Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014–…): Season 3, Episode 1 - Voting - full transcript

John talks about the late Antonin Scalia and the Supreme Court, Chipotle's food safety problems, Voter IDs and New Zealand's economic development minister Steven Joyce.

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Welcome, welcome, welcome
to Last Week Tonight.

I'm John Oliver.
Thank you so much for joining us.

We are back, we are back.

And look, listen, listen, listen,
let me be honest right from the start:

we had prepared to start this show
with a fun recap

of everything that we've missed
in the past three months,

from the Iowa caucus
and the New Hampshire primary,

to this fucking asshole,

to Kanye denying that he enjoys
the presence of fingers in his butt.

It's been a busy three months
we've missed.

But then last night,



that all pretty much went out
the window, when this happened:

This is CNN Breaking News.

I have some very sad breaking news
just in to us here at CNN.

United States Supreme Court Justice
has died.

First: that is a rare case of CNN's
dramatic "Breaking News" banner

actually being justified. Because
normally it's reserved for

informing us that a man named Wolf
is going into a tunnel,

or that a major news event occurred
over a century ago.

And look, let's be honest:

there are a lot of strong feelings
surrounding Antonin Scalia,

but his death is the end of an era
on the Supreme Court.

He was a hugely significant justice,

and for the purposes of our Supreme
Court, an absolutely adorable bulldog.

So, obviously this is a very sad day
for his family and his friends.



And it's also a tough day for us here
at the show,

partly because I now have to murder
that dog.

You knew the deal, Pickles.
You signed the contract.

The fact is,

there is now a huge vacancy on the
Supreme Court that needs to be filled.

Or if you've listened to
the republicans in the past 24 hours,

not.

In an unprecedented move,

senator Mitch McConnell immediately
released a statement saying

this vacancy should not be
filled until we have a new president.

We're not going to give up the U.S.
Supreme Court for a generation

by allowing Barack Obama
to make one more liberal appointee.

I think it's up to Mitch McConnell,
and everybody else to stop it.

It's called delay, delay, delay.

Well, that does not bode well.

Because Mitch McConnell is pretty
good at delaying things for people,

whether it's legislation,
court appointments, or orgasms.

Believe me, if you ever need to
delay, delay, delay,

just picture that face, and I guarantee
you, nothing will happen.

Possibly for the rest of your life.

Now interestingly, a strange,
unwritten rule of the senate

is being cited
to justify this behavior.

There is an informal rule in the
Senate, called the Thurmond rule.

The rule that Strom Thurmond
put forward was,

no president in the last six months
of their presidency

should be able to appoint a judge
that has a lifetime appointment.

Yes, "the Strom Thurmond rule".
I'm not surprised there is one,

it's just I thought it would
always be about

the amount of hush-money required to
keep your secret family a secret.

Or how racist an old person can be
before their age is not an excuse.

But if Mitch McConnell does want to
evoke this rule,

he will need to be careful, because
during the George W. Bush years,

when democrats were trying to pull
this Thurmond Rule bullshit

to prevent lower-court appointments,
he was pretty categorical about it.

Our democratic colleagues continually
talk about the so-called Thurmond Rule,

under which the senate stops confirming
judges in a presidential election year.

This seeming obsession with this rule
that doesn't exist

is an excuse for our colleagues to run
out the clock on qualified nominees

who are waiting to fill
badly needed vacancies.

Yes, it seems the Thurmond Rule is
a bit like God.

When things are going your way,
you don't bring it up a lot,

but as soon as you're in trouble,
it is all that you talk about.

And it's also worth noting that
the Thurmond rule generally applies

to the last six months
of a president's term,

so even if it does apply, it wouldn't
come into effect until July 20th.

Although, what more fitting tribute to
the life and work of Antonin Scalia

than the senate really trying to
stretch the definition of "late term" ?

And also: it's weird to see a debate
over an unwritten rule,

when you consider what Antonin Scalia
stood for.

