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Texas Photo ID Trial Update: Day Four Morning Session

The morning of the fourth day of trial, the court heard a reading in of deposition testimony offered by State Senator Wendy Davis in 2011 in Texas v. Holder, as well as an expert for the plaintiffs, and a state representative from Houston.

  • Carson Whitelemons
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.

The morning of the fourth day of trial, the court heard a reading in of deposition testimony offered by State Senator Wendy Davis in 2011 in Texas v. Holder, as well as an expert for the plaintiffs, and a state representative from Houston.

The morning began with attorney Chad Dunn offering a reading in of testimony of from Davis from the Section 5 case concerning SB 14, Texas v. Holder.

  • Davis testified that she had offered 13 amendments to SB 14, and that all of them except one were rejected or tabled. She stated her concern about poor people’s inability to procure new ID. 
  • Davis testified that impoverished people in her district were primarily minorities. The amendment she offered would have required DPS to inform people about the availability of a free Election Identification Certificate when they came in; it was rejected.  Davis stated that she believes SB 14 was intended to have a discriminatory effect, and that it will.

The second witness the court heard from was Allan Lichtman, a historian at American University who specializes in quantitative analysis. Gerry Hebert took the lead in questioning.

  • Lichtman testified that for this case, he examined the passage of SB 14 to investigate whether or not that bill was enacted with the intent to discriminate against Hispanics and African Americans.
  • He stated that the debate over SB 14 “wasn’t just a partisan issue, although partisanship was certainly involved. . . . The way in which [partisanship] manifested itself in these particular decisions [made in passing SB 14] was by placing, . . . quite knowingly and intentionally, disparate burdens on the voting of African Americans and Hispanics in Texas as compared to whites.”
  • Lichtman testified that recently in Texas, there has been a big population change: the white population has shrunk while the minority population has grown, particularly the Latino population. He stated that this is of high political importance in Texas because voting is highly polarized among racial lines, so the shift results in fewer Republican votes. Lichtman testified that 2011 Texas legislative session was the most racially charged session in recent history.
  • He testified that as of 2010, the percentage of African Americans holding gun licenses is both much lower than the percentage of African American voting age population and much lower than the rate of possession among whites. At the time the legislature decided to allow gun licenses as a form acceptable ID under SB 14, this information was available on the Department of Public Safety (DPS) website.
  • Lichtman testified that the reverse pattern is true for government employee IDs, which are not allowed under SB 14. He stated that based on census data, African Americans and Latinos are overrepresented among government employees, and whites are underrepresented.  There are one million government employees at every level in state of Texas. Lichtman stated that this also holds true for the decision to not allow student IDs:  African Americans and Latinos are overrepresented among students in Texas compared to whites.
  • He stated that “when you look at the specific decisions with respect to SB 14 made by the Texas legislature as compared to previous bills and as compared to bills in other states on which they’re modeled, you see in every instance those decisions operate to place disparate burdens on African Americans and Hispanics relative to whites based on data readily available at the time.  You also see that the Texas state legislature was warned that this bill would likely not pass muster under the Voting Rights Act.”
  • Lichtman testified that at the time of SB 14’s passage, there was a report by a Republican-controlled committee on voter fraud and it indicated that the main problem with voter fraud is not voter impersonation, but mail-in voter fraud.  The Texas conservative coalition also came to the same conclusion.  Lichtman testified that the representative designated to deal with issues of voter fraud in the Texas legislature actually spoke only about mail-in ballot fraud in his report on the issue.
  • Lichtman stated that Texas claimed it was modeling its bill after an Indiana law, but there are important differences. Indiana allows all government issued photo IDs, doesn’t allow for handgun carry license, and allows photo IDs that are expired for longer. He stated that all of these decisions have racial implications that increase the burden on minorities when compared to Indiana’s law.
  • Lichtman testified that the DPS has no history or mission to provide access to voting.  He stated that he reviewed DPS emails and deposition transcripts in which DPS employees expressed concerns about resources to implement the  Election Identification Certificate (EIC) program.  He testified that concern was later alleviated because nobody was showing up to get an EIC, and that for DPS, the fewer EICS issued the better.  Lichtman quoted an email where a DPS employee stated that “zero is a good number” in terms of number of EICs issued.
  • Lichtman stated that “SB 14 was knowingly and intentionally adopted with the purpose of placing a disparate burden on the voting of African Americans and Latinos relative to whites. . . SB 14 was not passed despite race, but was knowingly passed because of race.”
  • Upon cross examination, Ronnie Keister asked Lichtman whether he knew how many people in the populations he discussed, such as the student population, have qualifying IDs from other sources. Lichtman said that he did not.

The court heard next from State Senator Rodney Ellis, who has represented District 13 in Texas for almost 35 years. Chad Dunn took the lead in questioning.

  • Ellis testified that District 13 is an inner city district that is approximately 90 percent people of color.  He stated that 40 percent of his district is African American, and 30 percent is Hispanic. Ellis testified that there is a tendency among the minority community, even in his own household, to want to go to the polls rather than to vote by mail.
  • Ellis testified that there just a few days’ notice between when SB 14 was filed and when hearing and debate was held in the Senate, which is unusual. He testified that the two-thirds rule in the legislature—that two-thirds of the representatives must vote to move ahead a bill in the Senate—has only recently been waived when there’s been a racially divisive issue before the senate. It was waived in the case of SB 14.
  • Ellis stated that he himself offered an amendment to have student ID included.  He testified that he believed his colleagues who supported SB 14 knew that a Drivers License would be a form of ID that white people in Texas would have more than minorities, and that student IDs would be more likely to be had by minorities, especially given the population growth in Texas recently. Ellis stated that he thinks the legislators knew the effect this would have and what that would mean for politics and elections.

Ellis’ testimony will continue in the afternoon.