Texas Photo ID Trial Update: The End of the First Week

At end of the first week of trial, the court heard more from Senator Rodney Ellis, three individuals affected by SB 14, an expert in political geography, and a state representative.

September 5, 2014

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

At end of the first week of trial, the court heard more from Senator Rodney Ellis, three individuals affected by SB 14, an expert in political geography, and a state representative.

Senator Rodney Ellis concluded his testimony by stating he was convinced that SB 14 will have a discriminatory effect and was enacted with a discriminatory purpose. On cross-examination, the state showed a news article evidencing popular support for SB 14 at the time of the debate, and noting deposition testimony from county clerks of Harris and Jefferson Counties stating that they had received few if any complaints after the law’s implementation.  Ellis was asked whether he was aware that a UT student costs $10, to which he responded that we was not. He was asked whether he was aware that an individual can obtain a birth certificate for $2 or $3 if they want it for the purpose of obtaining EIC. Ellis responded, “Yes, I was aware of that. About as much as a poll tax.”

The plaintiffs then called Ken Gandy, an elderly 74 year-old resident of Corpus Christi, who has lived in Texas for more than 40 years and registered to vote for the length of that time.

  • Gandy stated that he does not have a form of ID that is acceptable under SB 14. Neither Gandy nor his wife work. Gandy testified he has not had a current Texas driver’s license since 1990. He uses the bus as his primary means of transportation, because neither he nor his wife drive. He was born in New Jersey and has no birth certificate.
  • Gandy testified that he used the documentation he has to attempt to obtain photo ID at the DPS, but was told that he needed to go down the street to get a birth certificate. However, Gandy was born in New Jersey. Gandy stated that he is on social security, and is saving up money to get his New Jersey birth certificate.
  • On cross examination, David Whitley pointed out that Gandy works on the ballot board every election, for which he gets paid $11 an hour.

The next witness for the plaintiffs was Margarito Lara. Marinda van Dalen took the lead in questioning.

  • Lara is 78 years old, Latino, and lives in Sebastian, Texas, with his wife. He testified that he was born at home not too far from Sebastian. He is retired and had seven years of schooling. He began voting when Texas had a poll tax, and votes regularly, in person.
  • He stated that he has not voted since last year because he does not have acceptable ID under SB 14. He has a social security card and a voter registration card, but his driver license expired 10 years ago. He attempted to get another one but was asked for a birth certificate, which he does not have and never had. He testified he has been trying to get his birth certificate for years, and has traveled to several counties near where he was born, but none of them have a record of his birth. He would have to pay fees of $25 and $22 to get a “delayed birth certificate.” He stated that he has already paid $22 to have his birth certificate looked for, with no success.
  • Lara testified that he has no car and that sometimes family members drive him to the grocery store. When they give him rides, he tries to give them gas money. Otherwise, he walks or travels by bicycle. He does not like asking for rides. He receives social security and is on a fixed income, and he has no savings. He stated that and his wife try to make their money stretch through the month if they can.
  • On cross examination by Lindsey Wolf, Lara noted that he voted in person in 2012, at a polling place that was 9 or 10 miles away from his home. Lara also stated that he travels into town a couple of times a week, and gets rides from his friends and other relatives every week. Lara noted that he has living relatives who can attest to his birth (an older sister), which would enable him to get a birth certificate.

The next witness for the plaintiffs was Margarita Lara’s sister, who also lives in Sebastian. Marinda van Dalen again took the lead in questioning.

  • Lara testified that she is a retired waitress who identifies as Latino. She stated that she started voting in the 1960s, and has been a regular voter since then. She used to have to pay the poll tax.
  • Lara stated that she has a Texas driver’s license, but that it will expire in 2015. The name on her Driver’s License and on her voter registration card do not match.
  •  She testified that she doesn’t have a birth certificate; she tried to get one about thirty years ago, but they couldn’t find her records. If she wanted to get a birth certificate, she stated that she would have to pay $47.  She only has two of the necessary documents to get a delayed birth certificate. She receives no other income besides social security.
  • On cross examination, Gregory David Whitley asked if she had had any problems voting in the last year. Lara stated she had not.

Next to testify was Dr. Gerald Webster, expert in political geography. Dan Freeman took the lead in questioning. Webster is a Professor and Chair of Geography at University Wyoming.

  • Webster testified that he was asked to look at the differential effects of SB 14 on racial and language minority groups. He concluded that the obstacles African Americans and Hispanics face getting IDs were greater than those faced by whites.
  • Webster testified that the Texas population grew by a significant amount between 2000-2010, mostly in the Hispanic population. He stated that the poverty rates for whites is 8.6 percent for whites, and that it is nearly triple that for African Americans and Hispanics. Hispanics and African Americans are also much more likely to lack vehicle access.
  • Webster testified that one third of counties in Texas don’t have a DPS office. In approximately twenty counties, there is no DPS office and the county office does not offer Election Identification Certificates either.
  • Under his analysis, Webster testified that at least 10,000 and possibly many more people in Nueces county (the county where the trial is taking place) don’t have SB 14 ID.
  • Webster stated that he looked at census tracts and found a substantially significant relationship between the race of the current voting age population and voters without SB 14 ID.  Census tracts with more whites had a lower rate of voters without ID, whereas census tracts with more African Americans and Hispanics had a higher rate of voters without ID.
  • He stated that based on Ansolabehere’s research, people without SB 14 ID are clustered in big cities. Webster testified that nearly one in five Texans resides in Houston, San Antonio, or Dallas, and that 55 percent of the state’s low-vehicle-access census tracts are in these three cities. Webster gave the example of Houston, where he estimated that is would take 66.7 minutes to travel from one of these census tracts to a DPS office, but only 10 minutes by car. In Dallas, average one way travel by car is 12.8 minutes, versus 59.7 minutes by bus. Minorities live disproportionately in low-vehicle census tracts. He also stated that the census tracts with the largest proportion of registered voters without SB 14 ID correlate with those census tracts with higher African American and Latino populations.
  • Webster stated that in conclusion, African Americans and Hispanic communities “have much greater obstacles to securing an EIC than whites.”
  • On cross examination, Reed Clay asked Webster whether he stated in his deposition that Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio all have well-developed bus systems. Webster said yes. Clay also pointed out that Webster had focused his study only on the areas in which the 2% of the registered voters lacking SB 14 ID reside. He also asked Webster whether the census tract system addresses specific individuals, and Webster replied it did not. 

