Senate Judiciary Committee Holds First Hearing on Voting Rights Act, ACLU Urges Senate to Fully Renew Historic Law

April 27, 2006 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today applauded the Senate Judiciary Committee for holding the first in a series of oversight hearings on renewing the temporary provisions of the Voting Rights Act and introducing evidence supporting the continuing need for that law. Key sections of that historic law are set to expire in 2007 unless Congress acts to renew them. In a rare move, the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, Representatives James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and John Conyers (D-MI), appeared before their counterparts in the Senate.

The ACLU has urged Congress to renew those expiring sections, which have been extremely effective in eliminating discriminatory barriers that prevent American citizens from exercising their right to vote. The expiring provisions include: Section 5, which requires jurisdictions with significant histories of discrimination in voting to get federal approval of any new voting practices or procedures before they can be implemented; Section 203, which ensures that voters with limited English proficiency get the assistance they need at the polls; and Sections 6-9, which authorize the attorney general to appoint federal election observers where there is evidence of attempts to intimidate minority voters at the polls. The ACLU has also urged Congress to clarify the statute’s language to address two recent Supreme Court decisions that have eroded the effectiveness of the act.

The following can be attributed to Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office:

“We applaud Chairman Arlen Specter for focusing the committee’s attention on an issue critically important to preserving the right to vote for all Americans. While it is unfortunate that America still needs the protections of the Voting Rights Act, we hope that the Senate will act to renew the expiring provisions of that historic law to ensure that every voice in America is heard and every voter is guaranteed access to the polls.

“It is an historic moment when the leaders of the House Judiciary Committee, Chairman Sensenbrenner and Ranking Member Conyers appear together before the Senate Judiciary Committee in joint support for the reauthorization of this historic act. Indeed, at a time when America has taken a leading role in spreading democracy abroad, it is encouraging to know that leadership on both sides of the aisle is equally committed to ensuring its vitality here at home.

“Earlier this year, the ACLU issued a report highlighting the 293 cases we have brought since 1982 under the Voting Rights Act. Clearly, the American people still need this monumental law. Congress must act to protect the right to vote for all. No American should be denied the right to vote.”

More information about the ACLU’s concerns with Voting Rights Act reauthorization can be found at:

www.aclu.org/voting-rights

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