Some Massachusetts officials are fuming over comments made by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. during oral arguments last week in the Supreme Court challenge to portions of the Voting Rights Act.
“Do you know which State has the worst ratio of white voter turnout to African American voter turnout?” Roberts asked Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. Wednesday during arguments in Shelby County v. Holder.
Verrilli said he didn’t, so Roberts answered his own question: “Massachusetts. Do you know what has the best, where African American turnout actually exceeds white turnout? Mississippi.”
The point was that black voter turnout has improved in southern states since the law passed, but the implication that Massachusetts has a problem did not go over well with folks in the Bay State. State Secretary of State William Galvin called the chief justice’s statement “deceptive,” “disturbing,” and an “old slur.”
“I think the record should be corrected,” Galvin told the Boston Globe, as reported by the AP. “He should at least indicate what he’s relying on to make that statement.” Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson also criticized the chief justice, saying that the voter participation rate in communities of color has increased steadily in recent years.