WashPost's Krissah Thompson Gives Readers Distorted Picture of Fight Over Voter ID Laws

June 7th, 2012 6:20 PM

In today's 16-paragraph page A6 story, "Legal challenges tie up new voting restrictions,"* the Washington Post's Krissah Thompson reported that many "[s]tricter ID laws and other controversial voting restrictions" could be held up in the courts until after November election.

At no point in her story, however, did Thompson note recent polling shows 70 percent of Americans back photo ID for voting. What's more, while Thompson noted Obama/Holder Justice Department staffers are working to thwart "an effort by Florida's Republican secretary of state to remove noncitizens from voter registration lists, saying it is illegal to conduct such a purge this close to an election," she failed to note that in this instance, it may well be the Obama administration that is violating federal law by refusing to assist Florida officials.

As former federal Department of Justice attorney and conservative Heritage Foundation legal expert Hans von Spakovsky told the Miami Herald recently (emphases mine):

The Department of Justice acted politically and erred in demanding Florida cease its purge of noncitizen voters, according to a conservative former Justice lawyer who helped enforce federal voting laws for years.

The Justice Department’s voting-rights section said last week that Florida’s attempted purge probably broke federal law because the 1965 Voting Rights Act requires federal permission for the program and the 1993 National Voter Registration Act bans voter purges within 90 days of a federal election.

“If this ended up in court, the DOJ would lose,” said Hans von Spakovsky, with the conservative Heritage Foundation. “The justice department doesn’t have a basis in the statutes they’re citing.”

But von Spakovsky and other Republican lawyers say the law probably has been broken – but by the federal government itself.

Under federal law, the Department of Homeland Security is supposed to furnish citizenship information to the state for, among other things, checking voter registration rolls. But DHS, first asked for the data in mid October 2011, has refused, email correspondence shows.

Later in her article, Thompson addressed attacks on Texas's voter ID law, noting that the law is "often cited as unfair because it allows gun permits as identification but not student IDs, with opponents arguing that gun owners are more likely to support Republicans while students may lean toward Democrats."

While it's true that that's a favored talking point of the laws opponents, there's a simpler and more logical reason that concealed carry permits are valid ID while student ID cards are not. In Texas, concealed carry permits carry the home address, signature, and photo of the registrant. Officials at the polling place can check the address and signature against those on file.

Student ID cards, on the other hand, do not typically list the holder's address and are issued to noncitizens and non-residents of the state as well as citizens who reside in Texas. As such, student IDs are worthless to confirm the identity against information on file with the elections board.

What's more, many colleges and universities -- like  UT Austin  -- require that students produce a government-issued photo ID to prove their identity BEFORE they are issued a student ID, making it unlikely that they would show up to vote with a student ID but lack another form of photo ID.

*the online version's headline is different: "Restrictive voting laws tied up in court."