Chief Justice Roberts Flubs Census Data

During oral arguments Wednesday for a case on the Voting Rights Act, Chief Justice John Roberts ripped into Obama Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, claiming he didn’t know his facts when it came to how the law applied to Massachusetts and Mississippi. Roberts used census data taken from a lower-court opinion to insist that Mississippi had a higher black-voter turnout rate than Massachusetts. It turns out those numbers are unreliable, and, according to the Census Bureau, make no sense for state-by-state comparisons. Basically Roberts ignored the high margin of error in the data, and—probably without realizing it—made a dubious assertion into a fact.