Washington Post’s Reckless Reporting on Virginia’s Photo ID Law

On Friday, The Washington Post took a page from the playbook of left-wing groups such as the Brennan Center in some seriously irresponsiblereporting hyper-inflating the number of Virginians who lack a proper photo ID to vote. In reporting on Virginia’s new photo ID law to take effect this November, the article reported that over 450,000 voters in Virginia may lack a proper ID to vote. After Virginia’s Department of Elections called them out on the inaccurate number, the Post issued a correction and revised the number downward to 200,000, an improvement but still not the actual number.

This is not the first time we have seen supposed-objective reporting outlets like the Post hyper-inflate the numbers of those without a proper ID. The same thing has been done in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and other states by left-wing groups where local major papers have happily quoted their completely wrong numbers as gospel. The press have parroted figures from groups like the Brennan Center and others citing the very highest possible estimate of voters with no ID without corroborating it with election officials or other sources. The Post follows the same tired scheme. Here are three example of how these articles quote inaccurate statistics in unfairly and hysterically painting these laws as draconian and vote-suppressing:


First, the articles insinuate that only Driver’s Licenses or DMV-issued IDs can be used by voters to vote. Typically these inaccurate estimates of those without IDs will include everyone who does not have DMV-issued ID. Virginia’s law for example permits several other forms of ID, including college student IDs which are issued to other 500,000 students currently attending an institution of higher learning in Virginia. The Post made no effort to estimate how many voters without Driver’s Licenses possess another form of ID. Given the Post’s criteria, it would have been just as accurate to state: “Potentially zero voters do not possess proper ID to vote” since we know that almost all of the 500,000 students have been issued a proper photo ID by the college or university, thus making up the supposed 500,000 shortfall single-handedly.


Second, the Post took the irresponsible step of using an inflated total of registered voters in analyzing how many voters did not have ID. This will inflate your estimate wildly since most inactive voters have moved, died, or otherwise not actual voters and remain on the rolls in a separate category per federal and state requirements. Virginia, for example, has over 416,000 inactive voters, approximately 8% of all voters. Officials have already identified these voters as having moved or otherwise no longer residing in Virginia. The Post article, pre-correction, cited a statistic which included the inactive voters in the total, thereby adding hundreds of thousands of voters who likely no longer exist in Virginia.  


Third, fail to mention (or bury in the story) the fact that election officials are offering free photo IDs to the few voters who do not possess one. Local election officials who know their communities very well are actively promoting the free IDs to those who do not possess one. Thus far, slightly over 1,000 voters have asked for one. The Post article waits until the very end of the article to mention that registrars will provide an ID to a voter who needs one, and fails to mention that the IDs will be provided to the voters free of charge.


For an additional takedown of the Washington Post, click here for a piece by Senator Mark Obenshain, patron of the photo ID legislation, who goes into more detail on this irresponsible piece of reporting.