The fight over the next election is already underway. And it needs to be a focal point of the news media’s coverage in the months to come, because voting rights is the story that affects every other story.
“While the physical attack on January 6 was well covered by the media, the equally damaging legal assault on voting has received relatively little attention,” Marc Elias, chair of Perkins Coie’s Political Law Group, told me.
Elias, a longtime Democratic voting rights lawyer, said he believes the “attack on voting rights” is “the most under-reported story right now.”
False balance in voting coverage?
Here’s the argument Elias made to me: “The typical structure of a story on voting rights thus becomes (1) Republicans are passing an unprecedented number of new voting restrictions; (2) Democrats and civil rights groups claim they will harm voters; (3) Republicans say its necessary to protect election integrity. In that structure, only the first of these is treated as a fact. They second and third are the competing claims of each side. This formula leads news outlets to report ‘big’ pieces about voting rights, with lots of facts and figures (section 1), followed by quotes from each side (sections 2 and 3).”
Elias said stories about First Amendment infringements are covered differently — without the both-sides structure — and that’s how voting rights should be approached too. Don’t view this “as a political story,” he argued, it’s a story “about our democracy.”
Reporters should ask for specifics
Morrell, of The Elections Group, said “one of the most important things media need to do here is really push on these legislators who are claiming that they’re making these changes to increase voter confidence or to further secure the way voting is conducted.” Get specific, Morrell said, and see if they have any evidence — or if they’re just laundering the Big Lie from last year.