19A 3-judge panel will now decide whether to let Texas implement its controversial voter ID law. In closing arguments at federal court, a lawyer for the state, John Hughes, insisted that even if non-white Texans lack an acceptable photo ID under the law, the “ultimate question” for the judges to consider is whether that disparity translates into people being turned away from the polls. The requirement enacted by the Legislature in May 2011, Hughes argued, “deters almost no one,” and even people eligible to vote in Texas who lack one of the acceptable forms of photo ID – a drivers license, concealed gun permit, passport, or citizenship card – should be able to easily obtain an alternative voter ID card provided for by the law. “People who want to vote already have an ID or can easily obtain it,” he insisted repeatedly. He noted that the Justice Department – which refused to let the state implement the law, prompting the state to turn to the federal courts – claims that 1.5 million Texas voters lack an acceptable photo ID. “If that were remotely true, the courtroom would be filled with such people,” he said, citing survey evidence that black and Hispanic Texas voters say they have ID in rough proportion to whites. The judges seemed deeply skeptical. “The record does tell us that there is a substantial number of registered voters that lack photo ID,” said U.S. Circuit Court Judge David Tatel. And District Court Judge Robert Wilkins noted that there was uncontested evidence that some Texans would have to travel 120 miles one way to the nearest state office where they could obtain a voter ID card – and that federal court rules bar subpoenas for anyone more than 100 miles from a courthouse on grounds that would be “unduly burdensome.”
Hughes argued that rural Texans are accustomed to such burdens when it comes to anything from grocery shopping to going to the doctor. Under questioning from the judges, he sought to distinguish the voter ID law from a prohibited poll tax, noting that SB14 allows for a free alternative ID.
Federal authorities and minority advocates, however, dispute that. The ID card requires a birth certificate that costs $22, and a trip to a state office. Poor Texans are far more likely to be black or Hispanic, said Matthew Colangelo, deputy assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, arguing that SB14 was “exactly the kind of law Congress had in mind” when it enacted the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Even if Texas could show that the motive behind to eliminate fraud – and the evidence throughout the week showed that there is virtually no in-person voting fraud of the sort the law would deter – the disparate impact on minority Texans makes it impermissible.
Full Article: Texas Voter ID trial: closing arguments | Trail Blazers Blog.