A number of online media outlets have sent reporters to Corpus Christi to cover the opening of Veasey v. Perry (the consolidated federal lawsuit contesting implementation of the 2011 Texas voter I.D. law), but for my money, the most detailed and accurate day-to-day coverage of the trial is coming from the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU (available at http://www.brennancenter.org/texas-voter-id-trial.
I’m guessing that mainstream news coverage is likely to flag and falter a bit as the trial continues for the next three weeks or so, simply because the trial schedule is a little too languid and stretched-out to generate sustained interest across multiple news cycles. That’s a shame, because while there may not be showy rhetorical fireworks every day of the trial, the meat of the evidence lies in a series of expert reports that make for surprisingly good reading (at least for fans of public policy analysis and massive demographic surveys – and hey, that’s all of us here, right?) (Highlights include Dr. Gerald Webster’s report, here: http://moritzlaw.osu.edu/electionlaw/litigation/documents/Veasey5162.pdf, Dr Barry Burden’s rebuttal of the State’s experts, here: http://moritzlaw.osu.edu/electionlaw/litigation/documents/Veasey5152.pdf, and Drs. Barreto and Sanchez’s rebuttal of the State’s experts, here: http://moritzlaw.osu.edu/electionlaw/litigation/documents/Veasey520.pdf).
It’s no secret why the Brennan Center is providing a constant twitter feed, daily recaps of testimony, detailed trial background stories, and profiles of the key witnesses and evidence as they are presented. The attorneys for the Brennan Center are insiders who have a dog in the hunt – they represent one of the plaintiffs in NAACP et al. v. Steen et al., which was consolidated with Veasey v. Perry for the sake of judicial economy, and so the Brennan Center staff are intimately aware of the ebb and flow of the trial, coordinating their legal arguments with the arguments being made by the other plaintiffs.
The Brennan Center’s coverage is by necessity biased strongly in favor of the plaintiffs’ arguments, and so in this respect its website coverage differs from an objectively neutral reporting of the trial. Normally, inherent bias would make me hesitate to recommend this sort of “press release” news coverage offered by a party to a lawsuit, and I would favor more neutral sources, such as the Moritz College of Law repository (which scrupulously offers all documents from both sides of a dispute, and never editorializes or favors one side or another) (the Veasey v. Perry documents are available at http://moritzlaw.osu.edu/electionlaw/litigation/VeaseyV.Perry.php).
However, party bias in reporting is less of a problem in Veasey v. Perry than it would be in most other lawsuits, given that the defendant State of Texas has more-or-less capitulated with respect to the evidentiary elements of the lawsuit. In other words, (and obviously with a few quibbles), the State apparently concedes that the plaintiffs’ descriptions of the facts are more-or-less accurate.
Rather than offering anything more than a token rebuttal of the plaintiffs’ evidence, the State apparently takes the position that as a matter of law, a photo I.D. requirement (even if such a requirement imposes a disproportionate financial burden on minority voters, or disproportionately discourages minority voters from voting) isn’t illegal per se, but is justified as long as there is public support for more restrictive voting procedures. In other words, it is irrelevant (in the State’s view) whether there actually is any danger of illegal voting or not – what is critical is whether or not the bulk of voters (i.e., the non-poor, non-minority voters) are in favor of imposing an additional burden on voting.
In other words, the State of Texas is arguing that while the 2011 picture I.D. law may be a discriminatory, ineffectual and badly-conceived law, and while the law may or may not be intentionally badly-conceived, it is not an intentionally discriminatory law.
The State has claimed (as an affirmative defense) that Texas is unfairly picked on by the Department of Justice, and that this lawsuit is being mean, and stuff. (at http://moritzlaw.osu.edu/electionlaw/litigation/documents/Veasey4481.pdf). For a stinging rebuttal of this argument, see: http://moritzlaw.osu.edu/electionlaw/litigation/documents/veasey4911.pdf. As any person who has presided over a child’s temper tantrum knows, the defensive rejoinder that someone is “being mean, and stuff” is rarely relevant or germane to the issue at hand, and that general observation holds true in this case.