ACLU Celebrates the 41st Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act

August 4, 2006 12:00 am


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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union recognizes and celebrates the 41st anniversary of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), the landmark legislation that addresses and seeks to remedy barriers to voting for millions of Americans. The ACLU recently applauded Congress for passing by an overwhelming margin legislation to reauthorize the expiring provisions of the VRA. President Bush signed the act July 27.

The ACLU, in coalition with other civil rights and progressive organizations, mounted a successful, massive nationwide effort to turn back efforts in Congress to weaken or kill the VRA reauthorization bill.

“Voting goes to the very heart of our democracy — it’s a fundamental part of this great nation,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. “At the signing of the Voting Rights Act, President Lyndon Johnson observed, ‘The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice.’ We are delighted that President Bush agreed with President Johnson that the Voting Rights Act is vital to ensuring that the injustices of the past are never repeated. On its 41st anniversary, we at the ACLU celebrate not just the VRA, but also the work of civil rights pioneers and the activists who carry on the fight.”

It was on August 6, 1965, that President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the original Voting Rights Act, after witnessing the beating and harassment of nonviolent civil rights marchers in Selma, Alabama. The VRA prohibits discrimination at the polls against racial and language minorities. It forbids literacy tests and other barriers to registration that were long used to restrict minority access to voting, and empowers the Department of Justice and the courts to monitor jurisdictions with a history of voter discrimination. Designated jurisdictions are also required to get federal approval before making changes in their election practices. The law also authorizes language assistance at the polls for citizens with limited English proficiency.

“The passage of the Voting Rights Act was a landmark in the struggle to ensure equal access to the ballot box for all Americans,” added Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “We’ve come a long way, but our work is far from over. Unfortunately, discrimination against minority voters is not yet a thing of the past. So long as the Voting Rights Act is necessary, we will continue to work for vigorous enforcement of the VRA and other measures to realize the promise of a truly fair democracy.”

To read more about the ACLU’s recent campaign to renew the Voting Rights Act, go to www.aclu.org/voting-rights

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