Texas Photo ID Trial Update: Day Two

The court heard from one of the plaintiff’s experts, two more witnesses who did not have ID accepted under SB 14, and a social service worker who helps people obtain IDs.

September 3, 2014

After nearly a year of litigation, the Texas photo ID trial started Tuesday, September 2. Visit our trial page for updates from the two-week trial as it proceeds.

In the second morning of the Texas trial, the court heard from one of the plaintiff’s experts, two more witness who did not have ID accepted under SB 14, and a social service worker who helps people obtain IDs.

The first witness on Wednesday was Michael Herron, Professor of Government at Dartmouth College. Like Dr. Ansolabehere, who testified on Tuesday, Dr. Herron used matching analysis to help determine how many people in Texas do not have the forms of ID required by the new law. Armand Derfner, Counsel for League of United Latin American Citizens as well as other plaintiffs, took the lead in questions.

  • Herron testified that the number of non-matches in Texas (that is, non-matches between the list of registered voters in Texas and databases of individuals who have acceptable photo ID under SB 14) is up to approximately 800,000 people.
  • Possession rates vary by racial group. Herron found that the ID possession rate is greater among whites than among Hispanics and blacks, and that the differences are statistically significant.
  • When comparing his findings to those of Dr. Ansolabehere, another expert who used matching analysis, he testified that he would call the numbers they reached “effectively the same.”
  • Mr. Derfner questioned Herron about the fact there are some cases in which people appeared on the no match list and in fact had actually voted. Herron noted that errors work in both ways in statistics; if it’s possible that some number of people who we thought didn’t have IDs actually have them, it’s also possible that some number of people who we thought do have IDs actually don’t have them. He testified that the goal of matching analysis is not an entirely error-free outcome; it is to design a system of analysis that is not going to be systematically error-prone, or produce biased results.

The second witness was Eulalio Mendez, Jr., one of the plaintiffs in the trial. Taking the lead on his questioning was Marinda Van Dalen, an attorney from Texas RioGrande Legal Aid Inc.

  • Mendez testified that he was born in 1931 in Texas, self identifies as a Latino, and has been disabled since an accident in 1964. While he speaks English, he asked for a translator because he felt more comfortable answering questions in Spanish.
  • Mendez stated that his driver’s license expired approximately two years ago, and he didn’t renew it because he had problems with his eyesight at the time and had stopped driving. Mendez testified he has since traveled the 13 miles to the nearest Department of Public Safety office on two or three occasions to try to get a new ID, but the lines were long and he was unable to stand for long enough to endure the wait.
  • Mendez also testified that he has been a frequent voter since he was 22. When he went to the run-off elections in 2014, he brought his expired driver’s license, his social security card, and his voter registration card. He was able to vote, but testified that he was concerned about voting in the future because he was told at the polls that the documents he had provided were insufficient.
  • Mendez testified that his family receives social security benefits, but that food is scarce by the last week of each month, and a $22 fee for a birth certificate would be a financial hardship.

The third witness was Ramona Bingham, who gave her testimony by video. The Department of Justice led her questioning.

  • Ms. Bingham stated she was 56 years old, lives in Houston, TX, and identifies as black. She was seriously injured and hospitalized in 1998, and has long-term pain. Her total income is $600-700 per month.
  • She testified that she had a Texas Driver’s License which expired in 2010, and that she only got a new Texas Driver’s License in 2014. She stated that she did not get a license during this time because her license was suspended because of outstanding tickets, which she had been working to pay off until January 2014. She eventually paid off all her fines because she knew she had to do so to get the ID needed to vote: “I always vote and I wanted to vote, and I knew I needed some form of ID to vote … so I was trying to get that taken care of.” Ramona stated that is was stressful and financial hardship to get her new license. 
  • Ms. Bingham testified that she grew up watching Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement, and stated that “so many people spent their lives fighting for people to have the right to vote, blacks especially”.
  • Ms. Bingham was unable to obtain an ID in time for the March Election and had to vote provisionally, although the poll worker did not offer her a provisional ballot until she asked if there was another way to vote. The following day, she was driven to the DPS and spent 16 dollars on a new ID. She testified, “it wasn’t right that I had always voted with my voter registration card, and I didn’t understand why, since I was born and raised here, and I was a citizen, why I would have to go through so much trouble to have to vote. It was pretty frustrating and scary, also.”

The Fourth Witness called was Christina Mora, an employee who works with at-risk individuals in Dallas. Taking the lead on his questioning was Avner Shapiro, an attorney for the Department of Justice.

  • Ms. Mora testified that her organization, Stewpot, helps between 4,000 and 5,000 people get IDs in Texas per year. She most often tries to help people get Texas state ID, which is the cheapest.
  • When asked why her homeless clients need help getting IDs, Ms. Mora testified that her clients are often in the midst of crisis, and that getting an ID is not their highest priority. She described the barriers to obtaining ID, including understanding and navigating the procedures themselves, financial hardships, investing time, and the logistics of working with DPS office.
  • She stated that her clients often don’t have internet access, don’t know where to go or what to do, don’t have phone access to contact DPS directly, and don’t keep themselves apprised of the various requirements for getting ID and the underlying documents.
  • Ms. Mora estimated a basic financial cost of 45 dollars for an ID when you include the cost of supporting documents and transportation costs.
  • She testified that her clients live in downtown Dallas. Traveling to DPS and back can take two to three hours, and the clients at homeless shelter have curfews which are often in the early afternoon. If they don’t make curfew, they could lose their bed.
  • She also stated that many of her clients have a fear of working with DPS because of outstanding tickets or if something has gone into a warrant status.  This presents a significant barrier.
  • Ms. Mora testified that for 15-20 percent of their clients, it takes more than 4 months to obtain ID, and that more than half of the people her organization helps are registered to vote. 
  • When asked about Election Identification Certificates, she stated that the barriers to getting an EIC are just as high as those for getting a Texas state ID, and unlike Texas ID cannot be used for purposes other than voting.