A law requiring Texas voters to show government-issued identification before casting a ballot is the latest example of the state’s long history of discrimination against minorities and puts unjustified burdens on the right to vote for more than half a million Texans, lawyers challenging the law told a federal judge here on Monday. The Justice Department, joined by several black and Hispanic voters, elected officials and advocacy groups, sued Texas in federal court over the state’s voter-identification law, asking a judge to overturn it and arguing that it discriminates against minority voters. Texas officials said the law was necessary to prevent voter fraud and have denied that it discriminates, arguing that the five elections Texas has held using the law’s requirements had yielded few reports of people being unable to produce the types of ID needed to vote.
The case has the potential for widespread impact on the state’s coming elections, as well as on the extent of the federal government’s oversight of Texas voting procedures. The plaintiffs want the judge to require Texas to seek advance federal approval before making changes to its voting laws, a level of oversight the United States Supreme Court freed the state from last year.
A ruling striking down the law could affect procedures for the Nov. 4 election. Following the closing arguments Monday in a trial that began Sept. 2, the judge hearing the case — Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of United States District Court — did not say when she would issue a ruling. But lawyers expect a decision before the election from the judge, whom President Obama appointed to the court in 2011.