Texas v. Holder: Quotes From the D.C. District Courtroom

Even though the federal district court in Washington, D.C. wrapped up with closing arguments in the Texas voter ID case this afternoon, the case is far from over. The three-judge panel is expected to rule by August at the earliest.

In addition to our previous courtroom updates, our reporting team in Texas offers this collection of interesting comments and quotes from the last day of the trial.

“Crawford [v. Marion County (IN) Election Board] was not a case of race.” —Judge David Tatel


“People who want to vote already have an ID or can easily get it.” —Texas attorney John Hughes


“Isn’t it the state’s burden to show retrogressive effect? … Technically, the government didn’t need to do anything.”

—Judge David Tatel


“Texas bears the burden of proof.” —Judge Rosemary Collyer


“The record does tell us there is a subset of voters who lack ID.” —Judge David Tatel


“We have to think about economic burden and that minorities are disproportionately poor. … That’s what makes this case different from Crawford.” —Judge David Tatel


“Their cause is now our cause.” —Attorney J. Gerald Hebert on minorities

Coffee Break Ballot, July 13: Current Trends in Voting Rights

Today is a day of big reports and big numbers.

A widely anticipated report — at least in voting rights reporting and civil liberties circles — from the nonprofit Sentencing Project indicated that up to one in every 10 adults in Florida is barred from voting because of a felony conviction. Almost 25 percent of the state’s black population faces similar challenges at the ballot box.

That number makes Florida the national leader in the restriction of felon voting rights. We’ve done our own reporting on felon voting rights restoration, but the raw numbers of the Sentencing Project’s report created some buzz around the Internet.

Today is also the final day of the Texas photo voter ID case in Washington, D.C. Federal Appeals Court, which means court watchers have some time to kill until another ruling creates a new wave of inflammatory rhetoric on both sides.

We’ll be sure to let you know when that pops up.

What We’ve Been Reading

Florida leads nation in excluding ex-felons from the polls,” (William E. Gibson, 07/12, South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

Swing state thievery,” (Randy Lobasso, 07/12, Salon)

Voting rights, voting wrongs,” (The Editors, 07/14, The Economist)

Young U.S. Voters’ Turnout Intentions Lagging,” (Jeffrey M. Jones, 07/13, Gallup)

‘Got Voter ID?’ State Efforts at Public Educational Campaigns Vary Widely,” (Ryan J. Reilly, 07/13, Talking Points Memo)

NAACP president, Holder insult the intelligence of minorities on Voter ID laws,” (Demetrius Minor, 07/13, Red Alert Politics)

Hawaii’s Vanishing Voter — Special Report on Voter Participation, (Ian Lind, 07/09 – 07/12, Honolulu Civil Beat)

Twitter Trends

We’re not seeing a terrible amount of movement on our four search terms today, despite what we might call an abundance of tweetable and readable stories. We would have imagined that the Florida felon story would create a storm of outrage among users both in favor of and against felon re-enfranchisement.

Maybe it’s because today is Friday, or because everyone is waiting to hear the verdict in the Texas voter ID case. But things change quickly on Twitter. The arrival of the weekend is just a trough in the never-ending stream of knee-jerk reactions.

Our Texas reporters in Washington, D.C. are on their way home to the News21 newsroom this weekend, but be sure to follow us all @WhoCanVote.

Sides make closing arguments in Texas voter ID case

After a week of testimony in the Texas voter ID case, a court must now decide whether the state photo ID law would “deny or abridge” minorities’ right to vote.

The state began closing arguments Friday morning to argue that even without expert testimony, national social science research shows that photo voter ID laws have no disproportionate effect on voting, fulfilling the state’s burden of proof.

“The social science gets us over the hump,” lawyer John Hughes said in reference to why the law should be cleared.

The three-judge panel raised concerns about the economic burden placed on those who would need to obtain an ID to vote.

Judge David Tatel noted that minorities are more likely to have economic challenges. Judge Robert Wilkins asked why the state could require individuals to travel more than 100 miles to acquire photo ID when law prevents them from being required to travel so far for a subpoena.

The state has used the Supreme Court’s approval of the Indiana photo voter ID law as precedent, but Tatel dismissed this by saying it did not resolve this case.

The plaintiffs also took aim at the Justice Department’s estimate that 1.5 million voters in Texas do not have ID.

“The database match project is hopelessly flawed,” Hughes said.

But the Justice Department argued in its closing remarks that even questionable data or conflicting evidence is not enough to grant federal approval.

The defense argued that Texas failed to meet its burden of proof by providing no evidence as to how many people might have a federal photo ID acceptable under the new law.

A key for the defense was pinning the law as retrogressive by proving that photo voter ID takes away voting strength as the Hispanic population continues to grow.

The defendants also countered Texas’ claim that the law was about voter fraud and integrity at the polls.

