At Judge Roberts’ hearing in 2005, Massachusetts Democrat Senator Edward M. Kennedy urged him on what Mr. Kennedy described as his “narrow and cramped, and perhaps even a villainous view of the law,” given his 1982 comments. But Judge Roberts said he was only advocating the position of the Reagan administration and his boss.
“I was a staff attorney at the Justice Department,” he told Kennedy. “It was the position of the Reagan administration for whom I worked, the position of the Attorney General for whom I worked, that the Voting Rights Act should be extended without change for the longest period of its extension in history.”
Eight years later, the chief justice wrote the opinion dismantling key elements of the Voting Rights Act, saying that “things have changed dramatically” since the bill’s passage in 1965 and that governments should no longer be subject to pre-approval.
“The tests and devices that blocked access to ballots have been banned across the country for more than 40 years,” he said.
Critics of that ruling and those issued last month say the mass of measures taken by several states in recent months make clear that Republicans have found new “tests and devices” to limit access to the vote. These include provisions that make it more difficult to vote early or by mail, ban or restrict drop boxes, shorten early or absent voting periods and give more leeway to partisan pollsters.
In his 2005 testimony, Mr. Lewis, who was badly beaten during a 1965 civil rights march in Selma, Ala., suggested that the nominee did not understand what it had cost to carry out the vote measure in the first place.
“In 1965, Jurist Roberts was 10 years old,” testified Mr. Lewis. “He may be a brilliant lawyer, but I wonder if he can really understand the depth of what it took to get the Voting Rights Act passed.”
“As many of you know, I gave a little blood on the Edmund Pettus Bridge,” he told the senators, referring to the site of the march in Selma. “But some of my friends and colleagues gave everything they had, their lives for the right to vote.”