The Lonely Centrist

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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Chasing Roberts on Voting Rights

Before heading into the rugged country where I was off the web, I suggested that the assault on John Roberts might well turn on his alleged opposition to "voting rights."

In reality, I noted, this meant that Roberts opposes an interpretation of the Voting Rights Act which goes far beyond abolishing literacy tests, poll taxes, and other measures intended to prevent minorities from registering to vote and from voting. But our courts, with little public fanfare, have adopted an interpretation of the law which requires that minorities be elected to office roughly in proportion to their percentage of the population (a fact noted by Robert's centrist predecessor, Sandra Day O'Connor, in a concurring opinion in Thornburg v. Gingles, a 1986 case). If minorities are not so elected in rough proportion to their percentage of the population, they can then be packed into what the courts call "minority-majority" districts. This technique, which the Court's conservative black Justice, Clarence Thomas, has called "racial apartheid," leads to the bizarrely shaped districts created primarily for the purpose of lumping black and hispanic voters into particular districts. Surrounding districts are, correspondingly, denuded of minority voters.

The result, besides the repulsive but legally mandated use of race to draw districts, is that candidates in "majority-minority" districts don't have to appeal to whites, and candidates in the surrounding bleached districts don't have to worry about blacks. This naturally leads to a more racially polarized electorate.
In any case, while it looks as though Roberts will be confirmed, the attack is beginning to center around "voting rights." On August 10th The Hill, one of those "insider" publications that covers legislative doings at the nation's capital, reported reported that opponents of the nomination would pitch their appeal to "minorities."
“If I had to pick three overall areas: civil rights, access to justice and, I think, privacy,” said Elliot Mincberg, head of the liberal coalition’s research task force, listing the greatest concerns about Roberts’s record.

Civil rights is one of the top issues for black voters... .

The Alliance for Justice, which with People for the American Way is leading the liberal coalition’s response to Roberts, last week sent a press packet to editorial writers and editors criticizing Roberts’s record on civil rights.

Citing documents from Roberts’s service in the Reagan Justice Department and the Reagan White House, the group asserts that Roberts “argued for weakening proposed voting-rights protections,”

Meanwhile, the Chicago Tribune also quotes a number of civil rights leaders questioning Roberts because of his opposition to this interpretation of the Voting Rights - opposition that, I am convinced, most Americans would share if they had any idea it was going on.

But that's just it. The public doesn't know why we have all these lawsuits over redistricting plans, doesn't understand that when these groups say "voting rights," they are not talking about restrictions on voting. Rather, they are talking about "vote dilution," that allegedly can occur whenever minority candidates are not elected in accordance with their percentage of the population. "Voting rights" is a potential winner because everyone supports "voting rights," and groups such as the NAACP have successfully monopolized the term, so that anyone disagreeing with their view is said to "oppose voting rights." Thus, USA Today gets away with the headline, "Roberts Joined Efforts to Limit Voting Protections," something that is far from the truth as most Americans understand "voting protection." Only if you read through a ways do you discover the dastardly secret of Roberts: he argued that, "minorities who alleged discrimination in voting procedures should have to prove that state or local officials intentionally discriminated against them."

Minorities who allege discrimination should have to prove discrimination? What kind of racist would ever argue that? Outrageous.

Roberts' views on the voting rights act are impeccably centrist, and let us hope he doesn't back down, in confirmation or on the bench.

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