“The only thing that was certainly proved was the purpose of SB14 was not to stop in person voter fraud,” lawyer Ezra Rosenberg said.

Rosenberg argued this case was not about voter fraud, but rather racially discriminatory voter suppression “cloaked” as voter fraud.

By Lindsey Ruta and Annelise Russell, News21

Flaws found in voter ID survey used in lawsuit

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R., Texas) made a surprise appearance in the Texas voter ID case Thursday afternoon during cross-examination of the survey expert for the U.S. Department of Justice.

Hutchison was included in a survey of Texas voters who do not have state-issued ID, even though she has a valid driver’s license.

Harvard professor Stephen Ansolabehere, who conducted the survey, confirmed that Hutchison, former Sen. Phil Gramm (R., Texas), Republican state Rep. Aaron Pena and Democratic state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte – all of whom have state ID – were included in Ansolabehere’s list of 1.5 million potential Texas voters without state-issued ID.

The professor also said he could not say why these names were on the non-ID list.

Ansolabehere’s testimony will conclude today, and closing remarks in the case will begin at 9 a.m. Friday.

By Lindsey Ruta and Annelise Russell, News21

Debate over Texas voter ID law turns to African-American community

The Texas voter ID law’s effect on Latinos has dominated testimony in a Washington, D.C., federal court hearing this week, but Wednesday afternoon the topic switched to the African-American community.

The Rev. Peter Johnson, a civil rights advocate and member of the NAACP, testified for the Justice Department that the ID was a threat to democracy.

African Americans older than 75 value the ability to go to the polls on Election Day because they remember a time when they couldn’t. Under Texas law, those older than 65 would be exempt from the photo ID requirement, but they would have to vote by mail.

State Sen. Rodney Ellis, a Democrat, also testified to the potential impact of the law on his constituents saying that many young men have outstanding surcharges on tickets that discourages them from obtaining an ID.

In tabling nearly every amendment that addressed the effect of the bill on minorities, state senators, Ellis said, knew what they were doing. He said his colleagues who supported the law were on the wrong side of history.

“They are good people, but they did a very bad thing,” Ellis said.

Testimony continues through the afternoon as the Justice Department continues to present its case.

By Lindsey Ruta and Annelise Russell, News21

Coffee Break Ballot, July 11: Current Trends in Voting Rights

Our breathless post yesterday on the rise of #VoterID on Twitter apparently was too early.

Combined with mentions today, in 24 hours on social media search engine Topsy.com there were 20,937 mentions.

How does that translate into real political effects? Twitter users are talking about the State of Texas v. Attorney General Eric Holder, and are starting to make questions of poll access and voting rights key to the 2012 election.

Intrepid reporters are entering some of the final editing and data entry stages for various News21 projects. Stay tuned to this blog for more updates, and be prepared for our August rollout.

First, what other people have been writing about our research area.

What We’ve Been Reading

Florida, Iowa target voting rights for ex-felons,” (Shawn Ghuman, 07/11, USA Today)

In Pennsylvania, the Rosa Parks of voter ID face down GOP voter suppression,” (Nicolaus Mills, 07/11, The Christian Science Monitor)

Eric Holder says recent studies show 25 percent of African Americans, 8 percent of whites lack government-issued photo IDs,” (Austin-American-Statesman, 07/10, PolitiFact Texas)

Will Pennsylvania’s Voter ID Law Cost Obama the Election?” (Eric Andrew-Gee, 07/10, The New Republic)

Most Voters Favor Photo ID at Polls, Don’t See It As Discrimination,” (Rasmussen Poll, 07/11, Rasmussen Reports)

With No Disavowal of Voter ID, Romney Received Coldly at NAACP,” (Ari Berman, 07/11, The Nation)

Twitter Trends

Mentions of #VoterID are spiking. It’s a term at the heart of the annual NAACP convention in Houston and the U.S. District Court hearing underway in Washington, D.C.

But we’re also seeing a slight rise in mentions of #VoterSuppression, which could stem from the apparent fallout from likely Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s diluted appearance before the NAACP. He avoided controversial Republican-sponsored voter ID laws which opponents, including Holder, say unfairly target minority voters. That dodge might have hurt his reception, observers noted this afternoon.

We’re most interested in seeing what likely will come about next week, when the NAACP conference and the Texas voter ID hearing fade from and the latest presidential campaign buzz gains steam.

We’ll tell what all that looks like then, but until Monday, be sure to follow @LindseyRuta and @AnneliseRussell from the D.C. courtroom and the entire newsroom @WhoCanVote.

Sides debate how many voters
have ID in Texas lawsuit

Dueling testimony over documents required to obtain a Texas voter ID card marked Day 3 in the dispute that is being heard by a three-judge panel in U.S. District Court, Washington, D.C.

