The Texas Attorney General was in federal court Tuesday to defend the state’s controversial voter ID law, which courts have twice tried to strike down. Both times it has persisted. So what is all this hullaballoo about, and why does Texas think it needs to fight so hard to required voters to show state approved ID at the polls? According to Gov. Greg Abbott in March, it’s because “the fact is, voter fraud is rampant” in Texas. But that doesn’t appear to be true all. PolitiFact rated Abbott’s claim “pants on fire,” finding just four documented cases of in-person voter fraud between 2000 and 2014, during which time 72 million ballots were cast in Texas. He and other proponents of the law argue that the burden it requires–showing one of seven forms of state-approved documents in order to vote–should be easily met by any Texan.
Critics of the law, which passed in Texas in 2011, say it disproportionately discourages the poor and racial minorities, the demographic groups least likely to already have official ID, from participating in democracy. Such has been the allegation in front of multiple federal judges. It’s against that charge that Texas is defending its legislation in court today.
But this battle is just the latest in a long turbulent history of Texas’ voter ID requirements. They took a lot of fight to even get this far.
The idea first emerged in the 2009 legislative session. Texas was in a transformative time, after the U.S. Census Bureau announced just four years prior that white Texans had lost their long-held majority in the population, paving the path toward a more diverse power structure in state government.