WASHINGTON — A panel of three federal judges in D.C. posed skeptical questions on Friday about Texas’ voter ID law during closing arguments in a trial about whether the measure is discriminatory.
The panel of federal judges — George W. Bush appointee Rosemary M. Collyer, Clinton appointee David S. Tatel and Obama appointee Robert L. Wilkins — hopes to issue a ruling on the case in “quick order,” according to Collyer, who expressed doubts about the findings of Texas’ experts in the case.
John Hughes, a lawyer for Texas, argued in his closing arguments that people who want to vote already have an ID or can easily get it. Hughes argued that if the state’s voter ID law really disenfranchised anyone the D.C. “courtroom would be filled” with Texans who couldn’t obtain voter ID.
In one of the more awkward exchanges, Hughes offered a semi-defense of literacy tests after one judge said that the reason literacy tests were racist years ago was because of inequalities in the education system. The judge asked if it was Texas’ theory that there would be a problem with literacy tests today. Setting aside other laws banning literacy tests and poll taxes, Hughes said he did not believe a literacy test would violate Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.
When a judge noted that some voters would have to travel 120 miles to the nearest DMV to obtain a voter ID, Hughes argued that people in those areas had to travel “long distances to do any number of things.” The judge pointed out that people who live more than 100 miles from a courtroom aren’t even allowed to be subpoenaed because it is “unduly burdensome,” but Hughes argued that traveling far distances was a “reality to life of choosing to live in that part of Texas.”
He argued that the bill gives discretion to poll watchers when matching individuals to names on the voter rolls and could give them “the opportunity to discriminate against Hispanics.”