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Texas Photo ID Trial Update: Day Six Afternoon Session

On the afternoon of the sixth day of trial before Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos, the plaintiffs presented one affected voter and then rested their case against Texas’s photo ID law, and the State presented its first two witnesses.

  • Carson Whitelemons
September 10, 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.

On the afternoon of the sixth day of trial before Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos, the plaintiffs presented one affected voter and then rested their case against Texas’s photo ID law, and the State presented its first two witnesses.

The Court first heard testimony from the deposition of plaintiff and African-American affected voter Imani Clark, a student at Prairie View A&M University.

  • Clark testified that she has a student ID card, but no forms of ID designated as acceptable under SB 14. Clark stated she is originally from California and that she has a California driver’s license rather than a Texas license because she may return there after college.
  • Clark testified that the two elections she has voted in have both been in Texas.
  • She stated that “what bothers me most is that when I first attended Prairie View there was no problem with me voting with my student ID, and now there’s an issue with me using that, as well as my California state ID. And I feel as though it should have never been an issue to begin with and I feel like it’s just a way to prevent minorities, African Americans and Latinos from voting in any elections. . . I feel that way because I believe it’s taking people’s freedom from being able to vote. I feel like it’s a privilege to be able to vote.”
  • Clark testified that in terms of obtaining an acceptable ID under SB 14, “ it’s a lot of work for me to be able to go to a DPS and retrieve these forms simply because of the fact that I am a full-time student, you know, with a job and extracurricular activities and I just really don’t have time.”
  • Under cross-examination from Texas’s attorney during her deposition, Clark stated that she has all the documents necessary to obtain an Election Identification Certificate and is a resident of California.

After Ms. Clark’s testimony, a Judicial Notice Order granted by Judge Ramos was read into the record, stating that according to U.S. Census Data, among non-Hispanic White persons of voting age, 19.4% are age 65 or older; among Hispanic persons of voting age, 8.7% are age 65 or older; among Black persons of voting age, 10.6% are age 65 or older; and among Asian persons of voting age, 9.2% are age 65 or older.

The plaintiffs then rested, and Texas began presenting its defense. Its first witness was Tony Rodriguez, Senior Manager in the Driver’s License Division for the Department of Public Safety. John Scott led the examination.

  • Rodriguez testified that there are 130 DPS offices within the region that he oversees, and that he manages 600 people in those offices. Before SB 14 was implemented in June 2013, Rodriguez was responsible for overseeing day-to-day operations of issuing Texas DPS IDs. After SB 14, he was also responsible for implementing the Election Identification Certificate (“EIC”) issuance at DPS. He stated that, when DPS began issuing EICs, it was using the infrastructure it already had created for issuing other IDs, and that there were administrative rules already in place to be followed.
  • Rodriguez testified that, when someone lacks a birth certificate, there are workarounds for getting them an ID—namely, that they could show a number of other documents. He stated that customers can go to the DPS website and find a list of documents that DPS will accept for identification purposes. He stated that Ruby Barber was not the only individual he knew of who had gotten an ID despite not having a birth certificate.
  • Rodriguez stated that individuals can’t use IDs that expired more than two years ago to get a new ID because it’s in the state code, and because such a regulation is the industry standard. He testified that he’s never heard of or seen someone who came in with an ID that was expired less than two years who was unable to use it to get new ID. He stated that the average Texas citizen only has to come into a DPS office to renew their ID once every 12 years.
  • He testified that the customer service representatives who assist people at DPS offices come from the local communities which those offices serve, and so many of them speak other languages prevalent in the community. He stated that DPS documents are provided in English and Spanish.
  • Rodriguez stated that 97% of Texas’s population lives within 25 miles of a DPS office, and 99.9% of the population lives within 50 miles of a DPS office. Rodriguez stated that, he never had trouble staffing DPS offices open on Saturdays.
  • Rodriguez testified that DPS does not run background checks or warrant checks on EIC applicants and that although there was a period when DPS did fingerprint EIC applicants, that is not happening anymore.
  • Rodriguez stated that an email in which he called issuing EICs “mission creep” meant that the EIC program was evolving. Rodriguez testified that it is a military term, and that there are many former military at DPS.
  • Under cross-examination by Anna Baldwin, Rodriguez testified that if someone was seeking DPS ID and hadn’t had a name or gender change and wasn’t a naturalized citizen, they would have to present an original or certified copy of their birth certificate. He stated that DPS has law enforcement co-located in some of their offices. He testified that even if DPS had issued zero EICs, the program would be a success because DPS had provided the service.
  • Under cross-examination by Armand Derfner, Rodriguez testified that he is not aware of anyone at DPS whose job is focused solely on EICs. He also stated that he is not aware of anything DPS does to ensure that drivers whose licenses have been revoked have photo ID to vote.
  • Under cross-examination by Marinda van Dalen, Rodriguez testified that he doesn’t know what information regarding EICs is available on DPS’s website in Spanish. Van Dalen demonstrated how, using a DPS location search feature on the website, there were more location results returned when searching in English than when searching in Spanish; Rodriguez did not disagree. Rodriguez agreed that there was no link to the Spanish-language EIC application on DPS’s website.

