The battle over voting rights in Texas entered a new phase as a federal court heard five days of testimony last week over whether the Obama administration has the power to block Gov. Rick Perry’s (R) voter ID bill under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.
Lawyers representing the Department of Justice argued the legislation is an attempt by the state’s majority white Republican party to intentionally disadvantage the state’s growing Latino and black communities. According to DOJ lawyers, as many as 1 in 10 Texans could be disenfranchised thanks to the law.
Lawyers for the Perry administration argue the law is necessary to protect against voter fraud. But as Ryan J. Reilly reports, the panel of federal judges appeared critical of much of Texas’ case, including assertions that it should be more burdensome to exercise a fundamental right like voting than to respond to a subpoena in a civil case. The response was after one judge noted that many Texans would have to travel great distances to obtain the proper ID under the law, but that those who live more than 100 miles from a court room can’t be subpoenaed because responding is “unduly burdensome.” Attorneys for Texas quipped that living farther than 120 miles from a DMV to obtain a voter ID was a “reality to life of choosing to live in that part of Texas.”
Their response was similarly glib when addressing the issue of racial discrimination and the law. One judge put the voter ID law in the context of literacy tests and asked Texas if literary tests to vote would violate Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Not surprisingly, attorneys for Texas said no, they would not.
An outcome in the case is expected sometime in August, and many see this challenge as a likely contender for Supreme Court intervention.
Photo from bobosh_t via flickr.