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Texas Photo ID Trial Update: Day Three Afternoon Session

“The law is misguided if the effort is to reduce voter crimes because it imposes new limits on in-person voting, where we know crimes are rare, but does not impose them on mail ballots, where we know it is more common.”

  • 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.

In the afternoon of the third day of trial, the court heard from three experts for the plaintiffs, a Texas State Senator, and a city council member.

The first witness of the afternoon was expert Jane Henrici, a lecturer at George Washington University. Jennifer Maranzano from the Department of Justice led her questioning.

  • Henrici stated that she uses mixed methods research, but her specialty is in ethnographic research. She testified that she has conducted research on strategies low-income people use to get by, and how they’re impacted by different public policies.  In particular, she studied people in East Texas getting documentation.  Henrici stated that she found that this population faced struggles with transportation, money, and getting time off from work.
  • Henrici testified that she believed the requirements of SB 14 place a burden on low-income Texans, particularly those who are black and Hispanic. When asked why, she cited this population’s unreliable income, lack of time, prevalence of poor health, and relative isolation.
  • She testified that the poverty level of whites in Texas is about half the poverty level of blacks and Hispanics. Henrici stated that even among low-income individuals, blacks and Hispanics are particularly burdened. Poor blacks and Hispanics are less likely than poor whites to have steady employment, are more likely to have health problems, and are more isolated.
  • On cross examination, John Scott of the State of Texas asked, “poor is poor, right?” She replied no, there are more opportunities for low income whites to get a regular, well paying job.

The next witness was Texas State Senator Carlos Uresti, who has spent the past eight years in the State Senate. Bruce Gear from the Department of Justice took the lead in questioning.

  • Uresti testified he was formerly in the military, and that when he was honorably discharged he obtained a military ID card with no photo (which would not be acceptable under SB 14).
  • Uresti testified that the district he represents is 72 percent Hispanic, four percent African American, and 23 percent Caucasian. In 2011, 23 percent of his district lived in poverty. Uresti also stated that Hispanics and African Americans in his district are less likely to own a vehicle. He testified that six counties in his district don’t have a Department of Public Safety (DPS) office.  The DPS offices that do exist are closed during lunchtime, and have very limited hours. 
  • Uresti testified that he spoke publicly on the Senate floor before and during debate on SB 14 about his concerns about how the law would impact his constituents. He stated that the concerns he repeatedly raised about DPS received only non-substantive responses from the supporters of the bill.
  • Uresti testified that for bills to jump ahead of other bills being considered in the Senate, there is something called the two-thirds rule: two-thirds of Texas senators must vote for the bill to move ahead. In 2001, SB 14 was exempted from the two-third rule. Uresti testified that, other than the photo ID bill considered in 2009 and SB 14, he has never witnessed the senate waive the two-thirds rule.
  • Uresti stated that he believes SB 14 was passed with discriminatory intent.
  • During cross examination by Reed Clay, Uresti was asked if he had conducted research into the impact of SB 14 at the time he testified against it on the Senate floor. Uresti stated he had not.

The next witness to be called was expert T. Ransom Cornish, an accountant and attorney. Scott Brazil took the lead in questioning.

  • Cornish testified that he was retained in this case to analyze provisional ballots cast in Texas after the voter ID law went into effect. He was asked to make a determination of the amount of funds appropriated and spent educating the public about SB 14. In addition, he was asked to compare the action of the state of Texas to other states that had implemented voter ID laws.
  • Cornish stated that he received provisional ballots from seventeen counties, all of which had a different method for tracking provisional ballots. His results were therefore inconclusive.
  • Cornish testified about the state’s voter education campaign, and concluded that other states with Photo ID requirements spent a lot more money, overall and per person, to educate voters and implement their voter ID laws. He testified that Texas spent only $400,000 of its own money, which is less than 5 cents per person in Texas.

Following Cornish was another expert,  Barry Burden, a professor of political science at University of Wisconsin, Madison. Dan Freeman from the Department of Justice led his questioning.

