Teenager's testimony to continue at voter ID trial

July 11, 2012 5:57:42 PM PDT
An expert testifying for the state of Texas told a federal court on Wednesday that new voter identification requirements would not affect voter turnout.

Daron Shaw, a distinguished teaching professor in political science at the University of Texas, said there's also no evidence that requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls disproportionately impacts one race over another. Shaw cited a series of surveys and research he conducted at the request of Texas.

"I think the weight of all the evidence is that it will not have an impact on turnout," Shaw said during testimony in a Washington courtroom.

Texas' voter ID law, passed by the state's Republican-controlled Legislature last year, requires voters heading to the polls to present a valid, government-issued photo ID. Currently, Texas only requires voters to show their voter registration cards, which do not have photos, or another acceptable alternative form of ID. Texas' law is similar to other laws passed by GOP-controlled legislatures in Georgia and Indiana.

The Justice Department blocked Texas' new law in March, citing the Voting Rights Act. Texas, in turn, sued the Justice Department bringing the case to Washington, where a three-judge panel is set to decide the fate of the law in a case that will test the limits of the Voting Rights Act, passed in 1965 as a safeguard on minority voting rights.

Shaw, the political science expert, was the first witness for Texas on Wednesday. Under cross-examination, Justice Department attorneys questioned Shaw about the methodology of his research and asked about his outside work. Shaw said he had worked as a political strategist for both of President George W. Bush's presidential campaigns.

Earlier Wednesday, Justice Department witness Victoria Rose Rodriguez finished her testimony. Lawyers for Texas cross-examined her, trying to show that the 18-year-old Rodriguez from San Antonio could easily obtain the new voter photo ID. The attorneys asked her a series of questions about what documents she has and pointed out that those would be enough for her to obtain the photo ID.

In her testimony Tuesday, Rodriguez testified that she's currently a registered voter but would not be able to meet the requirements of Texas' new law. She said she lacked the necessary documents and the ability to travel to a location where she can obtain the newly required voter ID.

Both the state of Texas and the Justice Department are calling witnesses out of order so that travel schedules of those testifying can be accommodated. As a result, witnesses for both sides continued to be called to the stand Wednesday.

State Sen. Rodney Ellis said he believed certain Republican lawmakers passed the voter ID bill with racial motives in mind, at least partly.

"Based on my experience they knew what they are doing," said the Houston Democrat and Justice Department witness, referring to his GOP colleagues in the Senate. "They're good people doing a bad thing.

"That bill has everything to do with race."

The Rev. Peter Johnson, another Justice Department witness, said he has worked on registering voters, primarily minorities, for more than 40 years.

"I continue to do it, because I have friends in the graveyard for their right to vote," said Johnson, who lives in the Dallas area.

He said Texas' new law confounds and offends him. He said the law seems to make it more difficult for blacks to vote while insinuating that blacks and other minorities regularly commit voter fraud.

Convincing blacks to vote is an ongoing struggle, and laws like Texas' add to the problem, Johnson said.

Lydia Camarillo testified that her group's work in registering Latino voters would become much more difficult if the Texas law is allowed to take effect.

"When you create a situation and a law that creates more obstacles, it will have a negative impact" on voting, said Camarillo, vice president of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project.

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