ACLU Tells Congress to Renew the Voting Rights Act; Notes That Discrimination in Voting Still Exists in the U.S.

May 9, 2006 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON- The American Civil Liberties Union testified before a Senate Judiciary Committee panel today urging lawmakers to renew the expiring sections of the Voting Rights Act and restore the original intent of Congress. Last week lawmakers introduced the bipartisan and bicameral “Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2006.”

“The comprehensive record compiled by Congress of continuing discrimination in voting and the prevalence of racial polarization in the political process clearly demonstrate why Congress must renew the expiring sections of the Voting Rights Act,” said Laughlin McDonald, Director of the ACLU Voting Rights Project. “The ACLU fully supports the Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2006, and we urge Congress to pass this bill without making changes that would weaken or compromise the effectiveness of the law.”

Earlier this year, the ACLU submitted to Congress 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 report was added to the Congressional record documenting the continued need for the Voting Rights Act.

“Unfortunately discrimination in voting still exists in the United States,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “The Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2006 will ensure fair and equal participation in the political process for all citizens today as well as for future generations.”

In addition to renewing the expiring provisions of the Voting Rights Act for another 25 years, 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.

“There is no greater tribute Congress can give to lives of the women after whom this bill is named than to renew the Voting Rights Act without amendments that would weaken the act,” said LaShawn Warren, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “At a time when Congress has proffered so many resources abroad to spread democracy abroad, it must also act 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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