The Justice Department is challenging Texas’s voter-identification law this week in front of a three-judge panel, arguing that it could prevent many blacks and Latinos from casting a ballot. The case could go all the way to the Supreme Court.
The federal appeals trial, which started Monday, is scheduled to last through Friday.
"At least 1.4 million registered voters in Texas lack any form of state-issued ID accepted under S.B. 14, and those voters are disproportionately Hispanic and black," said Elizabeth Westfall, trial attorney for the Justice Department during her opening statement, according to UPI.
Under the Texas voter-identification law, which passed in March 2011 and was signed by Republican Gov. Rick Perry, voters must show a state-issued identification to vote. The Justice Department blocked the law, saying it was a violation of the 1965 federal Voting Rights Act.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott in January sued the Justice Department.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that voter-identification laws are constitutional,” Abbott wrote in a statement. “Texas should be allowed the same authority other states have to protect the integrity of elections.”
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund is among the groups opposing voter-identification requirements, arguing that the law would impose a burden on young African-American student voters in Texas because many used student identifications in past elections.
Supporters of the law say that states should do more to prevent voter fraud. The Republican National Lawyers Association last year published a survey citing voter-fraud convictions and prosecutions in 46 states since 2000. Its website collects news articles about people prosecuted for felony voting, stealing absentee ballots, or providing a false address on their voter-registration forms.
Those who don’t have a driver’s license, passport, or military identification can get a voter-identification card for free from the state’s Department of Public Safety, according to the attorney general of Texaas's website.
Seven states—Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Tennessee—already have voter-ID laws on the books.