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Watch a legal scholar tell Ted Cruz that Texas has racist voter ID laws

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US Sen. Ted Cruz R-TX, asks questions to Mr. Steve Satterfield, Vice President, Privacy & Public Policy, Facebook, Inc. as he testifies during a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC on September 21, 2021.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex. Ken Cedeno/AFP via Getty Images
  • Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas was schooled by experts on voter ID laws Wednesday.

  • A legal scholar quickly noted that Texas' own voter ID law was deemed racist by a federal court.

  • Cruz went back and forth with other experts at the hearing over different kinds of bills.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas landed himself in an unusual situation on Capitol Hill Wednesday, giving a legal scholar an opportunity to outline how Texas' voter ID law can have racist outcomes.

Franita Tolson, a law professor at the University of Southern California, was asked by Cruz if voter ID laws are racist. She said a blanket statement like that is overly simplistic, but that some requirements for ID can have racist outcomes depending on how the law is written.

Cruz then asked which voter ID laws are racist, and Tolson had a direct response.

"Apologies, Mr. Cruz, your state of Texas, perhaps," she said.

Tolson, who is also vice dean for faculty and academic affairs at USC, explained how a federal court ruled in 2017 that the Texas legislature enacted a strict voter ID law with the intention to discriminate against Black and Hispanic voters in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, a finding upheld by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

"Okay, so you think the entire state of Texas is racist," Cruz said. "What about requiring an ID to vote is racist?"

"So I think, sir, that's pretty reductive. I'm not saying the entire state of Texas is racist, but," Tolson replied before Cruz cut her off.

Tolson explained the district court decision before Cruz asked other experts on the hearing's panel if voter ID laws are racist.

Two others agreed with Tolson's answer that the laws can be written with racially discriminatory intent and outcomes.

Voter ID laws have been rather popular among the American public in recent years, but it gets tricky when people are asked other questions about voting.

A June 2021 Monmouth University poll found 80% of Americans saying they support requiring a photo ID to vote, but the same poll also found 71% saying voting by mail should be easier, and only 37% said voter fraud is a "major problem" in the United States.

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