MSNBC Guest: Voter ID Reforms Are ‘Anti-American’

For over a year, the folks at MSNBC have been pushing a tired narrative that Republicans are engaged in a “war on voting.” Sadly, the rhetoric on MSNBC over “voter suppression” seemed to have taken an ugly turn on one of its flagship programs, Andrea Mitchell Reports.

On January 6, anchor Andrea Mitchell began her segment on voting rights lamenting how in 2013 “[t]he Supreme Court effectively gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act in June last year when the court struck down a key provision opening the door for states and localities to undo nearly a half century of voting rights gains.” Appearing alongside Ms. Mitchell was Sherrilyn Ifill of the NAACP who charged that new voting laws across the nation were “anti-American.”

Mitchell tipped her hand on the new voting security laws from the beginning, tagging such policies, “voting rights restrictions” and voicing her support for the NAACP’s efforts:

The NACCP and Legal Defense Fund now are spanning all of these states trying to fight and put out fires in all of these different local jurisdictions.

The MSNBC host failed to challenge her guest on some of her wild accusations such as Ms. Ifill’s claim that, “over [in] the South we're seeing in small towns and jurisdictions voter suppression efforts focused at small local elections” and that “you can imagine the kind of level of voter expression and disenfranchisement that's happening under the radar.”

In addition, Mitchell allowed Ifill to claim that local jurisdictions were reducing elected offices solely because they were represented by minorities:

In the city of Pasadena, Texas, the plan is to eliminate the two majority Latino council districts. The city of Beaumont, Texas, the plan is afoot to eliminate the majority black school board. Galveston, Texas has decided to eliminate half of the seats for constables and justices of the peace.

Ifill, who is the cousin of PBS's Gwen Ifill, provided no evidence that these seats were removed to reduce minority involvement in the electoral process, but Mitchell made no effort to push back against such highly charged accusations. Instead of challenging her guest, all Mitchell could manage was to ask the NAACP representative whether or not she saw a “legislative remedy” to new voting laws across the country.

Mitchell allowed her guest to conclude the segment by ranting:

What we see happening in our country right now, this is not the America any of us should want. This is about the preservation of our democracy and preserving the core identification of citizenship, which is the ability to vote and participate in the political process. And when we see this happening in these towns and counties all over the south, this is really anti-American.

 

 

See relevant transcript below.


MSNBC

ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS

JANUARY 6, 2014

1:34 p.m. Eastern

ANDREA MITCHELL: The Supreme Court effectively gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act in June last year when the court struck down a key provision opening the door for states and localities to undo nearly a half century of voting rights gains. 

JOHN LEWIS: In the 11 states that are all confederacy and even in some of the states outside of the south there have been a systemic deliberate attempt to take us back to another period. We must not forget our past. We must not forget our history. If we forget it, we will repeat it. The vote is precious, it is sacred. 

MITCHELL: Well, Sherrilyn Ifill is the President and Director Council of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and joins me now from New York to talk about the broader impact of voting rights restrictions in local contests. Sherrilyn it’s great to see you. Thanks so much for being with us.  

SHERRILYN IFILL: Thank you. 

MITCHELL: We heard a lot in the ensuing months about Texas and North Carolina and some of the state restrictions but as you and I have been discussing off camera, there is a local impact of some of these voting rights cases and what the Supreme Court did. Let's talk about the map and some of the restrictions that have been passed. 

IFILL: Well you know Andrea, I think it all can be summed up with the words of the Florida Secretary of State who said just a few days after the decision, we're free and clear now. And all over the south we're seeing in small towns and jurisdictions voter suppression efforts focused at small local elections. In the city of Pasadena, Texas, the plan is to eliminate the two majority Latino council districts. The city of Beaumont, Texas, the plan is afoot to eliminate the majority black school board. Galveston, Texas has decided to eliminate half of the seats for constables and justices of the peace. And Andrea, this one strikes home for me because I actually litigated the case 20 years ago that created those majority black constables and justice of peace seats and allowed black voters to elect candidates of their chose to those positions for first time. So we're really seeing precisely what Congressman Lewis talked about, an effort to basically turn back the clock. 

MITCHELL: And of course at the time what the court decided upon and what people supporting the court decision said was that the south has changed and it's a new south. And we don't have to worry about these things. Let's talk about Georgia for instance and some of the cases in Georgia. Because the NACCP and Legal Defense Fund now are spanning all of these states trying to fight and put out fires in all of these different local jurisdictions. 

IFILL: You cannot imagine what it's been like for community activists and for voting rights attorneys. My team at the Legal Defense Fund has been in the south essentially all summer trying to stave off some of this. In Georgia there have been multiple efforts in counties to eliminate polling places. Baker County in southern Georgia proposed eliminating four of their five polling places. Morgan County eliminated a third of its polling places. And finally, the city of Athens decided to eliminate almost all of their 24 polling places save for two and those two polling places would be placed within police stations. It was only the community really rising up and lawyers coming down and resisting these efforts that have allowed some of these plans to be pushed back. But if you can multiply these towns that I’m describing and counties that I’m describing and multiply them times the hundreds, you can imagine the kind of level of voter expression and disenfranchisement that's happening under the radar. Everybody knows about the omnibus voter suppression bill passed in North Carolina. Everybody knows about the Texas voter I.D. Law and those are important. But what people don't know about are all of these microsuppression efforts happening in towns, counties and cities all over the south. 

MITCHELL: Do you see a legislative remedy? 

IFILL: We're hopeful. We’re very hopeful. The good news is that we really believe there's bipartisan support for amending the Voting Rights Act to try and deal with some of these issues. Ongoing discussions have been happening almost since the Supreme Court's decision. We've been very heartened by public stance of Congressman Sensenbrenner and we’re hoping that his colleagues, several Republican colleagues, will stand with him along with Democratic leadership. The Voting Rights Act has always been bipartisan and we really believe that that legacy is really important to continue. What we see happening in our country right now, this is not the America any of us should want. This is about the preservation of our democracy and preserving the core identification of citizenship, which is the ability to vote and participate in the political process. And when we see this happening in these towns and counties all over the south, this is really anti-American. And our expectation is that a majority of our United States Congress as they have in the past overwhelmingly will stand against this kind of practice. 

Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center.