Social scientists testified for the defense Wednesday in the last day of a trial over the state’s voter identification law, attesting that they could not definitively say that the law was intended to blunt the influence of minority voters. A lawsuit filed by the Democratic Party of Virginia and two voters contends that the law that went into effect in 2013 was enacted by the Republican-controlled state legislature to suppress votes from minorities and youth who are more likely than other voters to support Democrats and tend to be less likely to have a valid photo ID. After the last witness in the more than weeklong trial in Richmond finished testifying Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson directed lawyers for the plaintiffs and the defendants — the Virginia State Board of Elections, the Virginia Department of Elections and officials from those offices — to file memorandums in lieu of making closing arguments. The memos are due March 25 and the rebuttals a week after.
During her testimony, Karen L. Owen, an assistant professor of public administration at Reinhardt University in Georgia, offered alternative reasons for why General Assembly members may have voted for the law.
She said legislators may have considered broad public support for a voter identification law, citing polls from the Pew Research Center and Quinnipiac University; were responding to constituents’ concerns about voter fraud; hoped to ensure public confidence in ballots that were cast; sought to enact a best practice; or wanted to prevent voting fraud.