He's someone who always defended the
original meaning of the constitution,

who understood that the constitution
was not there to be interpreted

based on the fads of the moment,

but it was there to be interpreted
according to its original meaning.

He's right.
Scalia loved the letter of the law.

So let's look at the letter that
applies here, shall we ?

Article 2, section 2 of the
Constitution says the president,

"shall nominate, and by and with
the advice and consent of the senate,

shall appoint judges
of the supreme court."

That's the president, this president.

There is nothing in the constitution
about you delaying him for a year

because of some bullshit tradition.

So to senate republicans I say this,
if you really loved Antonin Scalia,

you wouldn't honor his memory by
desecrating the thing he loved most.

Think of Scalia like a Brita filter
or a child's hamster.

Why don't you honor his entire reason
for being

by swiftly and efficiently
replacing him ?

I am sure we'll be covering a lot of
this Supreme Court fight in the future,

but for now, let's turn to another
major American institution: Chipotle.

America's preferred over-the-counter
laxative.

It has been a rough few months for the

sure-let's-go-ahead-and-call-it-
Mexican fast food chain.

Since last July, they've experienced
six food safety failures

involving Norovirus, Salmonella,
and E. coli.

And as of December, they face a federal
criminal investigation as well.

So on Monday,
they took drastic action.

Chipotle temporarily closed all 2,000
of its stores for four hours today

to hold a scheduled a company-wide
employee meeting

on the topic of food safety.

Closed stores ? Well, that is bad news
for Chipotle. But on the bright side,

it's the best day Subway has had
since Jared went to prison. But...

But I will say:

it may take more than a few hours

to fix some of the systemic problems
Chipotle has with its restaurants,

especially when you consider reports
like this from a station in Florida:

In January, inspectors walked into
Chipotle

on Cortez Road
west in Bradenton,

and saw a live, wild bird flying
around the restaurant,

with open food at the front line
exposed to possible contamination.

According to the inspection
report, the manager says

he was aware of that wild bird
and it's a regular nuisance.

"Oh yeah, I know that bird. He bought
a soda like a year ago

and he just keeps filling it up. That
bird's a dick ! You're a dick, Keith !

You're a dick !"

But I am sure,

I am absolutely sure that the manager
of that bird infested Chipotle

made sure that it could never ever
happen again.

Animal control was called to remove
the bird,

but when inspectors returned
the next day:

live bird, still there.

What ? "Live bird, still there"

is the second-lowest grade you can
get from a health inspection.

The lowest one, of course,
being a Fieri.

But to go by customers' reactions to
Chipotle store closings on Monday,

they may not have too much
to worry about.

I'm disappointed. I understand they
need to take like safety precautions,

but I love Chipotle.

- Will it deter you from eating there ?
- No.

- Love those burrito bowls too much ?
- Yeah, exactly.

It's just so good, it's just so tasty.
It's my dirty little secret.

I love Chipotle.

So hold on. They know it's bad,
and they want it even more.

Chipotle is now officially America's
emotionally abusive boyfriend.

It seems Chipotle have us in the palm
of their hands.

And judging from their latest
commercial, they know it.

Listen, we know that here at Chipotle
we've had a bad few months.

Not only did we make people sick with
E. Coli, Norovirus and Salmonella,

we're also under criminal investigation
by the federal government.

But don't worry, we took a full
half-day off on Monday to regroup,

and now we're ready to welcome you back
with open arms !

Welcome to Chipotle !
Thank you for your bravery.

Sure, Chipotle's hit rock bottom.

But all that means is that we're ready
to bounce back.

If you're even contemplating eating
here after an E. Coli scare,

what would it take to stop you ?

Learning the one time we accidentally
put penguin meat in our barbacoa ?

Or the three months ago
we couldn't find the lettuce,

so we just used that Easter basket
grass for, like, five full days ?

Or we thaw our meat by having a large
man named Mitchell breathe on it ?

Or that there are a number of wild
birds that come in and eat for free,

who, in our defense, are only there to
deal with our massive vole problem.

Or that our head chef is an actual
six-foot cockroach.

