4:05pm March 5, 2013

SCOTUS on Voting Rights: Black Lawmakers Say Kennedy Tough on Both Sides


Black members of Congress who attended the oral arguments last week on the case of Shelby County vs. Holder say the court’s swing vote, Justice Anthony Kennedy, was equally tough on both sides.

Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC) who was present for much of the proceedings, said, “he [Kennedy] asked very adversarial sounding questions to the other side and you think, this guy may be on our side.”  Then Watt added,

“As soon as the lawyers on the other side get up there he’s asking adversarial questions to them so what do you read from that?” Watt added.

Watt, a graduate of  Yale Law School, is perhaps the most knowledgeable member of the current Congress on voting rights issues.  Watt conducts a summit on the issue at the annual Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Legislative Conference and led the  Voting Rights Act through its last congressional reauthorization.

CBC Chair Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) also attended the oral arguments last week.  She expressed the same view as did Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL). Both attended last week’s oral arguments at the Supreme Court on the case of Shelby County vs. Holder — a case many fear may gut Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.  ”Clearly Anthony Kennedy is the deciding vote,” Fudge said stating the obvious.


“I couldn’t tell which way Kennedy was going,” Brown said.  Brown’s state of Florida endured several changes in voting laws during the 2012 elections.  The changes included eliminating days Floridians could vote early and ending Sunday voting. Brown sued the state over the changes.

The oral arguments were noteworthy for a statement made by Associate Justice Antonin Scalia.  Scalia, making what sounded to many like a political assessment rather than a legal one, asserted that Voting Rights Act had become a kind of “racial entitlement,” that has become difficult to get rid of for politically correct reasons.

During an interview with Politic365 last week, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) said he was “stunned” by what Scalia said.  Lewis was referring to Scalia saying that the Voting Rights Act was an example of the “perpetuation of racial entitlement.”

As he spoke with Rev. Al Sharpton on  MSNBC, Lewis commented on Justice Scalia’s comments saying, “It was unreal, unbelieveanle almost shocking to hear a member of the court use that language.  It is appaling to me … It is an affront to what people in the civil rights fought and died for.”

About the Author

Lauren Victoria Burke
Lauren Victoria Burke
Lauren Victoria Burke is an opinion journalist, comms expert and political analyst focused on justice reform policy. She created Crewof42.com, a blog that covers the work of Black members of Congress, in 2009. Ms. Burke was a staffer for the Senate Democratic Policy Committee and Director of Communications for Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN). She has had a very diverse career in politics and media and appears regularly on NewsOneNow with Roland Martin, Hardball and Up on MSNBC, WVON in Chicago, WURD in Philadelphia and WOL and WHUR in Washington, D.C. She is currently the Managing Editor of Politic365 and a contributing writer for TheRoot and NBC Black where she writes opinion and analysis. Additionally, Ms. Burke has been a contract photographer for Associated Press since 2004. She has authored three books of photography including two on President Obama's 2008 campaign for the presidency and one with Marvel Comics publisher Stan Lee. Ms. Burke was born in the Bronx, New York and grew up on Long Island. She holds a B.A. in History from The American University. Here e-mail is: LBurke007@gmail.com. Twitter: @LVBurke. Instagram: LVB325.



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