ACLU President Testifies at Congressional Hearing on Voting Rights Act; Says Law Still Needed to Prevent Ongoing Discrimination Against Minority Voters

March 8, 2006 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – Nadine Strossen, President of the American Civil Liberties Union, appeared today before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution at a hearing on the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 and presented the findings of two new comprehensive reports detailing the continuing need for the historic civil rights law. Key sections of the act are set to expire in 2007 unless Congress renews them.

“The Voting Rights Act is the means by which we can ensure that the right to vote is protected for all,” said Strossen. “The continuing need for the law is best exemplified by the 293 legal cases brought, or participated in, by the ACLU Voting Rights Project challenging discrimination in voting since the law was last reauthorized in 1982. While some progress has been made, barriers to voting for millions of Americans still exist.”

Strossen argued for the renewal the Act in light of the conditions faced by minority voters in hundreds of cases brought by the ACLU Voting Rights Project in the last twenty-five years. She also highlighted the practical effects of the Voting Rights Act, and discussed the impact of the law in eliminating voting discrimination. According to Strossen, if the law were allowed to lapse, it would have a devastating impact on minority voters’ ability to participate in the political process.

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 Tuesday, the ACLU launched a new campaign, “Every Voice. Every Vote. Renew the Voting Rights Act,” to raise public awareness and urge Congress to fully reauthorize the act. In addition to the release of two new reports, ACLU staff will conduct a nationwide tour to inform the public about the need to renew the Voting Rights Act. The ACLU is also distributing new educational posters to libraries and schools documenting the history of voting rights in the United States.

“There is substantial evidence of ongoing discrimination in voting that underscores the critical need for extension and restoration of the Voting Rights Act,” said LaShawn Warren, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “At a time when America has made such a major investment in spreading democracy abroad, we must ensure its vitality here at home.”

The ACLU reports, and more information about the Voting Rights Act can be found at:
/votingrights/gen/24393res20060306.html

To read the testimony of Nadine Strossen on the Voting Rights Act, go to:
/votingrights/gen/24418leg20060308.html

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