Bill O’Reilly: Some Students ‘Too Stupid to Vote’
Who gets to vote?
In the United States, under-privileged groups including women, African Americans, and non-property holders have slowly gained that right. Is it time to backtrack on that progress?
That’s what Fox News pundit Bill O'Reilly seemed to argue on the Jan. 4 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, claiming that Voter ID laws are an intelligence test—and that if students don't have the time to figure out or register for absentee ballots in their home state, they simply don't deserve to vote.
“Look, if they don't know they can vote absentee, they're too stupid to vote," O'Reilly said. “We have a process, if you go out of state on Election Day you can vote, and if they don't know about it, tough."
The clip, via Media Matters:
O'Reilly also seemed confused about whether college students were required to have government-issued IDs, whether student IDs are valid under most Voter ID laws, or both.
“Wait, wait...you have to have an ID to go to college," O'Reilly said. “You have to have it.”
UPDATE: It seems such rhetoric is a hot topic on Fox News, with fellow pundit Jon Stossel saying that young Americans "are dumb or don't pay attention, and they shouldn't vote," ThinkProgress reports. Tanya Somanader writes:
Of course, young voters were very informed on salient issues that matter to them in 2008. And, according to seven separate polls, Fox News viewers — whose average age is in the mid-60s — appear perpetually misinformed. So unless he’s advocating for his own audience stay away from the polls, perhaps it’s Stossel who should just stay away from democracy entirely.
Meanwhile, hidden-camera activist James O’Keefe, who rose to prominence during the last few years by releasing damaging (if dishonestly edited) footage of ACORN employees and NPR executives, employed similar tactics in New Hampshire, trying to obtain ballots using the names of recently-deceased individuals. They succeeded in a handful of cases, though at least one activist was discovered and fled the scene. Officials in the state have since called for O’Keefe’s impersonators to be prosecuted for voter fraud.
What O'Keefe's newest video mainly demonstrates is that election fraud on a scale that could influence results—especially on an individual basis—would be impractical and risky. In any case, it's an emotional appeal to an almost nonexistent problem.
And that cuts to the heart of Voter ID laws: They are anti-fraud efforts in name only. It's clear that the goal is to disenfranchise inconvenient segments of the voting population.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, speaking at an event in South Carolina commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, defended recent Justice Department efforts to preserve voting rights in the tradition of fighting for ballot access through the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
“Protecting the right to vote, ensuring meaningful access, and combating discrimination must be viewed not only as a legal issue—but as a moral imperative,” Holder said.“And ensuring that every eligible citizen has the right to vote must become our common cause.”
The Justice Department's initiatives are relatively moderate. Consumer rights activist and frequent third-party presidential candidate Ralph Nader hosted a debate last year on the merits and dangers of mandatory voting, which has been adopted in countries including Singapore and Australia.
Jon Christian is a reporter with Campus Progress. Follow him on Twitter @Jon_Christian.
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