MSNBC.com’s Zachary Roth Continues to Scare Readers Surrounding Voter ID Laws

Ever since MSNBC launched its sister website MSNBC.com, writer Zachary Roth has been obsessed with new voting laws, and has consistently demonized GOP-sponsored legislation as a form of voter suppression. Roth’s latest piece, published on January 28th, continued MSNBC’s scare tactics surrounding popular voter ID laws.

The title of Roth’s article fretted that the “GOP wants to change Missouri constitution for voter ID” and the MSNBC author made it clear once again where he stood on the issue of requiring voters to show a photo ID to vote.

Roth said that in Missouri:

The GOP-controlled legislature held a hearing Monday on two voter ID bills. One would place a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot this November, which, if approved by voters, would allow for a voter ID law. The second bill, to go into effect only if the amendment passes, would impose voter ID.

The two-pronged approach is needed because of a 2006 state Supreme Court ruling which found that voter ID laws violate the state constitution’s guarantee of a right to vote. A Pennsylvania judge this month struck down that state’s ID law on similar grounds.

While Roth is correct that in 2006 the Missouri Supreme Court struck down a previous photo ID law, he ignored the fact that in 2008 the United States Supreme Court ruled that an Indiana law which required voters to produce a photo ID to vote was constitutional because the state had a “valid interest” in protecting the integrity of the vote. Rather than point this out, Roth tried to assert that the GOP was instituting voter ID laws as “a sign of the tactic’s growing importance to the party’s long-term strategy amid adverse demographic trends.”

Is Roth saying that the GOP supports voter ID because there are increasing numbers of minority voters entering the electorate, most of whom vote Democratic? While not directly stating that voter ID laws are racially motivated, Roth’s statement seemed to suggest that voter ID laws are meant to suppress minority voting. Roth claimed that the Republican sponsor of the new voter ID measures declined to speak to MSNBC, so the MSNBC reporter instead decided to quote four liberals who opposed the legislation, including two Missouri Democrats and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). In fact, the entire article featured not one quote from a conservative or supporter of the Missouri bill.

Roth hyped ACLU complaints that “although the bill would require the state to provide free voter IDs, like other voter ID laws it doesn’t foot the cost of obtaining the documents many people need to obtain that ID. Nor does it do much to make getting an ID convenient.” Roth did admit that “Voters without the right ID could still potentially have their ballot counted if they sign an affidavit saying they’re too poor to afford the documents needed to get an ID, or that they have a disability or a religious objection to ID.”

Roth’s decision to quote the hysterical ACLU’s objection over theoretical discrimination from voter ID laws demonstrates his bias against such laws. Roth concluded his anti-voter ID piece by hyping complaints by the ACLU of Missouri regarding the exemptions made to the photo ID to people who cannot obtain the documents needed for an ID, or If they have a disability or religious objection to a photo ID. The ACLU argued that the affidavit requirement:

May deter people with lower income and educational attainment from voting. Courts in voting rights cases have warned against the use of confusing or threatening affidavits that may deter voting or activities related to voting.

Such fear mongering by Roth is a common theme at MSNBC. Rather than provide actual evidence of disenfranchisement from new voter ID laws, Roth quoted liberal groups hyperventilating at theoretical problems that haven’t occurred to defend his opposition to new voting laws. 

Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center.