Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
On Monday, a panel of federal Judges on the D.C. Circuit Court began trial of the case of the U.S. Department of Justice challenge to the Texas voter photo ID requirement. POLITICO reports Texas voter ID trial opens:
The case, which could make its way to the Supreme Court, is the first major federal court showdown in this election cycle over a series of laws Republican-controlled state legislatures have approved that require voters to show photo identification at the polls.
In March, the Justice Department Civil Rights Division refused to clear the Texas law, known as Senate Bill 14, saying Texas officials had failed to prove that it wouldn’t adversely affect minorities.
As the trial got under way in a packed courtroom, DOJ trial attorney Elizabeth Westfall went even further, arguing that the federal government will show racial motivation in Texas’s passage of the law.
“The facts will convincingly demonstrate the discriminatory purpose and effect of Senate Bill 14,” Westfall told the three-judge panel in her brief opening argument in a trial expected to last through Friday.
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The law, signed by Republican Gov. Rick Perry in May 2011, requires nearly all voters to show photo ID when voting in person. Most forms of state-issued photo ID, including driver’s licenses and firearms permits, are accepted. However, student IDs from Texas state universities are not.
Last year, South Carolina passed a similar law, which the Justice Department also rejected. South Carolina has also filed suit, but that case has yet to come to trial.
Under federal law, lawsuits seeking so-called “pre-clearance” of changes to voting procedures in all of seven mostly Southern states and parts of nine others, are heard by three-judge panels composed of two district court judges and an appeals court judge. D.C. Circuit Judge David Tatel and District Court Judges Rosemary Collyer and Robert Wilkins were selected to hear the Texas voter ID case.
Westfall said the Texas law is certain to deprive minorities of their right to vote because they often don’t have the types of ID required by the new law.
”At least 1.4 million registered voters in Texas lack any form of state-issued ID accepted under SB 14, and those voters are disproportionately Hispanic and black,” she said.
The lawyer opening the case for the state Texas, Adam Mortara, responded “The people want photo ID, and we gave it to them”:
“It’s really quite difficult to find anyone who’s registered to vote who doesn’t have photo ID,” he said. “There are almost no people registered to vote in Texas who don’t already have photo ID.”
But a lawyer speaking on behalf of a variety of civil rights groups that have intervened in the case, Ezra Rosenberg of Dechert LLP, said the fraud that Texas claims it needs to crack down on doesn’t actually exist.
“Proofs will show, in fact, that SB 14 was a solution in search of a problem,” Rosenberg said.
The first witness called by the state was Brian Ingram, director of the elections division for the Texas secretary of state.
It did not go well for him:
On cross-examination, Westfall established that Ingram has been in his job only since January and had no prior experience in election administration.
“You’ve never been to a polling place to observe an election?” she asked.
“That’s correct,” Ingram said.
Ingram also conceded that even with SB 14 in place, many foreign nationals would still as a practical matter be able to cast ballots since foreigners can legally get some of the acceptable forms of identification, such as a Texas driver’s license or U.S. military ID.
“That’s true … if they decide to,” the election official said.
Judge Collyer is one of three judges who sat for two weeks on a similar panel considering Texas’s request for clearance of its redistricting maps. That panel has yet to issue a final ruling.
Attorney General Eric Holder addressed the NAACP on Tuesday, deviating from his prepared remarks to deliver a strong truth about new voter ID laws proliferating in Republican-led states:
“Under the proposed law, concealed handgun licenses would be acceptable forms of photo ID, but student IDs would not,” Holder said, referring specifically to the voter ID law passed in Texas. “Many of those without IDs would have to travel great distances to get them, and some would struggle to pay for the documents they might need to obtain them. We call those poll taxes.”
This argument was raised and rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, 553 U.S. 181 (2008), challenging the photo ID requirement of the state of Indiana. Despite Indiana's failure to present a single case of prosecution and conviction for voter impersonation at the polls in evidence, the majority opinion rested on the specious assumption that "hey, it could happen."
So the fact that one person might one day succeed at voter impersonation at the polls, hundreds of thousands of voters should be arbitrarily disenfranchised of their constitutional right to vote because they do not possess the mandated photo ID? For you "original intent" types, I defy you to find any such requirement to be eligible to vote in the U.S. Constitution.
Eugene Robinson today in the Washington Post gets it right, The GOP’s crime against voters:
It turns out that 758,939 registered Pennsylvania voters do not have the most easily obtained and widely used photo ID, a state driver’s license. That’s an incredible 9.2 percent of the registered electorate.
Most of the voters without driver’s licenses live in urban areas — which just happen to be places where poor people and minorities tend to live. More than 185,000 of these voters without licenses, about one-fourth of the total, live in Philadelphia — which just happens to be a Democratic stronghold where African Americans are a plurality.
Robinson concludes: "In a previous column, I wrote that voter ID was a solution in search of a problem. I was wrong: The problem seems to be that too many of the wrong kind of voters — low-income, urban, African American, Hispanic — are showing up at the polls. Republican candidates have been vowing to “take back” the country. Now we know how."