More voting

There are a bunch of articles out there noting the Judge Roberts was probably wrong when he asked:

“Do you know which state has the worst ratio of white voter turnout to African-American voter turnout?” Roberts asked Donald Verrilli Jr., solicitor general for the Department of Justice, during Wednesday’s arguments.

“I do not know that,” Verrilli answered.

“Massachusetts,” Roberts responded, adding that even Mississippi has a narrower gap.

Roberts later asked if Verrilli knew which state has the greatest disparity in registration. Again, Roberts said it was Massachusetts.

The problem is, Roberts is woefully wrong on those points, according to Massachusetts Secretary of State William F. Galvin, who on Thursday branded Roberts’s assertion a slur and made a declaration of his own. “I’m calling him out,” Galvin said.

You can go here to find the actual numbers (I looked at the table: Reported Voting and Registration by Sex, Race and Hispanic Origin, for States: November 2010), although 2008 is better since that is the last Presidential election that has this information. If you look at the data it does seem that Roberts is wrong (it’s difficult to prove this since Roberts doesn’t say what data he is using).

There are a few things to note here:

  1. Massachusetts has had its problems with racism and voting, this shouldn’t be ignored.
  2. At this point in time, it seems there are more problems with Asians and Hispanic voting–the percent of citizens voting in the 2008 election were (the alone part is there because many people listed more than one race, that means these are not perfect statistics): white alone–64.4%; black alone–64.7%; Asian alone–47.6%; Hispanic–49.9%. The numbers aren’t out for 2012 (or I can’t find them), so it’s hard to say if this has changed (the percent of people who voted who were Hispanic was about 10% and 3% for Asians, but it’s difficult to get the percent of voting age US citizens who are Hispanic or Asian–from here, it seems to be 9.7% and 3.6%).
  3. It seems to me to be much more important that Roberts has a history of trying to get rid of the Voting Rights Act.

As an aside to that last point, note that the article links to this which negates one of the conservative justices arguments:

But in 2009, when an earlier challenge to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act reached the Supreme Court, Roberts sounded a lot like Reagan during oral arguments. He echoed the late president’s view that Section 5 represented an unconscionable punishment for the South’s past sins. “Congress can impose this disparate treatment forever because of the history in the South?” Roberts asked the government attorney defending the law.

In his subsequent opinion in the 2009 VRA case, in which the court seemed close to striking down Section 5, Roberts wrote that the government had made the bailout provision “all but a nullity.” In the three years since that verdict, however, more than 100 jurisdictions have been allowed to bail out of Section 5—more than twice as many in the nearly three decades before. It’s not even that expensive to bail out; the usual cost is $5,000. The reason Shelby County hasn’t been able to take advantage of the bailout provision is that in 2006, county election officials redistricted the only black city council member in one of the county’s towns out of a job.

So, the Act has a built-in provision to wind down–as regions show they no longer discriminate they can petition to bail out.

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