The Supreme Court’s five conservatives appeared openly hostile to a key provision of the Voting Rights Act last week, with Justice Scalia referring to the law that ended Jim Crow voter disenfranchisement as a “perpetuation of racial entitlement.” Outside of the Supreme Court’s conservative wing and a handful of state elected officials, however, there does not appear to be much of a constituency for striking down this landmark law. Indeed, in an email to MSNBC’s Up w/ Chris Hayes, former Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) took a very different position that the conservative justices: “I do believe this is a legislative matter where the action of the congress should take priority and does not raise constitutional issues that justify judicial action superseding the legislative branch’s role.”
Reauthorization of the act received overwhelming bipartisan support in 2006, with the House voting 390-33 in favor and the Senate voting 98-0. In his now-infamous “racial entitlement” statement, Scalia suggested that this lopsided vote actually makes the law more suspect than if there had been significant opposition, because he thinks this means legislators were to scared to vote against it. In reality, however, there is no evidence that elected officials who oppose voting rights are afraid to take action against the law — six state attorneys general filed a brief in the Supreme Court arguing that the law should be struck down in order to make it easier for their states to enact voter suppression laws. The more likely explanation for the lopsided vote is that few people who don’t sit on the Supreme Court believe the law’s longstanding protections for minority voting rights are a bad idea.