  • Burden concluded in his expert report that SB 14 imposes new costs on voters and those costs fall more heavily on black and Latino voters than white voters, and that it is likely to dissuade black and Latino voters from participating in the political process.
  • He stated that voter participation rates are low in Texas, which is ranked 48th or 49th in turnout in the United States. Latino participation rates are even lower.  In federal elections in Texas, the gap in turnout between whites and Latinos is 20 or 30 percentage points, which is statistically significant.  Black turnout rates fell below those of whites in three of the five past federal elections. Burden testified that the black turnout rate only approached the white turnout rate in 2008 and 2012.
  • Burden analyzed the “senate factors,” or factors that courts use in assessing whether a particular practice results in discrimination that violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, in considering SB 14.
  • The first senate factor is an official history of discrimination in voting. Burden testified that Texas’ history of white-only primary elections, poll taxes and re-registration requirements have lasting effects, including into today.
  • The second senate factor is racially polarized voting. Burden testified that exit polls in Texas show racially polarized voting occurs. Because minority groups have different preferences, and because SB 14 will effect different groups differently, Burden stated that SB 14 will likely effect the outcome of elections.
  • The fifth senate factor concerns the effects of discrimination in hindering political participation. Burden testified to a “well-documented history of discrimination against minority voters in Texas.”  He testified that many socioeconomic factors impact the likelihood of voting, and education levels have a huge effect on voting. Latinos lack high school education at a much higher level than whites in Texas. Burden stated that when it comes to income levels, access to vehicles, and health disparities, “blacks and Latinos are lagging behind Anglos. That means they have fewer other resources that voters would use . . . to participate in electoral politics.”
  • When asked about the findings of Prof. Ansolabehere, an expert who conducted a matching analysis to see how Texans lack ID, Burden testified that his findings were very much in line with data he has seen elsewhere. He stated that if anything, Ansolabehere’s method is conservative because it doesn’t take into consideration people who aren’t registered but are likely to register in the future.  Blacks and Latinos are unregistered in higher numbers.
  • Burden testified that he also considered the seventh senate factor, the extent of minority election to public office. He found that Blacks hold 11 percent of seats in legislature, though they are 13 percent of the population.  Latinos hold 21 percent of seats in the legislature, but represent 30 percent of population. He stated that underrepresentation makes people less likely to vote, and that SB 14 will amplify that.
  • The second additional senate factor is tenuousness: whether the law is well-designed to meet the goals it’s set out to achieve. Burden stated that “the law is misguided if the effort is to reduce voter crimes because it imposes new limits on in-person voting, where we know crimes are rare, but does not impose them on mail ballots, where we know it is more common… the assertions [by the legislature] for what SB 14 would do are not well matched to the actual design of SB 14.” He testified that social science research shows that people who live in states with strict photo id requirements don’t have any more confidence in the integrity of elections than people who live in other states.

The last witness to be heard on the third day of trial was Daniel Guzman, a city council member for the city of Edcouch. Avner Shapiro from the Department of Justice led his questioning.

  • Guzman testified that the ethnic makeup of Edcouch is predominantly Hispanic. There are very high poverty levels, and half of the residents don’t have means of transportation.  Public transportation is nonexistent. 
  • Guzman testified that he went to the polling place on Election Day to greet voters.  Unlike in other elections where he’s stood by the polling place on Election Day, he stated that he saw voters coming out of the entrance looking frustrated.  Guzman testified that after seeing what had happened at the polling place, Guzman and his supporters transported 30–40 people to the DPS office to get IDs. He stated that they needed to transport people this way because they didn’t have cars and would have had to walk otherwise.
  • Guzman testified that at the DPS office there are law enforcement officers with guns.  He stated that people in his community are intimidated about going to their local DPS office because of the law enforcement presence.
  • When asked whether SB 14 affects election outcomes in small towns like Edcouch, Guzman stated that there is a huge impact.  In the last election, Guzman stated that four council members won by 50 votes or less, and that he had seen almost that many people turned away because they lacked ID. 
  • Guzman stated that “I think [SB 14] puts a big burden on our citizens. . . . People aren’t gonna go through the expense or time to get all those records.”
  • During cross examination, Jennifer Roscetti asked whether Guzman himself possessed acceptable ID. Guzman stated that he does.