I'm still pretty sure you'd come back.
And you know why ?

If Chipotle could persuade America
1,000-calorie burritos are healthy

and we actually did that,

well, then we can do anything we damn
well please.

Chipotle. What are you gonna do,
go to Taco Bell ?

I don't think so !

Moving on...

We are finally
in an election year,

so for our main story tonight,
let's look at voting.

The cornerstone of American democracy,

the unshakable principle that everyone
should have an equal vote.

Even idiots.
Even this guy.

Go !

I know it's painful, but his vote
should count as much as yours.

It should count as much as
the president's.

That's what America is all about.

Now in recent years, some states
have made voting easier.

For instance, three states hold their
elections almost entirely by mail.

And thirty states plus D.C.
now let you register to vote online.

Sadly, others have gone
in the opposite direction.

Because depending on who you are
and where you live,

you may face new obstacles to voting
this November, thanks to,

among other things,

the Supreme Court's decision
to weaken the Voting Rights Act.

For instance, since 2011, seven states
have curtailed early voting.

13 have added requirements that voters
show some kind of ID at the polls.

And the lawmakers pushing
those voter ID laws claim

they are just simple,
commonsense measures.

It is common sense you would use
picture ID

to protect the integrity
of the voting process.

It's an ID. Everyone has an ID.
The people that are homeless,

the people that go to vote, they get
sick, they go to the hospital,

they buy stuff. They need IDs.

I'm proud that North Carolina has
joined the 34 other states

to enact a commonsense voter ID law
that

isn't going to impact a significant
amount of North Carolinians.

Will not impact a "significant" number
of North Carolinians ?

Well, that's fine. Although,
by that standard, you could also say

"we're going to incinerate everyone
named Warren."

That's not a
significant number of people,

but you are going to have a justifiably
upset Warren Beatty on your hands.

That law is significant to him.

Because not everyone does have ID.
In Texas alone,

at least half a million voters do not
have the form of ID necessary to vote,

North Carolina and Wisconsin
have roughly 300,000 voters apiece

with neither a driver's license
nor a state ID,

and in Virginia, an estimated 200,000
voters may not have one.

And if you think about it,

you probably know at least one person
who doesn't have an ID.

Whether it's your grandma
who had her license taken away,

your recluse uncle
who rollerblades everywhere,

or your cousin who lost his license
after his third D.U.I.

Come on, Jace.

You can't fool a breathalyzer by
whispering the word "sober" into it.

And even if you try to obtain an ID
just in order to vote,

it can be difficult. Listen to what
a Pennsylvania woman went through,

when her state's ID law was in effect.

Sixty-eight-year-old Doris Clark
was turned down three times

applying for her Pennsylvania
voter ID card.

And every time, she says, the state
wanted another document:

original birth certificate,
original social security card,

then she needed
her husband's death certificate

when a clerk demanded proof
of her married name.

You feel like, why am I going through
all these things ?

I am not Bin Laden's wife.

Bin Laden's wife ?
That is a strange way to frame it.

Why not say Osama bin Laden was
"Amal al-Sadah's husband" ?

Or "Siham Sabar's husband" ?
Or "Khairiah Sabar's" husband ?

Hashtag Osama bin Laden
hashtag feminism.

And yet, none of these difficulties
seemed to trouble legislators

like Wisconsin's Joel Kleefisch,
who argued for a strict ID law

by pointing out his state's photo ID
requirement to buy Sudafed.

I find it frustrating

that so many of
the same people who today

are telling us that a photo ID is just
too gosh darn much

to maintain the integrity of the ballot

and those same people
two sessions ago

made sure, those same people, many of
the same people in this room,

made sure two sessions ago

that you had to have a photo ID
to buy stuffy nose medicine.

Okay, couple of things there.

First, that bill was designed to
help curtail Wisconsin's meth problem.

And second, voting is a right, if you
take it away, you ruin democracy.

If you take away someone's Sudafed,
you'll only ruin is their sleeve.

And in some parts of the country,

the offices that issue IDs
are hardly ever open.

