Former Rochester Mayor William Johnson reacts to Supreme Court's voting rights decision

Posted at: 06/25/2013 4:49 PM
Updated at: 06/25/2013 5:42 PM

Local lawmakers and civil rights groups are reacting to the Supreme Court's decision that overturns a nearly 60-year-old law, dealing with voting rights.

News10NBC spoke with former Rochester Mayor William Johnson Tuesday who told us he is shocked by the decision. He says the justices only need to look at the election last November where some state legislatures, Florida and northern states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan, tried to suppress the vote. Johnson says people used the Voting Rights Act and went to court to stop it.

Johnson said, “To say that there's not any blatant racial attacks on voting as recently as 2012 is just absolutely the worst of blindness. I don't know how they could arrive at that decision.”

News10NBC's Janet Lomax said, “What kinds of things existed and why was there a need for a voting rights act?”

Johnson said, “Many southern states had a poll tax and you had to pay for the privilege to vote and that only applied to black voters. Then they used all manners of intimidation going so far as to threaten to lynch people and actually lynching them.”

Tuesday's vote by the justices was 5-4. The five were Chief Justice Roberts, joined by Alito, Kennedy, Scalia and Thomas, who is the only African-American on the high court. Johnson admits he is no fan.

Johnson said, “For him, a black man born in Pinpoint, Georgia, in the heart of racist country, to act like things are so much better that we are in a race neutral society is just an abomination.”

There is hope for the Voting Rights Act. Congress would have to vote to determine which states need federal monitoring. Johnson says with the tone on Capitol Hill that will be an uphill battle.

Johnson said, “For anybody to expect that the U.S. Congress is going to step in and resolve this matter when they can't even deal with basic issues is just a vain and a blind hope.”

To watch Janet's entire conversation with former Rochester Mayor Johnson, click on the video player below.