By Bill Mears, CNN
Washington (CNN) - Texas state officials went to federal court Monday to defend a controversial new voter identification law, dismissing suggestions the requirement would deny hundreds of thousands of people - many of them minorities - access to the ballot.
A weeklong trial kicked off in Washington before a special panel of three federal judges who will decide whether the law, known as SB 14, should be allowed to go into effect. It is one of several legal challenges to voter ID laws around the country.
A key enforcement provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 - known as Section 5 - gives the federal government open-ended oversight of states and localities with a history of voter discrimination. Any changes in voting laws and procedures in the covered areas must be "pre-cleared" with Washington. That provision was reauthorized in 2006 for another quarter-century.
The Justice Department in March rejected the Texas law, passed in 2011, using the state's own statistics to show about 600,000 registered voters there lack a state-issued driver's license or identification card. SB 14 amended an earlier voter identification law.
Editor's note: Ana Navarro, a Republican strategist and commentator, served as national Hispanic campaign chairwoman for John McCain in 2008 and national Hispanic co-chair for Jon Huntsman's 2012 campaign. Follow her on Twitter @ananavarro.
By Ana Navarro, CNN Contributor
(CNN) - This week, the National Council of La Raza is hosting its annual conference in Las Vegas. The group is the biggest kid on the Hispanic block. Starting with George H.W. Bush, every Democrat and Republican president and nominee has addressed the conference. This year, neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney is doing so.
This is surprising in a year when plenty has been said about the importance of the Latino vote. Romney needs to do better than John McCain did in 2008. Obama needs to recapture Latino lightning in a bottle. He needs a wide margin of victory among Latinos and a high voter turnout.
Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to speak at this week's conference. The National Council of La Raza won't get the top dog. It will get the attack dog. You can send a No. 2 to burials and weddings of foreign leaders and to conferences you don't want to attend.
It's hard to express disappointment about merely getting the U.S. vice president to show up. Romney doesn't have a running mate. His campaign sent former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez as a surrogate. The National Council of La Raza said the agenda was full and didn't give him a speaking slot.
Editor's note: Melinda Gates is co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
By Melinda Gates, Special to CNN
(CNN) - The vast majority of women in the United States use birth control. Some of us may even consider it a minor annoyance. Sometimes we forget to take our pills. The side effects can be painful. But we put up with it because it's so important to have the power to determine our future.
I didn't fully appreciate how much contraceptives changed my life because I never lacked access to them.
That is, I didn't fully appreciate them until I got involved in global health and learned that hundreds of millions of women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia don't have access to contraceptives. The lack of birth control is more than a minor annoyance. It can be a significant barrier to a better life. When I learned what many women in poor countries faced, I asked myself: What would my life have been like if I hadn't been able to use birth control?
This week at the London Summit on Family Planning, a partnership of national governments from developing and developed countries, foundations, the private sector and NGOs is launching a groundbreaking effort to make sure no woman has to ask herself that question. Our goal is to make modern contraceptives and family planning information and services available to an additional 120 million women and girls in the world's poorest countries over the next eight years.
CNN's Fredricka Whitfield talks to a 9-year-old prodigy about his college experience.