After nearly a year of litigation, the Texas photo ID trial started on September 2. Closing arguments are today. Visit our trial page for more updates.
Ryan Haygood, an attorney from the NAACP legal defense fund, representing the Texas League of Young Voters Education Fund and Plaintiff Imani Clark, spoke next.
- He stated that the evidence in this trial shows that SB 14 has already, and will continue to, disproportionately deny voters of color the right to participate in the political process, and that SB 14 creates precisely the type of inequality that section 2 was enacted to proscribe. He argued that SB 14 was passed not in spite of, but because of, race.
- Haygood argued that throughout history, each of the devices used to restrict minority voting have been enacted by whites in Texas in response to increased political participation by minorities. And, each time, these have been struck down either under the Voting Rights Act or the Constitution. He argued that SB 14 is the next in this line of discriminatory voting practices; and like its ancestors it must be struck down.
- He stated that voter fraud has been used as a justification in the past for the creation of white primaries, secret ballot provisions, the poll tax, and re-registration requirements. Haygood argued that the real purpose behind these laws is racial exclusion, in history and now.
- Haygood stated that Texas has argued that complying with SB 14 isn’t burdensome because the Election Identification Card (EIC) is free, but that this is wholly without merit. He argued that the EIC program has been an utter failure and is not free is any meaningful respect. When compared to the poll tax, the cost of travel alone to get an EIC represents a larger portion of average hourly wage in Texas than the poll tax did when it was struck down by the Supreme Court as an impermissible burden on the right to vote.
- He stated that black people have to expend a share of their wealth that is four times higher than for whites to obtain an EIC. Haygood argued that the costs of obtaining acceptable identification are real and, for some, are overwhelmingly high. Sammie Bates testified that she literally had to choose between spending $42 to obtain birth certificate and feeding her family. Another witness, Elizabeth Gholar, testified that she had to seure legal counsel in Louisiana to obtain her birth certificate just to be able to vote. These burdens are part of a long history of silencing voices and votes of people of color.
- Haygood concluded that it is more than the money that is at stake. One witness, Ms. Gholar, testified about her experience coming of age in an era where the births of black people were so unimportant that they didn’t take place in hospital, or weren’t officially recorded. He stated that that continues for her now because of SB 14: she has been denied ID because of an inaccurate birth certificate.
- Haygood spoke about the trial testimony of Blake Green of the Texas League of Young Voters Education Fund, who testified at trial that SB 14 discourages participation among young voters.
- Texas inexplicably prohibited use of student ID at the polls, even though students have been using these to vote for years in Texas. Haygood pointed out that use of student ID is acceptable in other states, including Indiana and Georgia, and that not a single legislator could explain why they chose to diverge from those standards.
- In response to Texas’s use of evidence of high poll numbers for voter ID, Haygood noted that, “thankfully, polls have never been a proxy for a law’s constitutionality.” The United States has a history of popular, shameful laws, and that prior to Brown v. Board of Education, a statewide poll in Texas showed that a majority of people did not want schools to be desegregated. He argued that we are not bound by majoritarian impulses of the time, but by the constitution and the Voting Rights Act.
- Haygood concluded by stating that Texas is repeating its dark past to disenfranchise thousands of voters, particularly voters of color, to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.
The court heard next from Marinda Van Dalen of Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, who represents LUPE and individual Ortiz plaintiffs in the case.
- Van Dalen began by pointing out that the individual plaintiffs in the case are the actual people who have been affected by this law, and that they haven’t been able to vote in the past and/or won’t be able to vote in the future. The plaintiffs share many similarities: many are African American and Hispanic, poor, lack access to transportation, and have trouble navigating the bureaucracy.
- Van Dalen stated that Mr. Menendez, one of the plaintiffs, has no acceptable ID. Since his driver’s license expired, he went twice to the Department of Public Safety and lines were too long for him to wait because of his health. He would have been turned away regardless because he didn’t have a certified copy of his birth certificate, which he understands he’ll have to pay at least $22 to obtain. At the end of the last week of each month, he stated that there’s no food in the house and nothing left to buy it with. Van Dalen stated that Texas’ argument is he hasn’t been disenfranchised because he can vote by mail. But Menendez hasn’t ever voted by mail, and he doesn’t trust it because he doesn’t know where his vote is going to end up.
- Van Dalen also pointed to the testimony of Mr. Estrada, who used to be a truck driver, and now does odd jobs since he lost his commercial Driver’s License. Estrada is living at 80 percent federal poverty guidelines, and it would cost him $57 to obtain an EIC if he was willing to give up his commercial driver’s license. He’s ineligible to vote by mail or any kind of disability exemption.
- Van Dalen then discussed Mr. Taylor, an African American who testified that when he went to get a new ID at DPS, Taylor said he was directed to get a social security card from the social security office. When at the social security office, he was told he couldn’t get a Texas State ID before receiving a social security card. Van Dalen stated that at this time he still has no SB 14 ID and doesn’t have the documentation to get one.
- Van Dalen next pointed to the testimony of Margarito Lara and his sister Maximina – both of whom were born here but their births were never registered. Each wanted and needed a birth certificate for many decades, but neither have them. Margarito has no acceptable SB 14 ID, and in order to get a delayed birth certificate, he’d have to pay documentation costs of $69. Van Dalen pointed out that Margarito, who has a seventh grade education, would also have to navigate the process to obtain such a birth certificate. Maximina, Margarito’s sister, stated she does have a Driver’s License; however it will expire next year and she’ll be unable to renew it without obtaining a delayed birth certificate. The cost to obtain SB 14 ID once her driver’s license expires will be around $100. She has a high interest pay day loan she pays off every month, and Van Dalen stated that Lara will essentially be borrowing money to get this ID.
- The last witness Van Dalen discussed was Ms. Espinosa, who doesn’t have SB 14 ID. The cost of amending her birth certificate and obtaining her marriage license bring the total cost of getting SB 14 ID is around $90.
- Van Dalen concluded that the Ortiz plaintiffs share a desire to have ID. She stated that they share the circumstances of crushing poverty, of having made multiple trips and received assistance from family members, and they still don’t have the ID required to vote. Van Dalen stated that without the relief request from the court these people will be unable to vote in the future.