Texas, U.S. government argue over impact of voter ID law

WASHINGTON Tue Jul 10, 2012 3:01pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Lawyers for Texas and the federal government clashed on Tuesday over how many people could be barred from casting ballots under a state law requiring voters to present photo identification, in a landmark case that could end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

A study cited by the U.S. government says that 1.5 million Texas voters lack the photo identification required to vote, a figure that lawyers for Texas say is vastly inflated.

"It's a mess," District Judge Rosemary Collyer, one of three judges hearing the case, said of the disparity. Speaking on the second day of the week-long trial, Collyer stressed the importance of figuring out the differences.

Texas hopes that a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia overturns the Justice Department's March decision to block the law based on the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Supporters of Texas also hope the case will force the U.S. Supreme Court to rule whether the Voting Rights Act, enacted during the Civil Rights Era to protect minority voters, has outlived its usefulness.

The trial over the Texas law is the first challenge to the federal government's power to block such a voter ID law since the Democratic administration of President Barack Obama took office in January 2009.

Each side told the court that flaws in the other's study severely tainted their tallies.

The Justice Department has cited a study by Harvard University Professor Stephen Ansolabehere that found the Texas law would force nearly 2 million people to get new photo IDs or be unable to vote in the next election.

A disproportionately large number of those voters are Hispanic and black, the department said.

Texas presented a study by University of Texas Professor Thomas Sager that showed the total figure was closer to 167,000 and that the Harvard study inflated the effect on minorities.

Justice Department lawyers attacked Sager's findings, noting that he added 6 million people to the list of Texans with proper IDs even though their licenses were expired or they didn't have proper ID at all.

Seventeen states have passed some version of a law requiring voters to present photo ID at the polls. The Justice Department has also blocked a South Carolina law citing the Voting Rights Act, but the challenge has yet to reach court.

The Texas lawsuit for approval of the voter identification law is: State of Texas v. Holder in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, No. 12-cv-128. The judicial panel is composed of Appeals Judge David Tatel, District Judge Robert Wilkins and District Judge Rosemary Collyer.

(Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and Xavier Briand)

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Comments (3)
RexMax46 wrote:
“Supporters of Texas also hope the case will force the U.S. Supreme Court to rule whether the Voting Rights Act, enacted during the Civil Rights Era to protect minority voters, has outlived its usefulness.”

Actually, Texas attempting to pass a law that unduly affects minorities to combat an imaginary problem is EXACTLY why the Voting Rights Act is still useful.

Jul 11, 2012 11:11am EDT  --  Report as abuse
CountryPride wrote:
Sorry Eric Holder, your Department of Injustice has no credibility with the American people until justice has been served for Brian Terry and his family for your criminal role in his death. Then you have the audacity to try to steal the freedom from the American people by hindering a State from safeguarding the voting process. It seems all this administration does is blatantly breaks the laws, protect criminals, and steal more freedom from Americans. Of course these criminals don’t want people to show id to vote, how else would they steal elections for radical Democrats who want to destroy this country and force you to serve them. Just look at ACORN who has many public convictions of voter fraud these last few years for Democrats. What a pathetic excuse it is that if someone wants to vote they have absolutely no way that they themselves, a friend, family member or neighbor could take 30 minutes out of their day anytime during the year to drive to get a free id down at the DMV. Do these “minorities” go to the store to buy food? Do they go to work? Do they go to visit friends? Can they go to the DMV to get a free id? Get real Dems, your argument is nonsense.

Jul 11, 2012 11:45am EDT  --  Report as abuse
RexMax46 wrote:
@Country Pride
You seem to be very passionate about this issue, and I’m guessing it’s because you have a well informed opinion. Care to post any links referencing where you are getting your information from? Keep in mind that the only relevant cases of voter fraud are those that can be prevented by Voter ID laws.

Jul 11, 2012 2:15pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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