Justice

Why People Are Not Happy With Chief Justice John Roberts at the African American History Museum Opening

September 26th 2016

By:
Danielle DeCourcey

The National Museum of African American History opened last weekend with a ceremony that included President Barack Obama, Georgia Congressman John Lewis, and celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Will Smith.

However, there was one high-profile attendee that some weren't happy to see at the ceremony.

Some questioned the presence of U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Roberts at the event, given his history of voting to weaken or limit the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which expanded enfranchisement of black Americans.

In 2013, Robert wrote the majority opinion in a Supreme Court case that struck down the core of the Voting Rights Act. The provision had required nine southern states with a history of restricting voting access to submit any new election regulations to the federal government for approval.

“Our country has changed,” Roberts wrote of the 5-4 decision. “While any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in the dissenting opinion that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the work of Civil Rights Movement leaders were "disserved by this decision." She said that protecting Americans from voter discrimination is like protecting a building from an earthquake.

Roberts' decision and Roberts' speech at the opening ceremony prompted a tweet that called him a "black history villain."

Other people on Twitter slammed Roberts' presence at the opening, even calling it "hypocrtical."

Roberts' decision had significant consequences for black voters.

After the 2013 decision states that were previously under federal review went to work to enact new voter restrictions, ranging from the elimination of early voting and same day registration to the introduction of identification requirements.

Texas, for example, implemented a new voter ID requirement, and North Carolina lawmakers "eliminated same-day registration, reduced the early voting period, ended pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds, and instituted a strict photo ID requirement," according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

In July, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Texas' voter ID law discriminates against minority voters. That same month, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that North Carolina's voting ID law was created with discriminatory intent.