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The Effects on Voting Laws after the Shelby v Holder Supreme Court Ruling - 6

Supreme Court Oral Argument Highlights and Excerpts (continued)

The next to witness to begin oral arguments was Solicitor General Don Verrilli on behalf of the Federal Respondent.

Just as the liberal inclined Justices engaged Mr. Rein with difficult and complex questions and challenges, the conservative members of the Court now had their turn to do the same.

Mr. Verrilli initiated his argument by thanking the Court and began by stating what he termed a "fundamental point" which primarily needed to be vocalized. He heralded that all parties involved in this case have stipulated that "the Voting Rights Act had made a huge difference in transforming the culture of blatantly racist voter suppression that characterized parts of this country for a century."

He next referenced the "Section 5 preclearance" issue as the "principal engine of that progress," and since its inauguration, has always been a fact that, "only a tiny fraction of submissions under" that Section of the Voting Rights Act resulted in any opposition. He simplified by saying that "that progress" under it had been achieved by preventing regions covered by it to act against its foundation as well as the restriction it enforces on individual States and regions within them, not due to the tangible enforcement by methods of protest and/or objection.

He went on to rationalize that when Congress chose to reauthorize its validity in 2005, their decision was primarily based on the probability with thorough confidence that the "attitudes and behaviors in covered jurisdictions" had not changed to the point where its authority should be removed. Referring to an earlier comment stated by Judge Kagan he began to state that Congress had a very substantial record of continuing need before it when it…

But before Verrilli could complete his last sentence, Judge Roberts interjected, asking the question, "Can I ask you just a little bit about that record? Do you know how many submissions there were for preclearance to the Attorney General in 2005?" Verrilli didn't know the precise amount but remarked that in truth it must have been many thousands. Roberts was aware of the total and let Verrilli know that it was 3700. After this fact was recognized by Verrilli, Roberts went on to ask "Do you know how many objections the Attorney General lodged?" In this case Verrilli did have the answer which totaled "one" in 2005, and when prompted by Roberts pertaining to his answer he went on to say "…But, Mr. Chief Justice, that is why I made the point a minute ago that the key way in which Section 5… it has to be the case, everyone agrees, that the significant progress that we've made is principally because of Section 5". He continued by specifying that in truth; "only a tiny fraction of submissions result in objections."  

Justice Scalia commented next stating that "That will always be true forever into the future. You could always say, oh, there has been improvement, but the only reason there has been improvement are these extraordinary procedures that deny the States sovereign powers, which the Constitution preserves to them." He then questioned Verrilli asking if in fact the only reason there's been improvement is because of the stated procedure being in place and further probed him if there will always be a need for it to be kept in place?

Verrilli's initial reply of "no" was followed by Scalia asking him "Is that the argument you are making?" Verrilli began to respond by saying "That is not the argument. We do not think that… but was interrupted by Scalia when he reiterated "I thought that was the argument you were just making." Verrilli then tried to explain to the Justice the conclusions, beginning by saying "It is not. Congress relied on far more on just the deterrent effect. There was a substantial record based on the number of objections, the types of objections, the findings of… when Scalia again broke in to counter that "That's a different argument."

Next: Supreme Court Oral Argument Highlights and Excerpts, (continued) Click here to go to page 7