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Closing statements made in Texas voter ID case

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[September 23, 2014]  By Jon Herskovitz
 AUSTIN Texas (Reuters) - A U.S. judge heard closing arguments on Monday in a lawsuit challenging a state law requiring Texas voters to show identification at the polls, which plaintiffs argue is an attempt to suppress minority turnout.

The case is part of a strategy by the Obama administration to challenge voting laws it says discriminate by race in order to counter a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that freed states from strict federal oversight.

After a trial in Corpus Christi that lasted about two weeks, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos did not indicate when she would make a decision, meaning the law could be in effect for elections in November.

The trial stemmed from a battle over stringent voter ID measures signed into law by Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry in 2011. The measure, which supporters say will prevent voter fraud, requires voters to present a photo ID such as a concealed handgun license or driver's license. But it excludes student IDs.

Plaintiffs argued the law would hit elderly and poorer voters, including racial minorities, the hardest because they are less likely to have such IDs.

They would therefore be more likely to be turned away on voting day, suppressing the turnout of groups who traditionally have supported Democrats, the plaintiffs charged.

"(It) would have the effect of denying thousands of Texas voters the ability to vote in person," their lawyers said in court papers.

Defense lawyers said the state did extensive research and there was no evidence to show the law was discriminatory.

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U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in July that Texas would be the start of his push to overturn the voter ID laws.

The Obama administration sees such statutes as discriminatory and has launched a national rollout of cases to work around Shelby County v. Holder, the Alabama case in which the Supreme Court invalidated a key part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Holder has said Texas has a "history of pervasive voting-related discrimination against racial minorities that the Supreme Court itself has recognized."

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Peter Cooney)

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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