WASHINGTON – The Senate has approved the nomination of a Mississippi judge to a federal appeals court, the 200th federal judge named by President Donald Trump and confirmed by the Republican-controlled chamber. It's the highest number of judicial nominees confirmed at this stage of a presidency in four decades.
Cory Wilson was elevated to a seat on the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal despite Democratic objections that he has a record of working to undermine voting rights of African Americans and other minorities.
Approval came on a nearly party-line, 52-48 vote Wednesday. Maine Sen. Susan Collins was the only Republican to vote against Wilson.
Wilson, a former Republican state legislator, has been a state appeals court judge for 16 months. The 5th Circuit, which hears cases from Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, is considered one of the most conservative appeals courts in the nation.
Democrats and civil rights groups said Wilson has been a longtime proponent of voter ID laws that disproportionately harm communities of color, students, voters with disabilities and the elderly. He also has made false claims about the prevalence of voter fraud in the United States and expressed opposition to enforcement of the federal Voting Rights Act, Democrats said.
"Judge Wilson’s troubling record on voting rights is highly relevant to his nomination,'' said California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. The 5th Circuit is a majority-minority circuit, she noted. About 55 percent of those who live in the region are minorities.
"The Senate should not confirm a nominee who would work to further restrict the right to vote from the bench,'' Feinstein said.
Feinstein and other Democrats said Wilson has demonstrated hostility to voting rights in Mississippi. In 2011, he dismissed concerns from the Mississippi chapter of the NAACP that a voter ID law would suppress the vote as “poppycock.'' In 2013, he said then-Attorney General Eric Holder “whined” that voter ID laws were part of an orchestrated effort by Republicans to suppress poor and minority voting.