Roberts on Voting Rights Act

Media 09.13,05

“John Roberts would have the U.S. Senate and the American public believe that he is a strong supporter of the Voting Rights Act. Don’t believe it. Paraphrasing a former Attorney General, don’t listen to what I say, look at what I did.

The facts are very clear. He opposed efforts by a bipartisan Congress to clarify that voting practices that result in discrimination should be outlawed. He argued instead for a standard that would make it harder to prove discrimination in elections. If this narrow point of view had been adopted, millions of Americans would have been denied equal opportunity at the ballot box.

In 1980, the case Mobile v. Bolden made it harder for people to bring Voting Rights Act claims. The Mobile decision said that it was no longer enough to prove discrimination had taken place; discriminatory intent had to be shown as well. Recognizing the unfair limits placed on victims of voting discrimination, two years later, a bipartisan Congress passed amendments making clear that proving discrimination, not intent, was sufficient to violate the Voting Rights Act.

When he worked for the Reagan administration, John Roberts vehemently opposed those amendments. In response to questioning by Senators Kennedy and Feingold, though, Roberts tried to avoid answering the question of his opposition. He stated that he and the Reagan administration supported reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act “as is” — ignoring Congress and favoring a narrow interpretation that made most Voting Rights cases nearly impossible to prove, denying voting rights to millions of American citizens.”