Weekends with Alex Witt | March 02, 2013
>>> the u.s. supreme court released the audio recording of this week's dramatic argument over the voting rights act . the act is one of the most important civil rights laws ever passed. comments by justice antoninscalia.
>> i think it is attributable, very likely attributable to a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial entitlement. it's been written about, whenever a society adopts a racial entitlementses, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes."
>> joining me now is president and ceo of the naacp. with a welcome to you my friend. i want your reaction to the justice's comments.
>> i was sitting right there. between me and him was john lewis . i was sitting right behind john lewis . you could feel the the air come out of the room. i mean, this weekend is the 40th anniversary of selma, which was the march across the bridge where john almost lost his life. he was beaten, bleeding from the head, that spurred the passage of the voting rights act . and we thought that everybody understood that the protection of voting rights as a democratic entitlement, entitlement of all of us by virtue of being citizens from the country. to hear a justice from the bench issue such racial incendiary comment was just too much.
>> give me the scenario that you envision if this is overturned.
>> you know, we expect that it will be upheld. we are going to prepare for the worst but we are hoping for the best because it has passed -- it has been upheld by the court four times in four decades, most recently just five years ago. it was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support through the congress and senate and signed by president bush less than ten years ago. there were 15,000 pages of testimony. and they spoke to very real places like mississippi where the early part of the 2,000's it appeared black were going to be in the majority for the first time. so the mayor and city council said we're cancelling voting. this very time the justice soto mayor said there's still discrimination in the voting in the cases that rise out of. we're hoping the justices do the same thing.
>> when you listen to states and local municipalities who want to have control of their own voting procedures over their own elections.
>> but they do. that's what gets lost here. so first of all, you can do anything that's not discriminatory, right? the only time that they get stopped -- it's very rare -- is when something is actually discriminatory. that sort of control runs counter to the purposes of our constitution. like we believe in this countr to do things that are discriminatory. if you don't discriminate for ten years you can opt out. every single time that a county has said look, we haven't done anything wrong for ten years let us out they have been granted some type of relief. so all they have to do is act right and they can be out of this tomorrow.
>> okay. let's take a listen to an exchange. this is coming up between shelby county 's lawyer and justices kagan and scalia.
>> you said the problem has been solved. but who gets to make that jimt really? is it you, is it the court or is it congress?
>> it's certainly not me.
>> that's a good answer. i was hoping you'd say that.
>> but i think the question is congress can examine it, congress makes a record. it is up to the court to determine whether the problem indeed has been solved and whether the new problem --
>> well, that's a big new power that your giving us that we have the power now to decide whether racial discrimination has been solved?
>> makes a point there. who has the power to decide when racial discrimination has been solved?
>> we have a process. the bottom line is that congress does. congress makes this law, it reauthorizes this law. it goes through a very intensive process, much more intensive than the court could possibly go through of hearings that can go on for days. think about it, these arguments run for an hour, right? and they went through 15,000 pages of testimony. they found that racial discrimination is still a real problem. think of what happened just last year. we saw states like texas pass laws saying we'll let you vote with your gun license but not your state-issued student i.d. and when the justice department looked into what's behind this and what were folks talking about they said oh, look, lo and behold, the demographics of students are much more black and brown in texas than gun owners , that's pardonly why they did this. then you look at florida where you actually had gop consultants to say outright we sought to end voting on sunday because that's a day when black churches tend to organize and other churches don't. so we knew we could drive down black voters if we stopped voting on sunday. unfortunately, it's still with us. it's still -- it changes. it's not the poll tax . it's strict voter i.d. it's not a -- it's not testing people's literacy at the polls saying you can't vote if you can't read. no. we're just going to shorten it and make it very hard for working class people and poor people like state in florida are disproportionately black. or black churches organized on sunday we'll just cancel on sunday.
>> well, long-term fingers cross that this voting rights law does get upheld. i appreciate your optimism. let's knock wood.