Texas’s second witness was Victor Farinelli, the electronic registration manager of the Department of State Health Services’ Vital Statistics Unit. Lindsey Wolf conducted the examination.

  • Farinelli testified that, regardless of whether a child is born in a hospital, at home, or elsewhere, it is required under Texas law that a birth is recorded. He stated that if a birth is assisted by a midwife, then it is the responsibility of the midwife to record the birth. Otherwise, it is the legal responsibility of the parents. He testified that parents do not automatically receive a copy of the birth certificate, but most request it.
  • Farinelli stated that birth certificates for individuals under 75 years of age are exempt from public records requests, but if an individual is 75 or older his birth certificate can be requested as part of a public records request. Farinelli testified that, even for an individual under 75, an attorney or family member acting as the individual’s legal agent could request a birth certificate on behalf of the registrant.
  • Farinelli testified that a regular birth certificate costs $22 and an EIC birth certificate costs $2. He stated that, of the $2 for an EIC birth certificate, $1.80 goes to the state comptroller’s office and $0.20 goes to the local registrar. An individual can receive one EIC birth certificate in a lifetime, and it never expires. He stated that if you click through to the Vital Statistics Unit’s page on DSHS’s website, there is a link to the EIC birth certificate. He testified that an EIC birth certificate must be obtained in person.
  • Farinelli stated that, if the name or date of birth is incorrect on a birth certificate, the registrant will pay $15 to $18 to search for and amend the record, although sometimes local registrars will waive that fee. He testified that, as for a delayed birth certificate, it can take anywhere between two weeks and a year to receive one, although the average is about 30 days, and that the cost for obtaining a delayed birth certificate by mail would be at least $47.
  • Under cross-examination by Dan Freeman, Farinelli testified that there is no law or regulation that requires DSHS to offer an EIC birth certificate. Farinelli testified that DSHS has not issued any EIC birth certificates in Austin to date.* He stated that a certified copy of birth record costs $22 to order in person or online, plus a credit card fee and a potential $5 dollars to expedite. He testified that there are many documents that establish identity for purposes of obtaining a birth certificate that do not establish identity for purpose of voting. Farinelli was shown the version of the election identification birth certificate application form in use as of September 2, 2014, and agreed that it stated that applications without photo ID would not be processed.* Farinelli stated that the birth certificate application form has not been translated into Spanish. He stated that identity theft using forged birth certificates “happens sometimes” and has happened more than four times over the past 10 years. Farinelli testified that he is not aware of any press releases, media campaigns, or direct mailers advertising the EIC birth certificate, and that the DSHS web page devoted to EIC birth certificates was created last week. He stated that Texans born in another state are not eligible for a reduced-price birth certificate unless that state has such a program.

*This post has been updated to reflect that Farinelli testified that DSHS has not issued any EIC birth certificates in Austin to date and that the version of the election identification birth certificate application form in use as of September 2, 2014 stated that applications without photo ID would not be processed.