A Texas law requiring voters to show photo identification will lead to fewer African Americans voting, a community leader testified during the third day of a landmark trial on Wednesday. Rev. Peter Johnson, a Southern civil rights leader who has worked for decades to help black Americans access polls, said the voter ID law passed in 2011 reflects a state still rife with racism. “The brutality and ugliness of racism exists from the governor’s office down to the mainstream of Texas,” Johnson, who lives in Texas, told the court. “It’s dishonest and naive to deny this.” A three-judge panel on the District Court for the District of Columbia will not allow the law to take effect if it finds the state hoped the law would harm minority voters.
Texas lawyers argued the law will prevent fraud and said requiring photo IDs at the polls will not dissuade minority voters any more than other voters. Supporters of the law want this case to force the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on whether the Voting Rights Act, enacted during the Civil Rights Era to protect minority voters, has outlived its usefulness.
Using a Voting Rights Act power, the federal government in March blocked the law from taking effect. Texas is now asking the court to overturn that decision. The trial is expected to continue through Friday and a decision is expected by late summer. Under the blocked Texas measure, voters would be required to show photo identification such as a driver’s license or passport. Existing Texas law mandates that voters show a voter registration card – which does not have a photo – or an acceptable alternative, such as a driver’s license or a utility bill.