ACLU Launches Campaign on Voting Rights Act Reauthorization; Reports, Public Education Materials Issued on Anniversary of "Bloody Sunday"

March 7, 2006 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – On the 41st anniversary of Bloody Sunday, the American Civil Liberties Union today launched a new campaign, “Every Voice. Every Vote. Renew the Voting Rights Act” to raise public awareness and urge Congress to reauthorize the expiring sections of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965. The campaign launch was marked by the release of two comprehensive reports that detail the need for the renewal of that historic civil rights law.

“The right to vote is the foundation of our democracy, and an essential protection of that right is the Voting Rights Act,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Every voice must be heard and every vote must be counted. State and local governments continue to adopt voting laws, practices and procedures that deny equal access to voting – without the Voting Rights Act, there would be little protection against these efforts to deny some of us our right to vote. The Voting Rights Act is necessary to help ensure that every American citizen is able to exercise the franchise.”

The launch of the campaign coincides with the release of two new ACLU reports outlining the continued need for the act. The first report, The Case for Extending and Amending the Voting Rights Act: Voting Rights Litigation, 1982-2006, is an 867 page report documenting 293 ACLU cases brought in 31 states to protect the right to vote and challenge discrimination in voting.

“Our report makes it clear that minority voters have continued to face discrimination since the Voting Rights Act was last reauthorized in 1982,” said Laughlin McDonald, Director of the ACLU Voting Rights Project. “While we have come a long way over the last twenty-five years, the expiring provisions of the Voting Rights Act are still necessary to ensure that minority voters are able to fully participate in the democratic process. Without these protections, it is likely that many of the advances of the past few decades would be wiped out by new barriers to voting.”

The second report, Promises to Keep: The Impact of the Voting Rights Act in 2006, details the practical effects of the Voting Rights Act and discusses the impact of the law in eliminating discrimination and granting access to the ballot box for minorities.

The ACLU has urged Congress to renew the provisions of the law that will expire in 2007 unless Congress reauthorizes them. The sections include: 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 voters with limited English proficiency get the help 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.

On Wednesday, ACLU President Nadine Strossen will testify before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and present the findings of the reports. Legislation to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act is likely to be introduced within the next several weeks.

The ACLU also unveiled a new educational poster that is being distributed to libraries, civil rights museums, and schools documenting the history of voting rights in the United States, as well as the latest episode of The ACLU Freedom Files, a revolutionary series from Robert Greenwald. “Voting Rights” — which airs March 9 on Link TV and March 11 on Court TV — documents how Native Americans, African Americans and other minorities fight for their right to participate in the democratic process.

As a part of the “Every Voice. Every Vote.” campaign, the ACLU will conduct a nation-wide tour to discuss the Voting Rights Act reauthorization in Birmingham, Alabama, Nashville, Tennessee, Austin, Texas and in South Carolina. ACLU staff will be touring these cities throughout March and April to raise awareness of the act.

“Congress must reauthorize all of the expiring sections of the Voting Rights Act,” said LaShawn Warren, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “This renewal must happen without changes that would weaken the law’s original intent, to ensure that minorities have equal and unhindered access to the ballot box. Reauthorization of the act is a truly bipartisan effort. People of all political stripes agree that every American should have their right to vote guaranteed.”

The ACLU reports and more information about the Voting Rights Act can be found at:

To learn more about The ACLU Freedom Files, go to:

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