In 2012, a study found that in
Wisconsin, Alabama and Mississippi,

fewer than half of all ID issuing
offices are open five days a week.

And in Sauk City, Wisconsin,

just a few districts over from where
that business-casual Kevin Smith lives

the ID office is only open on the fifth
Wednesday of every month.

And only four months in 2016
even have five Wednesdays.

Oh, but don't worry ! There's a rhyme !

"March, June, August, November
have five Wednesdays

but remember,
if you come on days not those,

fuck yourself they're fucking closed !"

Every first grader in Wisconsin
gets taught that one.

We should also mention that studies
have shown these restrictions tend to

disproportionately impact
African American and Latino voters.

In Texas, for instance, experts found
that African American voters

were nearly twice as likely
to lack voter ID,

and Latinos were nearly
two and a half times as likely.

It's one of those things that white
people seem to be more likely to have,

like a sunburn,
or an Oscar nomination.

So why are we doing this ?

Well, if you listen to the legislators
who helped pass these laws,

they'll say that they are necessary
to prevent fraud.

Here's a co-sponsor of Texas's
voter ID law, Debbie Riddle:

The very freedom of our nation

is based
on the integrity of our ballot box.

And if things are so lax

that fraudulent voting can occur,

that means your vote can be stolen.

And simply showing an identification

is not too much to ask.

Are you sure about that, though ?

"Don't eat fish on the subway"
is not too much to ask.

Never start a Facebook status with
'that moment when'

is not too much to ask.

Requiring ID
can actually be asking a lot.

And as for the fraudulent elections,
well, let's look at that for a moment.

Because while American history is
littered with vote-buying,

vote-tampering,
and ballot-box stuffing,

voter ID
doesn't prevent those crimes.

The only crime it prevents
is voter impersonation:

one person, showing up to the polls,
pretending to be someone they're not.

Which is a pretty stupid crime.

'Cause you have to stand in line,
at a polling place,

and risk five years in prison
and a ten-thousand dollar fine,

all to cast one
probably not consequential extra vote.

In terms of pointless crimes,

it's right up there with forging
a Bed Bath and Beyond coupon.

It's a lot of trouble with low reward.

And yet people insist
that this happens a lot.

Without photo ID,
what do you fear could happen ?

Well, without photo ID, let's be clear:

I don't want dead people voting in
the state of South Carolina.

I've said that from the very beginning.

Authorities say there is evidence that
dead people voting is a real problem,

according to a statewide investigation

by South Carolina's department
of motor vehicles.

In January, it found that 953 ballots
were cast by voter who were deceased.

Now that's true, the DMV did say that.

And the study caused such a
stir that one lawmaker stated,

"We must have certainty in South
Carolina that zombies aren't voting."

And look, he's right:
no one wants that.

Except, possibly, for upstart candidate
Philip Braaaaaaaaaaaaiins.

But when the state's law enforcement
division investigated the DMV's claims,

it found no real basis for them.

In fact, of the prior election's
207 suspicious ballots,

92 of them were cases where someone had
the same name as a deceased voter,

usually a father and son.

56 of them were cases where the social
security number of a living voter

was mistakenly matched with a dead
person. 32 were simply scanner errors.

One person requested
an absentee ballot, completed it,

and then died while it was in the mail.

And most of the others were an array of
random clerical errors.

Altogether, the investigation found 5
ballots that couldn't be accounted for.

This in an election where more than
1.3 million votes were cast.

These voter ID laws are the biggest
over-reaction to a manageable problem

since Sleeping Beauty's father ordered

all the spinning wheels in the land
to be burned.

This is an agrarian economy,
we need those wheels !

Why don't you just watch your daughter
for literally one day in her life ?

One day ! One day !

The truth here is,

voter impersonation fraud
is incredibly rare.

One researcher who tracked it closely
found that, from 2000 to 2014,

there were 31 possible incidents
in the entire country,

out of over a billion ballots cast.

Voter fraud is a problem,

the way that deadly knife-play
from crabs is a problem.

