Voter suppression and the American Legislative Exchange Council

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Voter suppression and the American Legislative Exchange Council
This is a rush transcript and may not be in its final form. Some non-grammatical forms have been edited to conform more with the apparent intent than the exact verbiage, and links and notes have been added. Anyone finding errors or confusing statements is invited to correct them here or raise them in the accompanying "Discuss" page or add updates in notes and / or subsequent sections.
This is a transcript of a videoconference on 2020-08-13 with David Armiak,[1] research director with the Center for Media and Democracy,[2] discussing activities of the American Legislative Exchange Council relating to voter suppression.

Context[edit | edit source]

Brief excerpts from this discussion were part of an hour broadcast on 90.1 FM, KKFI, Kansas City Community Radio, 2020-08-13. See also Electoral integrity in the United States, which combines this with two other related interviews: on "Five categories of voter suppression" and "Election integrity, the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, and the Kansas ACLU".

Interview[edit | edit source]

Spencer Graves 00:00

Mack Heller[3] said that, "It's almost like somebody had a plan." In fact, the Center for Media and Democracy in Madison, Wisconsin, has studied that question. And David Armiak is their research director. David, can you comment on that?

David Armiak 00:17

Yes. So ALEC, has, you know, for many years,

Spencer Graves 00:23

And ALEC is?

David Armiak 00:24

ALEC is, I'm sorry, the American Legislative Exchange Council, which is a right wing group, a pay-to-play operation, that brings together corporate lobbyists, together with state legislators to consider model policies. And, in fact, vote as equals behind doors without public scrutiny, and so-called task forces on typical model bills, bringing those back to their respective state houses for introduction. These meetings often happen at four or five star resorts with, you know, security outside, again, you know, without any public scrutiny for the most part. And back in 2009, ALEC had task force called the public safety and elections task force that has since been disbanded, because it was it became well known due to our investigations that this group was, you know, responsible for the Stand-your-ground law that resulted in Trayvon Martin's death. And so after all the controversy and CMB's investigation into this and reporting into this

Spencer Graves 01:47

CMB: Center for Media and Democracy?

David Armiak 01:49

Correct. I'll probably throw out a lot of acronyms. I apologize for that. But yes, so you know, we were, you know, the the main force in exposing this and connecting ALEC to the Trayvon Martin's tragedy and the spread of Stand-your-ground laws. And after that ALEC made a decision to disband that task force.

David Armiak 02:12

But that task force not only produced this type of bill, and mandatory minimum sentencing laws, for example, but also, you know, was responsible in 2009 for passing a model bill on voter ID, which, you know, is, I believe, the bill that, forgive me, I forgot his name, but probably

Spencer Graves 02:15

Kris Kobach of Kansas.

David Armiak 02:20

Yes, so,

Spencer Graves 02:38

I'm familiar with Kris Kobach.

David Armiak 02:41

Well, Kris Kobach. I mean, this bill has spread. But what it does (right?) is it serves to disenfranchise mainly low income, minority, elderly and student voters, right, who do not have driver's license or many of them don't have driver's licenses. You know, some do, but many don't, right? You know, the model bill provides for free IDs. But the problem is, in many states, these offices are not easy to get to, right? And in some states, they purposely moved these offices away from public transportation, which is needed by or often used by these groups that don't have tons of money, right? And so, you know, taking the time to get an ID is burdensome, you know. You might lose your job, if you need to get an ID, you know, between the hours of eight and four, or whenever the office is open, right? You know, some of these bills are, I think the ALEC bill, as I recall, you know, allows for the casting of a provisional ballot without an ID. But the voter still has to go back and present an ID within a week. Otherwise their vote won't be counted, which is not really, you know, easy for many folks, right?

David Armiak 03:57

Wisconsin's bill went even further. And this was, we believe, based off of the ALEC one. But it required that the driver's license or identification card has a permanent current address. You know, so even if the ID isn't expired, if your addresses isn't current on the ID, you can't use that to vote. So it makes it really difficult for students, right? You know, students are moving around. You know, a university student moves, possibly every year if not every semester, right? And also low income individuals, who are often renting, right? You know, so these bills are purposely designed, you know, to disenfranchise. And they're probably the most, you know, well known example of ALEC's effort.

