Texas voter ID law’s fate could hang on details
08 September 2014
Challengers to Texas voter ID law are represented by a team of over a dozen lawyers from the U.S. Justice Department, civil and voting rights groups, and private law firms. The burden of proof is on the challengers to show that the ID law will stop Texas’s racial minorities from voting.
There’s not much dispute that a huge number of Texans currently don’t have ID—one estimate introduced by the challengers last week put it at 1.2 million eligible voters. Much of the plaintiffs’ case was aimed instead at demonstrating the burdens—financial and otherwise—of getting an ID.
Daniel Chatman, an urban planning expert at the University of California, Berkeley, testified that based on a detailed study he conducted, 11% of Texas’s African-Americans would face a 90-minute roundtrip journey to the nearest ID-issuing office. For whites, the figure was just 3.3%. The difference, said Chatman, is almost entirely due to different rates of car ownership, since having to use public transportation adds significantly to the journey time.
Separately, Kevin Jewell, a veteran Texas lawyer appearing as a witness, said he’d calculated that for one low-income woman, getting the underlying documents needed for a state ID card would cost $63.45—over a third of her monthly income.
“The budgets these individuals have are constrained,” said Jewell. “That means they have to make a choice that many Texans don’t have to: They have to choose between using their money to buy an ID or something else that may be important to them.”