Victoria Rodriguez, 18, testified Tuesday that she and her twin sister, Nicole, did not have proper ID to vote under the new Texas law and they didn’t have the documents to obtain a free election identification certificate. Lawyers for Texas challenged that testimony today on cross-examination and challenged the list of documents that the Justice Department claimed Rodriguez would need.

Texas is challenging the U.S. Department of Justice authority under the 1965 Voting Rights Act to approve changes in the state’s voting laws.

Under Texas law, voters can choose from a broad list of ID documents to obtain the free voter ID card, according to the Department of Public Safety. Lawyers for Texas argued that Rodriguez could obtain ID with her birth certificate, voter registration card and Social Security card — all of which Rodriguez said she has.
Daron Shaw, a professor of government at the University of Texas, took the stand next as an expert witness for the state. He has conducted surveys on ID possession rates by Texas voters.

Shaw’s survey found that, of the 1.9 million voters who the Justice Department said might not have an ID, 91 percent of whites had proper ID, compared to 92 of blacks and 93 percent of Hispanics.

Justice Department lawyers pointed out two flaws in Shaw’s survey. Because it was conducted by a landline phone interview, Shaw’s results skewed to older white respondents. Cell phones are more commonly used by younger people as well minorities, Justice Department lawyers argued.

They also pointed out that it is easier to collect phone numbers for white respondents than black respondents.

Shaw concurred.

Lindsey Ruta and Annelise Russell, News21

Ed. Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly spelled Daron Shaw’s first name as Darren.

Texas legislators: Reasons behind voter ID bill changed

U.S. Department of Justice witnesses took the stand in the Texas voter ID case Tuesday afternoon to explain their understanding of the motivations behind the law.

Texas state Reps. Trey Martinez Fischer and Rafael Anchia, both Democrats, recounted for the three-judge U.S. District Court panel the evolving reasons they heard given for law.

“The goalpost kept moving,” Martinez Fischer testified, when asked about motivation for the bill. He said the bill initially was touted as good immigration policy, an effort to keep undocumented immigrants from voting, but in 2011 the reasons shifted to eliminating what sponsors called voter fraud.

Anchia, a former member of the Texas House elections committee, said that publicly stated justification for the bill changed. Language referring to the legislation went from concern for impersonation, to non-citizen voting, to integrity at the polls, Anchia said.

Anchia testified that during floor debate on the ID bill, legislators claimed that they found cases of “rampant voter fraud,” but voter impersonation was a very small percentage of debate. The justification for the photo ID bill changed, Anchia testified.

By Lindsey Ruta and Annelise Russell, News21

Texas lawsuit includes differing estimates of voters without ID

Day two of Texas v. Holder is underway and this morning the testimony was all about the numbers.

Court resumed with testimony from Thomas Sager, a University of Texas statistician whose studies show the number of Texas voters who lack ID. Sager estimated that around 167,724 registered voters do not have an ID — lower than the Department of Justice estimate that ranged from 1.5 million to 1.9 million.

Sager testified that Justice Department studies included inflated estimates. He said the estimates included statistical biases against women and Hispanics, and that previous studies did not account for age and other parameters. For example, people over 65 can vote by mail without an ID.

On cross-examination, Justice Department lawyers pointed out that Sager received assistance in his studies from the Texas attorney general’s office and that he did not conduct all the studies himself. Sager maintained that he verified all the studies.

The defense also noted that Sager used a different list of Texas driver’s licenses than the one used by their expert.

Sager maintains that all matching in the case — both by himself and by defense expert Stephen Ansolabehere — are ultimately “inconclusive” because their methodology includes statistical bias against Hispanics.

By Lindsey Ruta and Annelise Russell, News21

Texas legislator testifies about fraud
in voter ID lawsuit

Texas state Rep. Jose Aliseda, a Republican, told a three-judge federal panel Monday afternoon, that as a county attorney he encountered mail voter fraud and heard from constituents that they have lost faith in the voting system.

Upon cross examination, Aliseda acknowledged that his south Texas constituents would bear an undue burden to leave work and drive 60 miles round-trip to obtain a state-issued ID to vote. He also said that requiring constituents to pay $22 for a birth certificate to obtain an ID also is a burden. Despite that, Aliseda said the Texas voter ID bill, which is the focus of a federal court trial this week, went forward because the public wanted it.

After hearing the testimony Monday in Washington, D.C., Texas state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, a Democrat, said he was surprised that proponents of voter ID tend to “gloss over” potential disenfranchisement of 795,000 voters who might not have valid ID.

President of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, Martinez Fischer said the Texas case is based on the idea that citizens should trust the state government. That is the heart of the problem, he said, because “that is what got us here in the first place.”

Lack of trust in the state government is why Texas remain under the Justice Department’s oversight, he said.

By Annelise Russell and Lindsey Ruta, News21