Meet the Press   |  March 03, 2013

Is the Voting Rights Act still necessary?

Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, columnist for the Washington Post Kathleen Parker, Managing Editor of TheGrio.com Joy Reid, NBC Political Director Chuck Todd and NBC Special Correspondent Tom Brokaw discuss whether Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is still relevant.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> this is wednesday on the capitol. this was a moment of actual bipartisan agreement. rosa parks honored with a statue on capitol hill . and it just came at a really interesting time this week with the debate in the supreme court about the future of the voting rights act , what kind of society we want to be and whether times have changed in our civil rights struggle. joy reid, i wanted to ask youi] about part of that debate. here was justice scalia saying something that got a lot of reaction about why he seemed to be suggesting voting rights act is not still necessary. a portion of what he said.

>> i think it is attributable, very likely attributable, to a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial entitlement. it's been written about. whenever a society adopts racial entitlements it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes.

>> again, the voting rights act is a mandate that states like mississippi, louisiana, others in the south and elsewhere, to get federal permission if they are going to change the way people access voting. how do you react to that?

>> first of all, it was a very antebellum phrase. it was jarring to hear it. this is not the first time he has used the phrase "racial entitlement." one of the ironies is his apparent objection to section five of the voting rights act is it interrupts the sense of entitlement of voting officials to interrupt the demographic tide to try and thwart it. the reason it's happening is that you do have politicians that are attempting to alter the process, whether it's cutting down early voting days, instituting voter i.d. there was one instance argued during the court case about a municipality that literally stopped having elections because the demographic tide was turning against the white minority so they just stopped having elections to avert demographic tide. so this is a sense that people feel entitled to change the political process to stop mainly minorities from gaining political power . so it's sort of an ironic use of phrase.

>> congressman, is it still necessary to have a voting rights act ?

>> clearly, congress voted for it overwhelmingly. the question is whether it's constitutional and necessary. i can talk about the example in idaho . idaho has one statewide elected official that is hispanic. i am one of two congressmen in idaho that's hispanic. it's a majority white state. about 90% white. and they have no problem voting for racial minorities to represent them. i think we need to start rethinking all these things. in fact, i welcome all minorities to move to idaho and to states that are willing to vote statewide for minorities.

>> how far have we come, tom?

>> well, a long way but the journey is not complete yet. and i feel strongly that in this country we need to expand voting rights , not restrict them in some fashion. i would even move voting day from tuesday to a weekend, which i think would encourage more people who are consumed with working or taking care of children at home can't get to the voting place. one of the great civil rights leaders has a movement called why tuesday to move it. to encourage people, a, to vote and feel fulfilled as citizens and get more actively involved. racial entitlement is a pretty loaded phrase it seems to me. the voting rights act was passed not as an entitlement but to raise the idea that all citizens in this country are equal. and that's not an entitlement that makes them exceptional. it just brings up the bar for everyone, whatever their color. and i think we have to examine this very carefully. there is a heck of a lot of voter suppression around the country, even if some democratic districts as well as republican districts, because secretaries of state control where the voting booths are and who gets to vote under what circumstances. we ought to change that.

>> i want to add one thing. i would never try to interpret what justice scalia is thinking. but the issue here is section 5 specifically, which requires certain states be treated differently than others. the question is, are the data being used to distinguish those states from others, are they still relevant today and should they be re-evaluated. and that's coming up several times. you know, this is an ongoing conversation.

>> so this debate will continue. i wanted to get to the debate about working from home as well, but i