Texas Photo Voter ID Trial Starts Today; DC Court to Decide Fate of SB 14

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The Texas Voter ID trial starts today.  Parties were making last-minute filing as late as Friday, and one of the presiding judges was handing down technical rulings yesterday.  

To recap: during the 2011 legislative session, the Texas Legislature passed S.B. 14, a bill requiring Texans to present photo I.D. at the polls before they are allowed to vote.  This presented a problem: many Texans don't have a photo I.D.  But, the legislature said, we will make it possible for Texans to obtain a free photo I.D. from Department of Public Safety locations.  Another problem: free I.D. or not, many Texans simply don't have easy access to these locations and don't have the identification required to obtain the free I.D.  There is no grandfather clause.  As a result, many Texans who have been voting for generations would suddenly be denied access to the polls.  Notably, most of these Texans are poor and minority voters.  How many Texans would not be able to vote?  Reliable estimates have put the number of Texans without the proper I.D. at more than 1 million voters.

What will happen at trial?  Find out below the jump.Texas is a covered state under the Voting Rights Act.  As a result, Texas needed preclearance from the Department of Justice (DOJ) before the law could be implemented. The Department of Justice refused to grant preclearance, and so Texas sued Eric Holder, Jr., U.S. Attorney General.  That trial starts today.  In March, Karl-Thomas Musselman pointed out the stakes, and in May, the federal appeals court in D.C. indicated how this trial might conclude with its ruling on voter restrictions in Alabama.


On June 20, DOJ filed its trial witness list for the court.  They are:

Stephen Ansolabehere, PhD, of Harvard University – a political scientist, who will testify to his conclusion that the State of Texas's voter identification law (“SB 14”) has a discriminatory effect on minority voters.  

J. Morgan Kousser, PhD, of CalTech – a political scientist, will testify to his conclusion that SB 14 was adopted with a racially discriminatory purpose.

Representative Rafael Anchia – will testify about the Texas House of Representatives' consideration of SB 14 and proposed amendments.

Senator Rodney Ellis – will testify about the Texas Senate's consideration of SB 14 and proposed amendments.

Representative Trey Martinez Fischer – will testify about House consideration of SB 14 and proposed amendments which give rise to an inference that SB 14 was enacted with a discriminatory purpose.

Senator Carlos Uresti – will testify about the Senate's consideration of SB 14 and proposed amendments.


On June 20, the State of Texas filed its witness list with the below excerpted descriptions:

Representative Jose Aliseda – His live testimony will give the Court an opportunity to assess the credibility of a strong voter ID supporter.  His testimony will rebut arguments that the stated justifications for SB 14 were a mere pretext. He could inform the Court of election integrity concerns that are particularly prevalent in South Texas.

Brian Ingram, Director of Elections, Texas Secretary of State – will testify about the state of the voter registration rolls in Texas and how the rolls likely include numerous ineligible voters because of restrictions imposed by Federal law.

Major Forrest Mitchell Criminal Investigation Division, Texas Office of the Attorney General – He will provide the Court the opportunity to question a knowledgeable witness about Texas voter fraud investigations, Texas laws on voter fraud, the penalties for voter fraud, convictions for voter fraud, and different varieties of voter fraud.

Representative Aaron Pena, Representative, Texas House of Representatives –  can explain that the purpose of S.B. 14 was to decrease voter fraud, increase confidence in the electoral process, and to respond to constituent demand.

Thomas Sager, Professor, University of Texas – Professor Sager rebuts the analysis of DOJ expert Professor Stephen Ansolabehere by pointing out the limitations and flaws in Professor Ansolabehere's own matching attempts, including for example Professor Ansolabehere's inclusion of over 50,000 deceased individuals in his set of 1.9MM “voters” affected by SB 14. His rebuttal also shows that the alleged disparity in ID possession between Latinos and Anglos in

Professor Ansolabehere's data set likely results from biased matching procedures.

Daron Shaw, Professor, University of Texas – Texas designated Professor Shaw as an expert on whether S.B. 14 will have a discriminatory effect on minority voters and on the popular support for photo voter identification laws. As disclosed in his reports, Professor Shaw concludes that photo voter identification laws do not suppress voter turnout, thus those laws do not abridge or deny the right to vote, much less suppress voter turnout on account of race or membership in a language minority group.

Senator Thomas Williams – He will be called to testify about the purpose and provisions of S.B. 14 and about Senate procedure.  


On June 25, DOJ filed its proposed findings of fact, what it intends to show at this trial. Some highlights:

•The Voter ID law (SB 14) will have a retrogressive effect on minority voters;

•The Voter ID law imposes a substantial burden on voters;

•The Voter ID law will suppress minority voter turnout;

•Texas' own evidence establishes a substantial racial disparity in the possession of identification required by SB 14;

•Hispanic and Black voters are nearly twice as likely as Anglo voters to lack ID needed to cast a ballot;

•Texas's stated purposes cloak a discriminatory purpose;

•The Texas Legislature has advanced a pretextual justification related to in-person voter identification;

•There is almost no in-person voter impersonation in Texas.


On June 20, Texas filed its proposed findings of fact, what it intends to show at this trial. Some highlights:

•SB 14 will not have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race or color, or because of membership in a language minority group;

•SB 14's Photo ID requirement does not impose a legally significant burden on any voter;

•SB 14 will not decrease voter turnout among lawfully registered voters;

•There is no racial disparity in possession of ID required by SB 14;

•Senate Bill 14 was not enacted for the purpose of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group;

•Voter fraud exists in Texas;

•Inflated voter rolls and non-citizens on the voter rolls create a risk of voter fraud;

•Voter fraud is difficult to detect and prosecute.

See the complete DOJ Findings of Fact and Law.

See the Texas Findings of Fact and Law in their entirety.


The three-judge panel presiding over the trial is: Judge Rosemary M. Collyer, Circuit Judge David S. Tatel, and Judge Robert L. Wilkins.

Judge Collyer was appointed to the federal bench in DC in 2003, during George Bush's term as president; Judge Wilkins was appointed in December 2010, during President Obama's first term; Judge Tatel was appointed in October 1994 to DC Court of Appeals during President Clinton's first term as president.

The case is State of Texas v. Holder, 12-CV-128, in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.


Yesterday, Andy Brown, chair of the Travis County Democratic Party, wrote an op-ed in the Statesman, arguing against the Voter ID law and asking the question, what would LBJ, father of the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act, say to Greg Abbott, the Attorney General of Texas?

Notably, Brown pointed out:

The passage by the Texas Legislature of the voter ID law, citing the mostly fictitious problem of voter fraud, will disproportionately affect minority voters – people who historically tend to vote Democratic. Voting is a constitutional right, not a choice like driving a car or boarding an airplane, and the photo ID requirement would thwart participation by the poor and the elderly. Nearly one in five Texans over the age of 65 have no government-issued ID. We evolved past poll taxes and literacy tests, but now we face new limits.


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