ACLU Applauds Introduction of Voting Rights Act Reauthorization Legislation, Says Bipartisan, Bicameral Bill Carries Original Intent of Key Civil Rights Law

May 2, 2006 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today applauded the introduction of H.R. 9, the bipartisan, bicameral “Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2006.” This bill would renew sections of the Voting Rights Act that are set to expire in 2007.

“Unfortunately, state and local governments continue to draw districts and enact laws and regulations designed to prevent minorities from fully participating in the political process,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “In fact, since the act was last reauthorized in 1982, the Justice Department and disfranchised voters have brought hundreds of lawsuits on intentional voter discrimination – many within the last five years. As long as voting discrimination continues to be a persistent problem in this country, the Voting Rights Act is needed to combat attempts to prevent all Americans from fully participating in the political process.”

The numerous cosponsors of the bill include: House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and John Conyers (D-MI), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, Representatives Steve Chabot (R-OH) and Melvin Watt (D-NC), Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Senators Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Patrick Leahy, the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Edward Kennedy (D-MA).

Earlier this year, the ACLU issued an 867 page report documenting 293 cases brought by the ACLU in 31 states to protect the right to vote and challenge discrimination in voting. The ACLU has urged Congress to renew the provisions of the law that have been so effective in thwarting voting discrimination: Section 5, requiring jurisdictions with significant histories of discrimination in voting to get federal approval of any new voting practices or procedures; Section 203, ensuring that certain voters with limited English proficiency get the assistance they need at the polls; and Sections 6-9, authorizing the attorney general to appoint federal election observers where there is evidence of attempts to intimidate minority voters at the polls.

The bill would extend both Sections 5 and 203 for 25 years. In addition, the bill would clarify the statute’s language to address two recent Supreme Court decisions that have eroded the effectiveness of the act. This includes making certain that voting changes that have the “purpose” of discriminating against minority voters can be blocked by the Justice Department under Section 5. The legislation also restores the “ability to elect” standard so that minority voters have the opportunity to elect representatives who share their values, interests and concerns rather than just an “opportunity to influence” who might represent them.

“The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy, and Congress must do everything in its power to ensure that every American can participate fully in the political process,” said LaShawn Warren, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “Given the United States’ commitment to protect democracy abroad, we are pleased that legislation is moving forward to ensure its vitality here at home.”

To read more about the ACLU’s campaign to renew the Voting Rights Act, go to:

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