The next witness called was state representative Rafael Anchia, who has represented the 103rd district since 2005.

  • Anchia testified that 25 percent of the 176,000 people in his district are impoverished. Although he wasn’t on the election committee in 2011, he served on House Election Committee in 2005, 2007, 2009, and Photo ID has been considered in every session he’s been in except 2013.
  • He testified that the public justification given for the photo ID bills has changed over time. At the beginning, the narrative was that voter fraud was epidemic in the state of Texas.  Over time two issues became conflated:  immigration and voter fraud. Anchia stated that he heard lots of talk of non-citizens voting.  That persisted until his subcommittee issued a report in 2008 that in fact incidents of non-citizen voting were very low, maybe approximately 2 instances. He testified that then the rationale became about integrity of elections: one unauthorized ballot disenfranchises one valid ballot.  Then finally the rationale shifted to photo ID leading to greater confidence in elections and then to greater turnout.
  •  Anchia stated that “repeatedly, members of the black caucus and MALC raised concerns about the propensity of this type of legislation to disenfranchise Hispanics and African-American Texans, poor Texans, disabled Texans, and women.” He testified that these groups raised up reports about how many people lacked ID, and took a lot of testimony of people in Texas who would be burdened by a strict Photo ID law. Anchia stated that he repeatedly asked whether studies had been done about possession of the necessary documentation and never found such a study.
  • Anchia testified that he believes SB 14’s requirements adversely impact his constituents. His constituents lack vehicle access in excess of two times the state average. He stated that “if you’re gonna encumber the right to vote in any way, there better be a darn good reason. . . . It should be a very, very compelling reason.
  • Anchia stated that “increasing the integrity of the ballot box is a laudable goal, no doubt . . . but when you look at the numbers of voter impersonation this is designed to remedy, I feel like this has to be about something else.”
  • On cross examination, Stephen Tatum pointed out that lots of bills are passed along party lines, both in the Texas legislature and elsewhere.  Tatum asked Anchia whether he believed that SB 14 was passed with discriminatory intent, and Anchia answered yes. Tatum then asked whether this conclusion was based on an inference and Anchia replied it was based on totality of the circumstances. Tatum also pointed out during the cross examination polls that showed a majority of Texans of all races were in support of voter ID legislation. Tatum asked Anchia whether in light of this evidence of support amongst Texas citizens for voter ID measures, it was possible that SB 14 was passed the way it was because of this support and not because of discriminatory intent. Tatum stated that he believed it was possible but not likely.  He testified that the legislature had a huge budget shortfall but that didn’t get a select committee or a two thirds exemption like SB 14 did.  He also stated that neither did transportation or any number of other priorities, including ones that Republicans and Democrats agreed on.

The next witness was Representative Anna Hernandez, a naturalized US citizen and Representative for District 143 in East Houston. Emma Simon took the lead in her questioning. Hernandez testified that she had been on the elections committee in 2011 when SB 14 was considered. She stated that “it was a tense session” in 2011, and immigration was a very hot topic. Hernandez testified that when she talked to her constituents and explained to people how restrictive the bill was, people weren’t in support of it like they were when it was an abstract concept.

The last witness presented was Naomi Eagleton, an 83 year old African American. She testified via a video offered by the Department of Justice.

  • Eagleton testified that she is a Houston resident who has been voting at the polls for the last thirty years.  She testified that she is retired and on social security, and lives from paycheck to paycheck.
  • She stated that she remembered getting on the bus and seeing a sign saying that black people couldn’t sit at the front of the bus, had to go to the back.
  • Eagleton testified that when she went to vote in the November 2013 election, she only had her direct deposit card with her as a form of identification. She was asked for a picture ID and didn’t have one, so they gave her a provisional ballot.  She stated that when she left the polling place, she believed her vote would count and no poll worker told her otherwise.  When she received a letter saying that her vote hadn’t been counted, she I felt “disgusted.”
  • Eagleton testified that she does not have any form of Identification deemed acceptable under SB 14, and that she has never heard of an Election Identification Certificate.
  • Eagleton stated that after the election she went to the Metro Company that runs the buses in Houston to get a photo ID.  She testified that she did this because the election judge told her to go get an ID with a picture on it and she was never told that it needed to be state issued.
  • Eagleton testified that she has been able to function in everyday life without a photo ID and in fact has never had a Driver’s License or State Photo ID.
  • She stated, “I just vote because it’s right to vote.”