Mitchell Reports | February 27, 2013
>>> we cover all jurisdictions and made great strides over the last 48 years. i was 24 years old when we came under section v. i'm 73 last weekend. we are under the same form, none of which applied for many, many years.
>> the shelby county attorney after his arguments to a supreme court where the justices seem to be signaling skepticism about the 1965 voting act. we are joined by the new president of the naacps legal defense fund arguing this case. it is not looking good, at least, if one can read the tea leaves based on today's arguments. let me hear your response.
>> i didn't argue the case, one of our great lawyers argued.
>> aware of that.
>> we were not at all discouraged by the argument today. i think it was a very rigorous argument. i think the shelby county attorney would have to say he was grilled heavily as well, as it should be. this is a serious matter. when the court heard the case in 2008 , the court engaged in rigorous questioning. we were not put off by that. what we were thrilled to hear is that all of the members of the court who addressed the issue seem to be clear that shelby county , alabama has not made the kind of progress that allows it to come out from the voting right act. we heard the justices express concerns about whether it or congress is in the best position to determine whether discrimination in voting changed to warrant the continuation of the act.
>> at this stage, we have been talking a lot about section v, what about section iv and the other voting acts?
>> what was at issue was section ivb, the formula section v is implemented. it's the formula that says which jurisdictions are covered by section v. the court's most contentious questions were about that, the decision congress made to continue covering the same jurisdictions it had covered and whether it was appropriate. of course it's important to remember that that coverage formula is not static. there is, in the statute, a formula that allows jurisdictions to bail out. if they have a clean voting record, they can get out. every jurisdiction that utilized this process has been allowed to bail out of section v. it's not static. they can bail in. that is jurisdiction that is violated the constitution can be brought under section five. this is a statute where congress sent out a theme and also imagine that some would be uncovered in the future and some not currently covered might become covered one day.
>> let's take a hypothetical, which is not a hypothetical considering what happened in 2012 . say a state or a county tries to prevent minorities from voting by changing the hours, by basically voter suppression , how does that relate to their standing under the voting rights act ?
>> well, this is why section v is so valuable. you know, when a jurisdiction in alaska attempted to move a polling place before an election from a native alaskan village to a location that required them to take either a plane or a boat to vote, it was section v. the requirement to submit that voting change to the justice department that enabled them to stop the jurisdiction from enacting that change. the city of killmichael in mississippi rea were the majority of the population, they decided to cancel the election. the justice department said you have to continue holding elections. the towne elected their first african-american mayor and three aldermen. it's all the work of section v. it stops the discrimination before it's implemented.
>> when chief justice roberts asked the attorneys today which states, theoretically have a better record, he came up with a record of mississippi having a better record than massachusetts. what is the back story there?
>> the record he's referring to is registration comparing whites and blacks and turnout between whites and blacks. this is not 1965 . the only indicators of voting discrimination are not voting registration and turnout. i described polling place changes. a city in shelby county , the party bringing the case, the jurisdiction decided to reduce the black population from 70% to 29%. it's not about registration or turnout. it's voting discrimination using redistricting, cancelling elections. that data is not the data that justice roberts was presenting. he limited his presentation to the narrow registration turnout. section v in 1965 they said we are doing this because we can't predict what voting discrimination will look like in the future. we want to cover all the ingenious method that is might be used. they created section v.
>> precisely because you can't imagine what steps people will take to try to prevent people from voting in the future. professor, thank you very much for being with us.
>> thank you, andrea.