WASHINGTON — NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous released the following statement in response to remarks by Justice Antonin Scalia made during the official hearing on Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act in the United States Supreme Court.
“Democracy is an American entitlement. Voting rights protection is an American entitlement. Guaranteed access to the ballot box is not the right of one race, one age group, or one economic class. Assaulting the Voting Rights Act, on the other hand, is an assault on America’s ability to be America for all Americans,” said Benjamin Todd Jealous, President & CEO of the NAACP. “While much has changed since 1965, the record is clear that discriminatory election practices still exist in counties like Shelby County and states like Alabama.
“Justice Scalia should refrain from speculating on the thoughts and motivations of the Congress and defer to the judgment of the overwhelming bipartisan majority that voted for reauthorization in 2006.”
During the hearing Justice Antonin Scalia noted that the overwhelmingly bipartisan reauthorizations of the Voting Rights Act in the past four decades was “very likely attributable, to a phenomenon that is called ‘perpetuation of racial entitlement’.” He continued, “whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes.”
In 2006, compelled by 15,000 pages of evidence and testimony of discrimination, the 109th Congress extended Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act for 35 years. The reauthorization followed recent racially-motivated attacks on democracy by multiple jurisdictions. One notorious example was Kilmichael, Mississippi where the all-white board of alderman and white mayor cancelled an election after it became clear that blacks had become a majority of their city’s electorate. In 2006, Ken Mehlman, the National Chairman of the Republican Party, joined his Democratic colleague in calling for reauthorization and referred to the Voting Rights Act as “one of the great moral achievements of the 20th Century.”
The NAACP, through its Alabama State Conference, is an intervener in Shelby County v. Holder and the Texas, South Carolina and Florida State Conferences have filed an amicus brief in support of Section 5. In addition to defending the Voting Rights Act at the Supreme Court, NAACP leaders will work with state and local officials to pass laws to expand voting rights, including same day registration/voting, extended early voting, and restoring voting rights for the formerly incarcerated.