In Virginia, this is a critique the liberal Media Matters for America recently raised in reference to in-state newspaper coverage of the issue, noting that some Virginia papers weren’t explaining for their readers the extreme rarity of in-person voter fraud as an objective reality.

This shortcoming was on display yesterday at WJLA, Washington, DC’s only 24/7 local cable news station, which reported “supporters say the legislation allows for greater integrity within the electorate while cracking down on voter fraud,” but didn’t mention the rarity of actual in-person voter fraud.

And at the Richmond Times-Dispatch yesterday, a partisan source was left to state that fact.

“We do not have any evidence of a lot of people showing up at the polls, pretending to be someone else,” the paper quoted Richmond Del. Jennifer L. McClellan saying.

Reporters would do better to quote credible, independent voices on this point (election law expert Rick Hasen, for example)—or supply the facts in their own voices—rather than feed into the he-said-she-said partisan quagmire the voter ID debate has become.

Unfortunately, the Times-Dispatch did more of said feeding in this paragraph from Tuesday’s story:

Del. Delores L. McQuinn, D-Richmond, said Republicans are trying to create obstacles to make voting more difficult. “This legislative session, House Republicans have defeated every single measure to make voting more accessible for qualified Virginia voters,” McQuinn said. “[They] have blocked legislation to institute an early voting period, expand No-Excuse Absentee voting, extend voting hours and a host of other bills to improve access to the ballot box,” she said.

Well, have they? This is important context that readers should be told as a matter of fact, not partisan attribution. And this holds true for coverage of voter ID battles or any other legislative fight.

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Corey Hutchins is CJR's correspondent for Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia. A former alt-weekly staffer, he has twice been named journalist of the year in the weekly division by the S.C. Press Association. Hutchins recently worked on the State Integrity Investigation at the Center for Public Integrity, and he has contributed to Slate, The Nation, and Medium, among others. Follow him on Twitter @coreyhutchins or email him at coreyhutchins@gmail.com.