The trial in federal court over Texas' new controversial voter identification law is underway as state officials traveled to the nation's capital to defend the legislation from allegations that it would prevent thousands of individuals from voting.
According to CNN, the law, which is known as SB 14, was passed in 2011 and subsequently rejected by the Justice Department last March. In rejecting the legislation, the Justice Department reportedly cited statistics from the state that said approximately 600,000 registered voters in Texas do not have a state-issued driver's license or ID card.
One important aspect of the legal challenge to the Texas law - as well as several other similar pieces of legislation around the country - is that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 includes a provision that makes it necessary for the federal government to "pre-clear" any voting law changes in places with a history of voter discrimination. CNN reports that the provision was reauthorized in 2006 to be practiced for at least another 25 years.
Texas is reportedly one of eight states that requires voters to present photo identification, but opponents of the legislation have claimed it would deny a significant number of poor, disabled and minority individuals from voting, the news source said. Officials with the Obama administration have said that the law is not necessary as evidence of significant voter fraud in Texas is lacking.
"We note that the state's submission did not include evidence of significant in-person voter impersonation not already addressed by the state's existing laws," Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez said in March when the legislation was rejected by the Justice Department.
Under the Texas law, U.S. citizenship certificates, U.S. passports, military IDs, voter cards from the Department of Public Safety and concealed-handgun licenses would be acceptable forms of identification. However, student IDs issued by state universities would not be, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
In a statement, the state asserted that the voter ID legislation "was not enacted with the purpose of disenfranchising minority voters, and there is not even a suggestion that the state would administer those laws in a racially biased manner," the Star-Telegram reported.
The trial in Washington, D.C. is expected to last a week, according to CNN.