Elsewhere, small-circulation publications have positively contributed to the ongoing story. The Royal Oak Daily-Tribune on September 20th ran one of the few pieces I found that acknowledged what happens when a citizen checks the “no” box on Johnson’s forms, beyond being read a statement and issued a ballot. (The application form will be displayed on a computer when the individual visits any SOS branch for any reason, and if the SOS staff member sees “no” checked, he or she forwards it to the local clerk and the voter is removed from the rolls.) The Southgate Times-Herald’s editorial board on September 15th argued that the lack of voter participation is a far bigger issue than voter fraud. And even as The Holland Sentinel’s editorial board ultimately argued that the citizenship question is not the battle voting rights advocates should be picking, its September 20th editorial highlighted how the most significant recent cases of voter fraud in Michigan have involved not citizens but legislators.
The Lansing State Journal ran a short piece on September 24th about how the citizenship question may stifle Latino voters, pegging it to a new report by The Advancement Project, a national civil rights group. Given the heat of the political conversation on immigration, it seems like this is an intuitive tie-in to the emergence of the citizenship question, and it’s a wonder that more outlets haven’t picked up on it, especially since the immigration story plays out elsewhere in these very same outlets.
There’s still room to report this story, however, as the LSJ article does not go very far, and does not give readers resources to explore further—the name of The Advancement Project report is not even mentioned, or linked in the online edition. While the piece mentions that only 68,000 of 171,100 eligible Latino citizens voted in Michigan’s 2010 election, it doesn’t offer any other demographic numbers to put that in perspective, or even compare it to the ratio of Latino voters in the August primary, when voters encountered the citizenship box. When I dug up the report—it’s called ”Segregating American Citizenship: Latino Disenfranchisement in 2012”—and its press materials, I found it exclaiming that “voter suppression laws could disenfranchise 10 million Latino voters in 2012.” That’s a large number. And a ridiculous one. It is nearly half the entire population of
Latino citizens in the US eligible Latino voters in the US. The estimate seems to come from counting the total number of Hispanic citizens of voting age in all 23 states examined in the report.
The Lansing State Journal piece might have brought rigor to The Advancement Project’s claims. It might have offered a reasonable interrogation into how the citizenship question affects Michigan’s Latino voters, or examined more seriously the barriers faced by Hispanic voters, or connected the citizenship question at the Michigan polls to national immigration politics. It does not. As a result, the piece feels more theoretical than reported, and, with a statement from the SOS office to counter claims by the Advancement Project, it devolves into the circularity of he-said, she-said.
While gaps in the voter fraud story in Michigan remain, the swarming of its media around the issue provides, collectively, fairly cohesive coverage in a state not particularly known for its cohesive politics. But serious omissions remain. In the final month before Election Day, Michigan reporters and editorialists have their work cut out for them.
Correction: The original version of this post reported that 10 million is “nearly half the entire population of Latino citizens in the US.” In fact, 10 million is nearly half the entire population of eligible Latino voters in the US. The relevant sentence has been corrected. CJR regrets the error.