We lost the state of Michigan because everybody from Republicans to Russians were targeting the suppression of African American voters.”
— Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), in remarks during the second Democratic primary debate, July 31
These remarks jumped out at us during the second night of the debate, but we wanted to spend a little time digging into this before rendering a verdict on Booker’s accuracy.
There is substantial evidence that Russia tried to discourage African Americans from going to polls in 2016 via social media. In some states, Republicans arguably have tried to use tactics such as voter identification laws to prevent or discourage people from voting — especially those who already are marginalized and less likely to vote, such as minority communities.
But what’s the evidence that this perfect storm happened in Michigan in 2016 and denied the state’s electoral college votes to the Democrats?…
“There is certainly credibility to the idea that Russians targeted African Americans to suppress their vote. There’s lots of evidence of that from the reports on Russian use of social media (such as in reports submitted to the Senate Intelligence Committee). It is also true that Republican legislatures and election officials in some states have passed laws and enacted procedures that appear aimed at making it harder for likely Democrats to vote, and African Americans are the most reliable Democratic voters,” said Richard L. Hasen, professor of law and political science at the University of California at Irvine. “But I have seen no evidence that the extent of these activities in the state of Michigan were responsible for the depression of turnout in the African American community such that it swung the vote in Michigan to Trump.”
The Booker campaign supplied us with a number of links about Russian and GOP activities, but none demonstrated that the purported suppression activities delivered Michigan to Trump.