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October 10, 2014
Coleman Bazelon Contributes to Landmark Decision in Texas Voting Rights Case by Evaluating the Economic Burden of SB 14

In the closely watched voting rights case, Marc Veasey, et al. vs. Rick Perry, et al., Brattle principal Coleman Bazelon testified on behalf of plaintiff-intervenors, represented by the global law firm of WilmerHale and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, that African Americans in Texas are disproportionately impacted economically by a Texas law requiring voters to present one of five forms of photo identification to retain the right to vote in person. His testimony was relied upon by the Court to determine the economic costs of obtaining a photo ID (including the costs associated with obtaining a birth certificate and travel), and that the burden imposed by those costs, measured as percentage of average hourly earnings, exceeds the burden imposed by the Texas poll tax found to be unconstitutional in 1966.

The case follows a 2013 decision by the Supreme Court that struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act blocking Texas and other covered jurisdictions from changing their election laws without approval from the U.S. Department of Justice or a federal court. Texas implemented Texas Senate Bill 14 (SB 14), which requires presenting a specific set of allowable photo IDs to vote. The current case alleges that SB 14 violates Section 2 of the Voting Right Act and the U.S. Constitution.

Dr. Bazelon evaluated the economic burden of SB 14 on voters in Texas and analyzed whether or not that burden had a racial component. His analysis led to three primary conclusions:

1. That a disproportionate share of registered voters who will need a new ID to vote in person under SB 14 are African American.

2. That acquiring an ID for the purpose of voting, including the nominally free ID offered by the state of Texas known as an Election Identification Certificate (EIC), comes with real economic costs.

3. That the burden of the cost imposed by SB 14 is substantially higher for African-American Texans, who are disproportionately poor, than for white Texans.

“With the demise of Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, establishing disproportionate burden under Section 2 is plowing new ground,” said Dr. Bazelon. “The outcome of this case demonstrates the importance of high-quality economic analysis in Voting Rights Act cases, and we are pleased that the Court recognized the solidity of Brattle’s analysis in its decision.”

Brattle principals Coleman Bazelon, Benjamin Sacks, and Mark Berkman, senior associate Jeremy Verlinda, and research analysts Matt O’Keefe, Katie Lee, Sarah Griffis, Lillian Rusk, Stephen Lagos, Stephen Kline, David Smythe, and Jieming Li supported attorneys Danielle Conley, Jonathan Paikin, Kelly Dunbar, Tania Faransso, and Lynn Eisenberg of WilmerHale on this matter.

Dr. Bazelon’s testimony is available for download below.