Federal Involvement in Voting Rights

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Dr. Rogers Smith, a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, chairs the Penn Program on Democracy, Citizenship and Constitutionalism. He is a scholar in constitutional law and American political thought, with a special interest in questions of citizenship, race, ethnicity and gender.  He is author of numerous publications, including Still a House Divided: Race & Politics in Obama’s America (with Desmond S. King).

Quote: "In a country with a long history of voting discrimination, there is no question that a strong Voting Rights Act is still needed -- and Shelby County's record of altering electoral systems for invidious purposes is a prime example of why that is so.

“Republican party strategists are openly debating whether the party can hope to win in the 21st century by appealing almost exclusively to white middle-class and affluent voters.  In the wake of the Shelby decision, Republicans in many states are heightening efforts to limit the electorate so that this strategy will be feasible.  The Obama Justice Department and many courts stand in the way.  How this struggle plays out will be central to American politics in the next three years, and potentially far beyond"

            Media contact: Jacquie Posey at 215-898-6460 or jposey@upenn.edu 


Dr. Dorothy Roberts, a Penn Integrates Knowledge professor in the University of Pennsylvania Law School and a professor of sociology in Penn’s School of Arts and Sciences, is an expert in race, gender and the law. Her work in law and public policy focuses on contemporary issues in health, social justice and bioethics that impact the lives of women, children and African-Americans. Her major books include Fatal Invention: How Science, Politic, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-first Century and Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare. 

Quote: In a National Public Radio interview, Roberts said the voting-rights decision by the U.S. Supreme Court "reflects a colorblind Constitution that sees civil rights amendments as requiring the government to ignore race and the court to only protect against blatant racial classifications of the kind that existed in the Jim Crow era."

            Media contact: Steve Barnes at 215-573-5181 or sbarnes@law.upenn.edu


Theodore Ruger, professor in the University of Pennsylvania Law School, is a constitutional expert whose scholarship focuses on the application of judicial authority.

Quote: “In his Shelby County v. Holder majority opinion invalidating a key portion of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Chief Justice Roberts stressed that ‘things have changed dramatically’ over the past 50 years and that ‘history did not end in 1965.’ These words are clearly apt when applied to the Supreme Court’s decision the following day striking down the Defense of Marriage Act; few could have imagined on DOMA’s passage in 1996 that public (and judicial) attitudes would shift so substantially in favor of same-sex marriage in less than two decades.  

“Yet the theme of a changed world is more problematic and ambiguous within the realm of unequal minority access to political power, the issue area where the chief justice made those assertions in the Shelby case.” Read more

            Media contact: Steve Barnes at 215-573-5181 or sbarnes@law.upenn.edu