Accuracy in Media

The Washington Post Fact Checker gave Hillary Clinton the maximum four Pinocchios for claiming that voter suppression in Georgia and Wisconsin effectively cost her the presidency in 2016.

“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 [thousand] and 80,000 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.”

“Just think about it: 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.”

— Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, at the annual “Bloody Sunday” commemorative service, Selma, Ala., March 3, 2019

In addition to claiming that 40,000 to 80,000 Wisconsinites were turned away at the polls because of their skin color, age or “whatever excuse” in 2016 in a state where Trump won by 22,748 votes, Clinton also said that voter registration declined in Georgia after the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act.

Democrats have claimed for years that Voter ID laws deter minority voters, who usually vote for Democrats, from voting.

But as the Post’s Sal Rizzo notes there was a problem with Clinton’s claim.

Wisconsin was not one of the states covered by Section 4 when the court ruled in 2013, so, right off the bat, Clinton’s claim that this “made a difference in Wisconsin” is unfounded. Georgia was covered by Section 4, but Clinton’s claim that total voter registration declined in that state from 2012 to 2016 is false; it increased.

Wisconsin did enact a voter ID law under former governor Scott Walker (R). It requires voters to show a U.S. passport or a photo ID issued by Wisconsin state agencies, the military, Veterans Affairs, a university or college, or a federally recognized Indian tribe. Voter fraud cases are extremely rare in the United States. Experts say these voter ID laws are often attempts to tamp down the Democratic vote.

It’s a case Clinton made often during the 2016 campaign (though we note she did not visit Wisconsin after winning the Democratic primary). “If there’s one place where we were caught by surprise, it was Wisconsin,” she wrote in her post-mortem book, What Happened. “Polls showed us comfortably ahead, right up until the end.”

Rizzo asked Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill to respond and he cited several studies that upon further examination failed to back up Clinton’s claims.

That led Rizzo to his conclusion that Clinton was “way off base.”

There’s an important debate to be had over voter ID laws and their effect on turnout, considering how rare voter fraud cases are in the United States and the risk of disenfranchisement. We’re looking at something different here. Clinton made a series of specific claims that were way off-base.

The Supreme Court’s ruling in 2013 had no bearing on Wisconsin. The University of Wisconsin study she relied on for her 40,000 estimate says its findings from two counties should not be extrapolated to form statewide conclusions. Her spokesman did not cite any study for the 80,000 estimate. Voter registration in Georgia did not decline from 2012 to 2016.

Wrong on multiple levels, seriously misleading and worth a cumulative Four Pinocchios.

Other than the Post, Clinton’s claims went largely unchallenged as they fit the media favored narrative that the result of Republican-enacted Voter ID laws leads to voter suppression.

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