“Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough and his MSNBC colleague, “PoliticsNation” host Al Sharpton battled Wednesday over the Supreme Court’s Tuesday decision to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Sharpton insisted the “patient,” which are the states covered under the Voting Rights Act, is still sick and rolling back those provisions of the law were taking away the “medicine.”
“Why are you going to take the medicine out now?” Sharpton argued. “Why would you remove the map until you get a better map? What you’re saying is that these states that last year, not ’65, last year, a federal court in Texas said that the voter ID laws that Texas was changing was discriminatory. Last year you had Texas, Florida, South Carolina — that the remedy was at work — last year. We’re not talking about ’65. So, why would you now have it open where Texas yesterday came in with voter ID so they can discriminate now while you figure out something else out?”
Scarborough countered by saying that in Mississippi, which is covered by the Voting Rights Act, minority turnout was higher than white turnout in 2012.
“All I’m doing is I’m giving you facts and numbers, OK?” Scarborough fired back. “I’m not getting mad. I’m the one that’s keeping my voice down. Al and I are friends. We’re just talking through this. I think you look, and I heard all last year about voter suppression. I heard it in all 50 states and everybody was trying — it was a higher turnout for African-Americans than ever before in the history of the United States. And let’s look at Mississippi for instance. Again, I’m just talking about numbers here. In Mississippi back in 1965, 6.7 percent of the African-American population voted in 1965. In 2004, 76.1 percent of the African-Americans — from 6 to 76 percent. Last year, over 80 percent of African-Americans in Mississippi voted.”
“More than white voters percentage wise in Mississippi,” he continued. “And I guess you and I see this differently. I believe the Voting Rights Act needs to stay in place forever. But this one section that says these states are racist and have to be looked at and that history ended in 1965, to me — and perhaps it’s because I’ve lived in the Southeast and I’ve lived in the Northeast and I’ve heard people talking behind closed doors in the Southeast and the Northeast and in a lot of ways, the Southeast has been through the fire, and we actually have a more open view on race than a lot of places I’ve lived in in the Northeast. Perhaps I don’t think we should treat these states and Arizona based on how they were in 1965 any more than we should judge Germany based on how it was in 1945.”
Later in the segment, the two went back and forth over some of the practices Sharpton deemed “discriminatory,” including requiring a photo ID at the polls and not allowing early voting.
“Are we comparing making somebody bring a photo ID to a voting booth and ending early voting in some areas — are we doing that — is that akin to a poll tax or to the blatant outrageous discriminatory practices? You and I can have a debate on voter ID. I don’t think it’s racist. In fact, there have been studies that show it affects white voters as much as it affects black voters.”
“There are studies on both sides, but a court found it to be discriminatory,” Sharpton replied. “You can’t put a new paint job on an old car and act like we have a new car.”
“I’m not going to even follow you into that analogy because I’m not exactly sure what it means,” Scarborough said. “But I will say this — changing the rules on the margins on early voting and making somebody bring a picture ID to the voting booth, far different from literacy tests, poll taxes, taking a baseball bat to the side of people’s heads. I mean, the world has changed. I’ve got to say that while supporting the Civil Rights Act, this one section, Section 4B, I actually look at it as a positive thing that these states have changed so much over the past 50 years. That we have moved beyond the racism of 1965.”