Justice Scalia Harshly Criticizes Voting Rights Act

March 1, 2013
89 Views
President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act in 1965.  The Court heard a challenge it a critical part of it today.

President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act in 1965. The Court heard a challenge it a critical part of it today.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard Shelby County v. Holder, an Alabama county’s challenge to a portion of the Voting Rights Act.  Enacted in 1965, this law addressed long-standing discriminatory voting practices that disenfranchised African Americans.  As stated in the Fifteenth Amendment, no acts shall be allowed that will “deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.”  As part of this Act, certain states who had a significant history of discriminatory behavior were subject to “pre-clearance,” which means that if they wish to change any voting laws or regulations, they need to first obtain approval from the Department of Justice.  The Voting Rights Act has been renewed four times, most recently in 2006.  Now, however, Shelby County objects to having to pre-clear its laws with the Justice Department, 48 years after it was first enacted, while most other states and communities are not subject to the same restrictions.  During oral arguments, Justices Scalia and Sotomayor were particularly vocal, and at times almost heated.  The audio recording of this case can be heard here.  Justice Scalia controversially stated that this act results in “perpetuation of racial entitlement.”  Justice Sotomayor then repeatedly asked Shelby County’s attorney if voting is a racial entitlement, as if she were speaking directly to Scalia.  Others have expressed outrage of Scalia’s comments, including Congressman John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat and civil rights leader, who said, “It was unreal, unbelievable, almost shocking, for a member of the court to use certain language.  It is an affront to all of what the civil rights movement stood for, what people died for, what people bled for, and those of us who marched across that bridge 48 years ago, we didn’t march for some racial entitlement.”  The Court will announce its opinion by June.

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