The U.S. Department of Justice and other plaintiff’s attorneys began their challenge Tuesday in federal court to Texas’ stringent voter ID law, the first national test of such laws that have surfaced following a Supreme Court ruling that cleared the way for such measures. Six plaintiff’s attorneys made opening statements in the case, arguing that the law is designed to neutralize the voting power of Texas’ growing minority population. Lawyers from the Texas attorney general’s office countered that the plaintiffs have offered no proof that minority voters were being unfairly edged out of the voting process and that the law helps stamp out fraud. The trial over the law, which has been enforced through two elections since 2013, is expected to last two weeks before U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos makes a decision. Elizabeth Westfall of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, the first plaintiff’s attorney to make an opening statement, said that 787,000 Texas voters do not have acceptable photo identification to vote now. “And Hispanics and African-Americans make up a disproportionate share,” she added.
Chad Dunn, who represents several minority plaintiff’s groups, and U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, said in the packed courtroom that the more than 500,000 Texans without proper ID will lose their right to vote under Senate Bill 14 —more than entire voting age populations in six states.
“A lot has been said that SB14 is a solution without a problem,” Dunn said. “SB14 is one heck of a solution.” He and other plaintiff’s attorneys said that lawmakers who championed the voter ID law have said it was needed because of voter fraud. They countered that in-person voter fraud is virtually nonexistent.