WASHINGTON (AP) — Texas State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer said Tuesday that a bill requiring Texans to show photo identification at polls was rushed through the Legislature and passed over the objections of minority lawmakers.
The veteran lawmaker spoke during the second day of a trial in federal court in Washington that will determine whether the 2011 Texas law violates the federal Voting Rights Act. A three-judge panel is hearing the case after the state of Texas sued the Justice Department, which blocked the law under the Act in March.
"There was a determined effort to pass this bill in record time," Martinez Fischer said during testimony.
Fischer, the Justice Department's first witness in the case, testified even though Texas has not called all its witnesses. Because of travel schedules, witnesses for the opposing sides are being called out of order and Texas will continue making its case on Wednesday with an expert witness.
Martinez Fischer, a six-term state representative and the chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, said he and his colleagues tried repeatedly to block or slow down the voter ID bill. He said it was difficult to determine why the legislation was on a fast track.
"The rationale was constantly changing," he said. "One of the comments was this was 'a solution in search of a problem.'"
The environment at the state Capitol was different than in previous years, he said. While acknowledging sharp partisan divides were common in Austin, Martinez Fischer described a regular effort at bipartisan civility that he said seemed to dissipate in 2011.
"We had a governor that wanted to secede," he said, referring to Texas Gov. Rick Perry. "We had a select committee on state sovereignty."