FACT CHECK: 4 Questionable Claims From Hillary Clinton At Events Commemorating ‘Bloody Sunday’ In Selma

Emily Larsen | Fact Check Reporter

Former Secretary of State and two-time presidential candidate Hillary Clinton made several claims about voter turnout, anti-lynching legislation and former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams at two events commemorating the 1965 Selma civil rights march known as “Bloody Sunday.”

Clinton received an award on March 3 at the Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King Unity Breakfast and delivered remarks at the annual commemorative service in Selma, Alabama.

Here are four checks on her claims.

Claim 1: “I was the first person who ran for president without the protection of the Voting Rights Act, and I will tell you, it makes a really big difference. And it doesn’t just make a difference in Alabama and Georgia. It made a difference in Wisconsin, where the best studies that have been done said somewhere between 40 and 80 thousand people were turned away from the polls because of the color of their skin, because of their age, because of whatever excuse could be made up to stop a fellow American citizen from voting,” Clinton said at the commemorative service.

The Supreme Court struck down part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act in 2013, allowing states to change election laws without advance approval from the federal government. The ruling did not apply to Wisconsin specifically, but the state does have one of the strictest voter ID laws in the country. (RELATED: Do Millions Of Americans Not Have Government Photo ID?)

President Donald Trump narrowly won Wisconsin in the 2016 election with 22,748 more votes than Clinton.

A spokesperson for Clinton, Nick Merrill, did not provide responses to our questions when asked for comment, but he pointed The Washington Post to multiple studies to back up Clinton’s claim about those turned away from the polls.

A 2017 study from a University of Wisconsin–Madison professor found that up to 23,252 people in Wisconsin’s two most populous counties were deterred from voting in the 2016 election because of the state’s voter ID law. Merrill told WaPo that extrapolating statewide, that translates to as many as 45,000 voters.

The study, however, notes that its findings “cannot be extrapolated to the state of Wisconsin as a whole.” Its 23,252 figure includes people who were not necessarily “turned away” from the polls, but mention lack of ID as a reason they did not vote.

About 6 percent of voters in the counties, translating to 9,001 people, were “prevented” from voting because they lacked ID or cited ID as the main reason they did not vote, the study said.

An analysis that Merrill pointed to from Priorities USA, a Democratic Party super PAC, suggested that Wisconsin would have seen 200,000 more voters in 2016 if not for its voter ID law. It did not, however, measure the number of voters who were “turned away” from the polls.

The Survey of the Performance of American Elections asked 200 registered voters in each state and the District of Columbia about their experience at the polls. It found that 0.78 percent of those in Wisconsin were turned away from the polls when they tried to vote.

Claim 2: “Between 2012, the prior presidential election where we still had the Voting Rights Act, and 2016, when my name was on the ballot, there were fewer voters registered in Georgia than there had been those prior four years,” Clinton said at the commemorative service.

“And you know, when I ran in 2016, there were fewer registered voters in Georgia than there had been in 2012. The state had been growing, jobs and investment and people had been coming, but somehow there were fewer voters,” she said at the unity breakfast.

The number of registered voters and votes cast in Georgia were higher in 2016, contrary to Clinton’s claim. The state’s election data show 14,066 more registered voters, 246,050 more ballots cast and a voter turnout that was 4.34 percentage points higher in 2016 compared to 2012.

Georgia saw 5.43 million registered voters and 3.92 million ballots cast in 2012, a voter turnout of 72.19 percent. In 2016, the number of registered voters increased to 5.44 million, and 4.17 million people cast ballots, resulting in a 76.53 percent voter turnout.

Claim 3: “[Stacey Abrams] rolled up her sleeves, and she registered over 300,000 black voters,” Clinton said at the unity breakfast.

Abrams, a former Democratic state representative, founded the New Georgia Project in 2013. The organization aimed to get 800,000 people of color in Georgia registered to vote.

Nse Ufot, executive director of the New Georgia Project, told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an email that the group has submitted voter registration applications for over 300,000 people in all 159 of Georgia’s counties, including over 10,000 in 2019 alone.

“While we focus the bulk of our efforts in communities of color, we register all Georgians of all races to vote,” Ufot said.

Of the applications the New Georgia Project has submitted, it is unclear how many resulted in new registrations on the Georgia voter rolls. Ufot said that that the group is running an analysis to determine how many of its forms have been accepted by the state.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that about 22,000 registrations submitted in 2014 were not on government voter lists by fall 2015 because they were duplicates or election officials could not verify names, birth dates or addresses. Some of the applications submitted by the organization included previously inactive voters and voters who had changed addresses.

Claim 4: “Last December, nearly 90 years after [black journalist and early civil rights leader Ida B. Wells-Barnett] died, the United States Senate unanimously passed legislation that made lynching a federal crime. Congress had considered more than 200 anti-lynching bills and never before last December passed one,” Clinton said at the unity breakfast.

The Senate passed a bill making lynching a federal hate crime in December. Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris re-introduced the bill for the new 116th Congress, and the Senate passed it again in February.

The bill states that “nearly 200 anti-lynching bills were introduced in Congress during the first half of the 20th century.” The House of Representatives did, however, pass three “strong anti-lynching measures” between 1920 and 1940, it says, but the measures failed in the Senate and did not become law.

December was the first instance of anti-lynching legislation passing the Senate, a press release from Harris said.

Republican Rep. Leonidas C. Dyer first introduced the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill, which became the basis for subsequent anti-lynching measures in 1918. In July 2018, Quartz counted 240 anti-lynching measures dating back to 1901.

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Emily Larsen

Fact Check Reporter