WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Attorneys for Texas on Thursday cited the appearance of former President George W. Bush’s name on a list of Texas residents who would supposedly be ineligible to vote in the state under a law requiring voters to show photo identification as evidence a Harvard University study of the measure was deeply flawed.
In a federal trial over the law, which has been blocked by the Obama administration, the lawyers for Texas argued the fact that Bush was on the list even though he certainly has a federal ID, showed the study wildly overestimated the number of Texas voters who would be unable to vote under the measure.
Texas lawyers told the court they also found the names of two members of the state legislature on the list.
Bush is among some 1.5 million Texas citizens whose names are listed in the study as failing to meet the eligibility requirements of the law, lawyers said at the trial.
The study by Harvard government professor Stephen Ansolabehere is a key piece of evidence presented by President Barack Obama’s administration to back its contention the law will make it more difficult for minorities to vote.
“George Walker Bush,” Adam Mortara, a lawyer for Texas, read from the list of supposedly ineligible voters in the study. “The former president.”
Testifying as an expert witness during the trial, Ansolabehere acknowledged Bush was on the list but could not explain why he might be ineligible.
Texas officials argue the law will deter fraud, which they say is a problem in the state. The Justice Department cited the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act in blocking the law in March.
The trial is the first challenge to the federal government’s power to block such a voter ID law since Democratic President Obama took office in January 2009. Texas hopes its case against the government will lead to the Supreme Court striking down the Voting Rights Act as obsolete.
The U.S. government has presented evidence during the week it says shows many blacks and Hispanics would be disenfranchised by the law.
The three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia will not allow the law to take effect if it finds it will harm minority voters worse than the general voting public. A decision is expected by late summer.
Under the blocked Texas measure, voters would be required to show photo identification such as a driver’s license or passport. Existing Texas law mandates that voters show a voter registration card, which does not have a photo, or an acceptable alternative, such as a driver’s license or a utility bill.
Obtaining a photo ID can be difficult, particularly for minorities, federal lawyers said, because of the time and occasional costs necessary.
The two sides have provided sharply conflicting studies on whether the law harms minority voters.
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 the courts.
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.
Reporting by Drew Singer; Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and Todd Eastham