I'm not saying it doesn't exist.
There are cases where it has happened.

But let's not overreact
to one stabby crab.

But these laws do actually tend to make
a little more sense

whenever you see someone slip up

and suggest other reasons
for why they may support them.

Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor
Romney to win Pennsylvania, done !

You think the attention drawn to voter
ID affected last year's elections ?

Yeah, I think a little bit. I think
we probably had a better election.

Think about this:
we cut Obama by five percent.

Which was big, you know a lot of people
lost sight of that.

He won, he beat McCain by ten percent
and he beat Romney by five percent,

and I think that probably that photo ID
helped a bit in that.

Oh, no ! You're saying the thing that
everyone knows

but you're not supposed to
say out loud !

That's like writing, "I'm desperate to
bone" on an online dating profile.

Or a band calling their reunion tour
"We Ran Out Of Money".

But perhaps the most galling thing here

is that there are actual cases of voter
impersonation, caught on camera.

And you will never believe
where they happen.

This is state representative
Debbie Riddle.

She authored the bill that would
require voters to show a photo ID.

Clerk ring the bell,
it's a record vote.

It's all about integrity.

It's a record vote.

But the integrity of one person, one
vote, doesn't apply at the legislature.

We found many lawmakers
vote more than once.

Take a look: Riddle votes, turns around
and votes again for state rep Kemple.

Rewind, and watch the men
on the screen.

Elkins goes to vote for merit,
but Hancock is faster.

Elkins heads back to his desk,

but before he can vote, Joe Crabb
turns around and beats him to it.

Holy shit !

They are literally competing to press
other people's voting buttons !

And remember: this is Texas, which has
the strictest ID laws in the country !

And apparently, this process is called
"ghost voting",

and it happens in state legislatures
all over the country.

And sometimes they involve
literal ghost votes.

One lawmaker in Texas died,
and was recorded voting three times

later that day.
Which is clearly ridiculous.

A real ghost wouldn't waste its time
voting on bills.

It would be out terrorizing a young
family in their new house,

or trying desperately to bang Demi
Moore on a pottery wheel one last time.

And Debbie Riddle is not the only voter
ID proponent who has done this.

Remember Wisconsin's Joel Kleefisch ?

There is no way
that he got caught doing it, right ?

A cellphone video posted online

shows Kleefisch placing a vote
for an absent assembly member.

Kleefisch says the online video is an
attempt at character assassination.

No, no, no,
that's not character assassination:

it's unedited footage
of something you obviously did.

If anything, that is character
autoerotic asphyxiation.

And lawmakers in Tennessee
are so shameless about this,

they've got the whole thing down to
a fine art.

It's such a common practice
in the house in fact that

many lawmakers have sticks they use to
reach each others' voting buttons.

Look, if you are going to
pervert democracy,

could at least do it
with a less creepy stick ?

That looks like what an evil leprechaun
would use to beat a child.

And yet, whenever legislators like
Debbie Riddle

are asked about
this actual voter impersonation,

they say they've done nothing wrong,
and are only acting out of necessity.

We have a lot of votes,
we have a lot of amendments,

and there's times when we don't break
for lunch and for dinner.

We don't have bathroom breaks.

Okay, well, quick suggestion:

have you considered getting some
extra-long voting sticks ? They help.

You know what ? At this point, I would
like to propose something:

Any politician who has ever supported
an unnecessary voter ID law,

should be forced to obtain a new ID
every time they want to pass a bill.

Just to make sure they are
who they say they are.

And yes, they might say, "Well, John,
that's ridiculous.

There is no real reason to make us
do that. And it's so cumbersome,

it could prevent us from engaging in
the democratic process."

To which I would say, "Welcome to the
fucking club."

And now this.

And now, newscasters using entirely
the wrong tone.

- How are ya ?
- Good, great.

Nice to see you. We've got
some breaking news out of Egypt.

Parts of that country
are blowing up today.

Rain, rain go away, I think we're all
shouting that this morning.

