Texas' Voter ID goes on trial in Washington, D.C., this week, and although the proceeding ostensibly is governed by federal law, it might sound like it's a lot about politics.
That's because while Voter ID involves grand talk about protecting the integrity of elections and protecting everyone's right to cast a ballot, it's underscored by a power tug of war between Republicans and Democrats.
Texas Republicans insist that identification at the polls is essential to combat the problem of voter fraud -- even though state Attorney General Greg Abbott's own numbers show it's far less of a problem than he would have people believe.
Texas Democrats insist that the requirement will wrongly deny the rights of thousands of poor, elderly and minority voters -- even though it must be acknowledged that the voters they're worried about often choose not to participate.
Democrats fear that their election success would be hurt because many voters lacking proper ID would tend to vote Democratic.
Republicans counter that if Democrats get fewer votes, it's OK as long as the ID requirement wasn't aimed at deterring Hispanics or blacks from voting based on their race or ethnicity.
Under the 2011 law, everyone who votes in person must show a government-issued photo card: military ID, driver's license, U.S. citizenship certificate that has a photo, U.S. passport, concealed-handgun license or voter card from the Department of Public Safety. Student IDs aren't accepted, even if issued by state universities. Disabled voters are exempted, and mail-in ballots don't require an ID.
The main issue before a three-judge panel (Appeals Court Judge David Tatel and District Judges Rosemary Collyer and Robert Wilkins) is whether the law complies with Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Section 5 requires Texas and several other jurisdictions to get electoral changes like this reviewed to ensure they don't prevent anyone from voting based on race, color or language differences. Texas sued the Justice Department in January to get approval, but the federal court held off ruling until the department studied the law.