Texas voter ID law goes on trial

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Texas' voter ID law goes on trial starting today.

A U.S. District Court will hear oral arguments starting Sept. 2 on Texas’s photo ID law.

The trial will include arguments from the Texas State Conference of the NAACP and the Mexican American Legislative Caucus of the Texas House of Representatives, who will present evidence that the state’s ID requirement erects discriminatory barriers to voting.

“As we all know, Texas has a voter identification law that has already been ruled to be discriminatory by a bi-partisan three-judge panel in Washington D.C., but it insists on implementing it anyway,” said Gary Bledsoe, president of the NAACP Texas State Conference. “This law is designed and intended not to counteract nearly non-existent voter fraud, but instead to disenfranchise minority voters and to prevent them from achieving political power. The Legislature chose to enact an extreme law instead of one where minorities who are indeed eligible have a realistic chance to vote and have their votes counted.”

Texas is one of seven states with a major ongoing lawsuit challenging voter restrictions ahead of the 2014 election. And since the 2010 election, new restrictions were put into place in 22 states.

The Texas NAACP and MALC argument is that the photo ID law violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act because it makes it harder for hundreds of thousands of minority citizens to vote and denies minority voters an equal opportunity to participate in the political process.

The photo ID law also violates the U.S. Constitution, these groups contend, because it burdens the fundamental right to vote and was enacted specifically to exclude minority voters.

Some facts in a news release from the Brennan Center for Justice:

• 1.2 million eligible Texas voters lack a form of government-issued photo ID that will be accepted under the new law.

• More than half a million eligible Hispanic voters and about 180,000 eligible black voters lack photo ID.

• Hispanic voters are 2.4 times more likely than white voters to lack an accepted ID. Black voters are 1.8 times more likely than white voters to lack ID.

• One in five eligible voters who earn less than $20,000 does not have accepted form of ID.

• Minorities in Texas are disproportionately likely to face impediments to obtaining photo ID, including lost wages, access to transportation, health problems and a lack of accurate underlying documentation.

The civic groups challenged the law last September. That case and others were consolidated with Veasey v. Perry, and arguments are expected to last for the next three weeks.

“The right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy. Unfortunately, we continue to find ourselves in federal court defending this most basic right against Texas’ leadership,” said Trey Martinez Fischer, Chairman of MALC. “Multiple courts have ruled that Texas has expressed a pattern of discrimination toward its growing minority demographic — from its cumbersome voter identification requirements to its penchant for drawing intentionally discriminatory legislative maps — and I hope and expect that the courts will once again side with Texas voters over hyper-partisan lawmakers.”