Angelia Wade is an associate general counsel at the AFL-CIO. She sends us this takeaway of the opening oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder. This is a case of extreme importance for voting rights advocates.
Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Shelby County, Alabama versus Holder. It was a spirited oral argument that drew clear and noticeable reactions from otherwise staid attorneys as we sat in the lawyers’ lounge, an area for attorneys barred before the Supreme Court but who are unable to get in the courtroom if the courtroom is at capacity, as it was yesterday. We could only hear the argument, not see the justices. The comment that received the most attention was that of Justice Antonin Scalia, who claimed the renewal of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act represented the "perpetuation of racial entitlement.” He further insinuated that no one in Congress was going to vote against the renewal of Section 5 in 2006, (Section 5 was renewed 98-0 in the Senate and 390-33 in the House) because lawmakers did not want to lose votes. He stated, "Even the name of it is wonderful, the Voting Rights Act. Who's going to vote against that?" He further claimed, “I don't think there is anything to be gained by any senator to vote against continuation of this act. And I am fairly confident it will be re-enacted in perpetuity unless—unless a court can say it does not comport with the Constitution.” But this case is not about the Court’s opinion of why senators or representatives vote the way they do, even if it is out of some kind of “political correctness” or fear.