Elections

Texas Voter ID Law Back In Federal Court

This could be just the beginning of another years-long appeals process.

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Texas and the U.S. Justice Department are beginning their courtroom showdown over the state’s voter ID law.

The trial started Tuesday in Corpus Christi federal court. It’s expected to last only two weeks. But the final word on voter ID in Texas could be years away.

Texas passed a law requiring voters show a photo ID at the polls in 2011. But the law didn’t take effect until last year, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Texas and several other states with a history of discrimination no longer needed the permission of the Justice Department to change voting laws.

“The Justice Department has decided to use ‘different’ aspects of the Voting Rights Act to try to go after Texas. So the argument is that it ‘intentionally’ discriminates,” said Jon Taylor, chair of the political science department at University of St. Thomas.

The state will likely argue the law does not discriminate against minorities or the poor because anyone can get an ID to vote for free. Taylor says people still have to pay certain fees for the documents needed to verify one’s identity in order to get the ID.

“If we’re talking about a birth certificate in Texas, I think it’s around $20 to get a birth certificate in Texas. So that’s not a ‘free’ ID, last time I checked,” Taylor said.

Taylor predicts if Texas wins, lawmakers will likely use their session early next year to tweak the Voter ID law to protect it against further challenges.

If the state loses, the law could go through another appeals process, and eventually wind up back before the U.S. Supreme Court. Taylor says the earliest the court would rule is 2016, right in the middle of a presidential campaign.

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David Pitman

David Pitman

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David was HPM’s local Morning Edition host from 2009 to 2020 -- when he was moved to the position of Technical Director of Houston Matters with Craig Cohen, and Town Square with Ernie Manouse. David has extensive public and commercial broadcast journalism and production experience dating back to 1993 –...

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