TAMPA, Fla. – A radical group funded by billionaire George Soros that has a history of biased research is primarily behind a national campaign to paint voter ID laws as racist.
The voter ID data collected by the group, the Brennan Center for Justice, has been called into question by experts and has been contradicted by other credible studies. Yet the center’s information is cited widely by news media and even members of the Obama administration.
Besides receiving a reported $7.4 million from Soros’ Open Society Institute since 2000, the Brennan Center was also the recipient of grants from the Joyce Foundation from 2000 to 2003. President Obama served on the Joyce board from 1994 through 2002.
The Brennan Center is located at New York University School of Law. Its primary focus is so-called voting rights and creating a “living constitution” as well as pushing for a “living wage.”
In November 2006, the Brennan Center issued “Citizens Without Proof,” an extensive report that claimed voter ID policies will disfranchise millions of minority, elderly and low-income voters because those voting blocs are less likely to possess documentation than the general population.
The report is routinely cited by news media and activists seeking to prove voter ID is racist. Just yesterday, MSNBC featured two segments citing the Brennan Center information as evidence the GOP is attempting to block minorities from voting by pushing ID laws.
Articles this week by the Huffington Post, Bloomberg News and the Baltimore Sun also cited the Brennan research.
The National Center for Public Policy Research notes that in its report on voter ID measures, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or NAACP, “relied heavily” on Brennan Center’s work.
Also last month, Politifact used the Brennan Center’s 2006 report to support Attorney General Eric Holder’s claim that 25 percent of African-Americans lack government-issued photo ID.
GroupSnoop.org, a website run by the National Center for Public Policy Research, recently posted a new profile of the Brennan Center that documents how its voter ID information is highly questionable and may be based on biased data.
In August 2011, Hans A. von Spakovsky and Alex Ingram of the Heritage Foundation critiqued the Brennan report, finding it is “both dubious in its methodology and results and suspect in its sweeping conclusions.”
According to the Heritage Foundation report, the Brennan Center used biased questioning to obtain their desired result concerning minority voters – a result that is actually contradicted by footnotes buried in the Brennan report itself.
“By eschewing many of the traditional scientific methods of data collection and analysis, the authors of the Brennan Center study appear to have pursued results that advance a particular political agenda rather than the truth about voter identification,” write Von Spakovsky and Ingram.
Heritage points out that the Brennan Center’s report was based entirely on one survey of only 987 “voting age American citizens.” However the report contained no information on how the survey determined whether a respondent was actually an American citizen.
Heritage found the Brennan survey used the responses of the 987 individuals to estimate the number of Americans without valid documentation based on the 2000 Census calculations of citizen voting-age population. Those Census figures, noted Heritage, “contain millions of U.S. residents who are ineligible to vote, thus contributing to the study’s overestimation of voters without a government-issued identification.”
Heritage charged the survey questions used in the Brennan Center’s report “are also suspect and appear to be designed to bolster the report’s biased findings.”
Brennan, for example, did not ask respondents whether they had government-issued IDs, but instead asked whether respondents had “readily available identification.”
“By asking whether such ID could be found ‘quickly’ or shown ‘tomorrow,’ the study seems to be trying to elicit a particular response: that those surveyed do not have ID,” noted Heritage.
The Brennan study is undermined by some of its own footnotes.
One footnote states that “[t]he survey did not yield statistically significant results for differential rates of possession of citizenship documents by race, age, or other identified demographic factors.” That footnote appears to contradict the very premise of the Brennan report.
Another footnote relates that 135 respondents “indicated that they had both a U.S. birth certificate and U.S. naturalization papers. This most likely indicates confusion on the part of the respondents.” In other words, Heritage notes, nearly 14 percent of the respondents provided contradictory answers.
The Brennan study further did not ask any of its participants whether they had student or tribal ID cards even though in some states like Arizona and Georgia, such cards are acceptable for the purpose of voting.
Heritage cited numerous studies that directly contradict the Brennan report, studied not widely cited by the news media in the voter ID debate.
Such studies include:
- An American University survey in Maryland, Indiana, and Mississippi found that less than one-half of 1 percent of registered voters lacked a government-issued ID. Therefore, the study correctly concluded that “a photo ID as a requirement of voting does not appear to be a serious problem in any of the states.”
- A 2006 survey of more than 36,000 voters found that only “23 people in the entire sample—less than one-tenth of one percent of reported voters” were unable to vote because of an ID requirement.”
Brennan has a history of questionable research.
The center was at the heart of a national scandal in 2002 after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance act. The attorneys defending McCain-Feingold had reportedly based key portions of their case on research provided by the Brennan Center – research, Discover the Networks notes, that may have been “deliberately faked,” according to Weekly Standard editor David Tell.
Tell quoted Brennan Center political scientist Jonathan Krasno admitting in his funding proposal to the Pew Charitable Trusts that the purpose of his group’s proposed study on campaign finance was for partisan political reasons.
Wrote Tell: “‘Issue Advocacy: Amassing the Case for Reform,’ dated February 19, 1999, explained that `[t]he purpose of our acquiring the data set is not simply to advance knowledge for its own sake, but to fuel a continuous multi-faceted campaign to propel campaign reform forward.’ Dispassionate academic inquiry was so alien to the spirit of the thing that Brennan promised to suspend its work midstream, pre-publication, if the numbers turned out wrong. `Whether we proceed to phase two will depend on the judgment of whether the data provide a sufficiently powerful boost to the reform movement.’”
Tell claimed Brennan researchers “deliberately faked” their results.
With additional research by Brenda J. Elliott