Impassioned testimony over voter ID

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Efforts to create new ID requirements for Texas voters sparked impassioned debate today in the Legislature, where Democrats and Republicans are squabbling over the proposals as the crucial 2010 elections approach.

Rep. Marc Veasey, a Democrat from Fort Worth, conjured up the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, saying the proposals for tighter ID measures are the modern equivalent of the Jim Crow laws that were used to suppress minority turnout for decades.

Veasey, who is black, said "This is a racial issue, make no mistake about. Can you really sleep with yourself at night knowing that if this bill is passed, that most of the people that would be denied the right to vote are going to be black, brown and poor?"

Veasey made his comments during a public hearing on the proposal in the House Elections Committee. The panel is taking a crack at the legislation that passed on a strict party-line vote in the state Senate last month.

The bill would require Texas voters to present a photo ID or two non-photo ID alternatives - such as a marriage license and a utility bill - before being allowed to cast a regular ballot.

Republicans - who control both houses of the Legislature and all statewide elective offices - say new rules are needed to protect against voter fraud. Democrats complain that the GOP wants to suppress Democratic turnout by erecting hurdles that disproportionately affects their base vote.