Texas lawyers say the 2011 state law, which requires voters to show a government-issued photo ID, won't discriminate against minority voters. But Justice Department lawyers say the law is exactly the type of statute the Voting Rights Act, passed in 1965 to protect minorities' right to vote, is designed to prevent.
University of Houston Law Center Professor Peter Linzer says it's hard to prove that the law is an effort to disenfranchise minority voters.
"You know, you're never going to get a smoking gun. You're not going to have someone who wrote a memo saying, 'hey, let's pass this law so we can keep the democrats from getting votes or so that we can keep minorities from getting votes.' Nobody's ever going to say that. So it's going to be circumstantial."
The Justice Department blocked the Texas voter ID law in March. The State of Texas sued, sending the case to federal court where a three-judge panel is deciding the case. Professor Linzer says there's no evidence of massive voter fraud.
"As I understand it, evidence of four cases in the past year or two is all they can prove, all they claim."
Linzer says the 1965 Voting Rights Act is pretty clear about any provisions — like the Texas Voter ID law — that might discriminate against minority voters.
"It doesn't require proof of your motive. It just requires the impact on minorities. If it has that impact, it's bad — unless the Supreme Court throws out the entire Voting Rights Act, which, that would require all the justices to come back and have oral argument in the middle of the summer. That seems unlikely to me."
The case is being watched closely because of the implications for voter ID laws in other states.