Don’t Buy the Brennan Center’s Propaganda

In the wake of last Tuesday’s disaster for Democrats, the Brennan Center was quick to argue (or at least strongly insinuate) that newly implemented photo ID and ballot integrity laws were to blame for some key Democrat losses. Wendy Weiser, writing for Brennan, wrote about North Carolina, Kansas, Florida, and Virginia and how the “margin of victory came very close to the likely margin of disenfranchisement.” Weiser’s proof consists of anecdotal reports from the volume of calls to the “Election Protection” call center and already discredited cherry-picked statistics. Weiser strongly insinuated that these laws may have made the difference and, as usually what happens with Brennan Center’s propaganda, the argument is now being regurgitated by press outlets such as the The Washington Post, Columbus Dispatch and pundits likeAndrew Sullivan. For example, the Post writes that “[v]oter suppression laws are already deciding elections.” Fortunately, at least one national press outlet is pushing back. Francis Berry writing for Bloomberg and who is admittedly against these laws writes:

A day after the election, Wendy Weiser at the Brennan Center for Justice argued that “in several key races, the margin of victory came very close to the likely margin of disenfranchisement.” She cited the Senate race in North Carolina as one example; here’s the gist of her argument: Four years ago, 200,000 ballots were cast during seven days of early voting that the state has since eliminated. The state also ended Election Day registration, which 100,000 North Carolinians took advantage of in 2012, almost one-third of them black. In last week’s election, since Republican Thom Tillis’s margin of victory over Democratic Senator Kay Hagan was about 48,000 votes, Weiser implies that Hagan lost because so many (Democratic) voters were kept away from the polls. 


Weiser’s argument has been picked up by other voting-rights advocates and pundits, but it falls apart upon closer scrutiny. Even with seven fewer days, early voting in North Carolina increased this year compared with 2010 -- by 35 percent.


Statewide turnout also increased from the previous midterm election, to 44.1 percent from 43.7 percent. Even if turnout was lower than it would have been without the new voting law -- something that's impossible to establish -- it was still higher than it had been in four of the five previous midterm elections, going back to 1994.


In addition, based on exit polls and voter turnout data, the overall share of the black vote increased slightly compared with 2010.


Rick Hasen, an expert on election law, says he's skeptical about Weiser’s analysis, and rightly so. When voting-rights advocates fail to include any balancing points in their discussion of the election, they undercut their credibility and give ammunition to Republicans who suspect that they are mostly interested in electing Democrats.


It’s long past time that the press and other supposed objective outlets stop quoting Brennan Center as some neutral academic research institution whose arguments and statistics should be taken at face value without significant scrutiny. They are agenda-driven and in this instance have irresponsibly attempted to cast doubt on the credibility of the election. The truth is these laws haven’t disenfranchised voters nor have they artificially impacted the results of the election. It’s time the press starts doing its job in fact checking rather than parroting Brennan Center’s propaganda.