Dan Tokaji's Blog
Professor Dan Tokaji
Election reform, the Voting Rights Act, the Help America Vote Act, and related topics -- with special attention to the voting rights of people of color, non-English proficient citizens, and people with disabilities

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Equal Vote
Tuesday, July 19
Bush Picks Roberts

The New York Times and Washington Post are among the many reporting that President Bush has selected Judge John G. Roberts, Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to fill the vacancy created by Justice O'Connor's retirement. Generally considered a rock-solid conservative, Roberts is 50 and was confirmed to the D.C. Circuit in 2003.

From a voting rights perspective, the most significant factoid from Judge Roberts' personal history appears to be his opposition in the early 1980's to a Voting Rights Act Amendment that would make it easier for racial minorities to obtain relief for election practices that weaken their voting strength. In its profile on Judge Roberts available here, Slate.com notes that, while an attorney in the Reagan White House, Judge Roberts "opposed a congressional effort--in the wake of the 1980 Supreme Court decision Mobile v. Bolden--to make it easier for minorities to successfully argue that their votes had been diluted under the Voting Rights Act."

In Mobile v. Bolden, the Supreme Court refused to recognize a claim by black voters against the City of Mobile's at-large election scheme which had the effect of systematically weakening the electoral influence of the city's black minority. The Supreme Court held that proof of discriminatory intent was required. Congress subsequently amended the Voting Rights Act, to make clear that practices which "result in" the denial or dilution of votes on account of race are subject to challenge.

Judge Roberts' views on voting rights are something to which the Senate should give careful attention, as it considers his nomination. One of the big questions is whether a Justice Roberts would hold the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional, to the extent it prohibits election practices that have the effect of weakening minority voting strength.

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