David Armiak 04:42

More recently, ALEC, you know, held and the Center for Media and Democracy was the first to obtain this invitation, but back on June 9 of 2020, they held an exclusive call for members on mail-in voting with the Honest Elections Project. The Honest Elections Project is a dark money voter-suppression group formed in February 2020 that is a project of Leonard Leo's 85 Fund. The 85 Fund used to called the Judicial Education Project.[4] And Leonard Leo's network is the one that is responsible for the right-wing capturing of our courts. And the judges that sit on many of our federal benches including, you know, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, who were seated under President Trump. They are opposing mail-in balloting. We know, you know, in recent days, this is something that the Trump administration has been trying to work on, right, and changing the Postmaster General. And we believe, you know, that ALEC is deeply involved in this, as well. It's unclear exactly what the Honest Elections project, you know, informed the ALEC membership on during this webinar, but in other places we do know that they are oppposing mail-in balloting. They took out a $250,000 TV ad to oppose mail-in balloting on many of the major networks. And, you know, this is something that, you know, we disagree with, and, you know, folks at the Brennan Center, for example, also disagree with.

Spencer Graves 06:24

So there are surveys called the AmericasBarometer and Afrobarometer that look at questions of voter fraud and people being paid to vote a certain way or are either get some inducement or some threat, you know, if they don't vote a certain way, you know, well, we'll beat you up or will fire you or you won't get food or whatever. All right, and something like 15 or 16% of respondents in Latin America and Africa have said that they were either threatened or offer some inducement.[5] I assume that's largely the thing of the past [in the US], and if it were happening in the United States, we'd know about it. Right?

David Armiak 07:22

Yeah. I mean, you know, all indications show that, you know, things like mail-in balloting, which is very similar to absentee balloting, are incredibly safe. You know, and

Spencer Graves 07:34

In the United States. That maybe is not true in Latin America and Africa.

David Armiak 07:39

Yeah. But in the United States, you know, with the Postal Service and certified mail, right, in general, we have seen, you know, very little fraud. There's been few documentations. And I should, you know, mention that the right wing is trying to amplify anything they can find on this, you know. And the head of the Honest Elections Project is a man by In the name of Jason Snead.[6] He was a former senior policy analyst for the Heritage Foundation, where he was tasked with developing Heritage's election fraud database,[7] which doesn't really have a whole lot of entries, when you compare, you know, it to how many people have voted in the last few election cycles, you know, in terms of percentage.

David Armiak 08:23

Both ALEC and, you know, state legislators that introduce ALEC bills often rely upon, you know, this vast right wing network of so-called think tanks that produce you know, research studies, right, that are not, you know, academically rigorous, you know. And when they are held up to academic standards or, you know, you know, professors from local universities go and look at state policy network studies, or, you know, their affiliates or or associate members that you know, they often find, you know, methodology issues, right? And jumps to conclusions, right? You know, for lack of a better word here or a better phrase. And, you know, I think that this is a huge problem. But it's, you know, part of this, you know, vast right wing infrastructure that very wealthy individuals in this state have created, funded and maintain in order to push their, you know, policy goals to create this warped vision for America that they have, right? Folks like Charles Koch. Folks like, you know, the Bradley Foundation. Folks like the stair Skyy Foundation(?), Adolph Coors Foundation. I mean, all of these, you know, sort of right wing foundations with loads of cash and

Spencer Graves 09:51

Loads of cash that they would not have if we had honest media, did a more honest job in exposing it.

David Armiak 09:58

If you have any other needs in the future, please contact us at the Center for Media and democracy. I'll just say in closing, you know, we maintain a number of sites. and are our main blogs, where we publish our original research. And we also have featured documents on those sites. We maintain the SourceWatch wiki,[8] which is a very large wiki used by journalists and researchers around the world. And we, of course, maintain, which hosts the largest volume of ALEC bills, because ALEC has sought over the years to distance themselves from some of these more controversial bills. All of those are on our ALEC Exposed wiki including information on corporate that are members, trade groups that are members and state pages, which, you know, highlight, you know, state legislative members. And we update all of these pages regularly for the public and researchers and academics.

See also[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. David Armiak, Wikidata Q98382778
  2. Center for Media and Democracy, Wikidata Q5059762
  3. Mac Heller, Wikidata Q98114624
  4. "Revealed: conservative group fighting to restrict voting tied to powerful dark money network",, 27 May 2020, ISSN 1756-3224, Wikidata Q98386065.
  5. Isabela Mares; Lauren Young (2016), "Buying, Expropriating, and Stealing Votes", Annual Review of Political Science, 19: 267–288, ISSN 1094-2939, Wikidata Q98387517.
  6. Jason Snead, Wikidata Q98388059.
  7. A Sampling of Recent Election Fraud Cases from Across the United States, Wikidata Q98388911
  8. SourceWatch, Wikidata Q599427