU and People for the American Way say there's evidence instead to suggest that disadvantaged voters will have a hard time. In past elections in Ohio and Florida, some voters reportedly complained that poll workers tried to turn them away even with proper ID.

ARENA (on-camera): Now, state election officials say that they're working very hard to make sure everyone knows what the rules are, what kind of ID is accepted, so everyone will be ready in November. But some experts say the Democrats are just going to have to work a lot harder to make sure that their members are well informed -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Kelli, for that. A major decision. And today's 6-3 high court ruling reflects a splintered U.S. Supreme Court. Justice John Paul Stevens, the chief dissenter in Bush versus Gore, in that ruling back in 2000, wrote the majority opinion this time. He was appointed by Gerald Ford. The five other justices supporting the majority opinion include some of its most conservative members. All were nominated by Republican presidents.

The three justices who dissented, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer -- all dissented in the Bush versus Gore court decision as well. Souter was nominated by the first President Bush; Ginsburg and Breyer were nominated by Bill Clinton. Enormous ramifications potentially by this Supreme Court decision today. Much more on this story coming up later here in 'The Situation Room.'

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center