I know it sounds cliché but the streets
are virtually rivers.

Coming up, 5 dead in Las Vegas.

Potholes in Minneapolis are sending
people to the hospital !

- It's great to see you all.
- Hey, thanks for having me.

Coming up, it's happened once again,
a high school student shot dead.

- Alright, Elaine, thank you.
- Sure.

No let up in the tug-of-war,
that's good Nora,

no let up in the tug-of-war
over a little boy with brain cancer.

North Carolina police arrested
a suspect

in the death of a pregnant Fort Bragg
soldier.

That's the first time a federal
appeals court has struck down

a state's ban
on same-sex marriage, is that right ?

You said it, Kristen.

And finally tonight, New Zealand:
Australia's chia pet.

We've talked a lot about New Zealand on
this show in the last couple of years.

From their ridiculous Prime Minister
John Key,

to the public competition to design
a new flag, featuring these entries.

We talked about them so much

we were going to have a moratorium on
discussing New Zealand on this show.

Until this happened.

Protests at Waitangi against
the transpacific partnership

reached climax today when economic
development minister Steven Joyce

was hit in the face with a sex toy.

Without the prime minister,
there was meant to be no drama.

But then... This.

Yes, that's what you think it is.
Steven Joyce hit with a sex toy.

Step aside, "Citizen Kane",
there is a new greatest film in town.

And listen, while the slow-motion
footage is undeniably funny,

it's not as funny as the natural sound
of it bouncing off his nose.

Take a listen:

We always take something away from
every meeting we have.

I think my favorite part of that is

his unruffled surprise
at being hit in the face with a dildo.

As if it either happens to him
all the time, or at the very least,

he anticipated it "would"
inevitably happen "someday."

And to New Zealand's credit,

the woman who threw that toy
was not charged with anything.

This is her face as she was led away.
She does not look sorry.

And if you threw something
at a politician in this country,

you'd be dead before the dildo
hit the ground.

Also, New Zealand's media has taken to
calling Steven Joyce "Dildo Baggins."

A play on words, which should be
awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.

And yet, we were still reluctant
to cover this story.

Until, incredibly, our hand was forced.

Even Mr. Joyce saw the funny side,
taking to Twitter

and jokingly encouraging someone
to send the footage

to American comedian John Oliver
so quote, "we can get it over with."

It's true ! This is his tweet.

And you know what, Steven Joyce ?

You're right, you're right.
This was inevitable, Steven Joyce.

As inevitable as a large, floppy rubber
cock smacking you in the face.

So let's, in your words,
"get this over with".

Although, I think we both know,
this will never be over for you.

Your entire life will now be viewed
through a dildonic prism.

For instance: this seemingly innocuous
tweet you sent last month

of vegetables from your garden ?

You want to know what people picture
when they see that now ?

Dildos, Joyce.
Freshly harvested dildos.

Also, let's all agree: New Zealand's
flag debate should now be over.

Because if you want an image that sums
up everything great about New Zealand,

this is the flag right here.

What Olympic team would not be proud to
march beneath that ?

And we didn't just mock that up,
New Zealand,

we got one made,
and sent it to your country,

and gave it to one of your greatest
sons, Peter Jackson.

And if you don't believe me,
watch this !

Hey, John ! This is Peter Jackson
down here in New Zealand.

What do you think
of the new dildo flag ?

What do you think, John ?
The people have spoken.

Once again,
New Zealand punches above its weight.

Indeed you have, New Zealand. But guess
what ? We're not even done yet.

Because if you're going to try
and bait me, Joyce, into a response,

prepare for the nuclear option.

I present to you a choir singing
about your dildo incident

to the tune of the hallelujah chorus !

It's a dildo, giant dildo,

there's a dildo, yes, a dildo,
a flying dildo.

Yes ? Is this what you wanted, Steven
Joyce ? Is this what you wanted ?

Careful what you wish for !

We are flying dildos for you.

And it doesn't get higher
production than that.

That's our show !
Thank you so much for joining us !

We'll see you next week, goodnight !