Congress Praised for Moving Forward on Reauthorization of Voting Rights Act; Passage Critical to Protect the Rights of All Americans to Vote

Media 10.18,05

“We applaud the House Judiciary Committee, under the leadership of Chairman James Sensenbrenner, for beginning hearings today on the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA), which guarantees that millions of Americans have the right to vote.

While we are encouraged by expressions of bipartisan support for reauthorizing key provisions of the VRA that are set to expire, also at issue is whether Congress will act to renew and restore several pivotal provisions during the reauthorization process.

The minority language, preclearance, and federal observer provisions of the Act need to be reauthorized for another 25 years. These provisions assure that bilingual ballots are made available, that areas with a history of voting rights violations obtain federal pre-approval for their electoral changes, and that federal poll watchers can be deployed in these areas to make sure that every citizen has the right to vote, free from intimidation.

But Congress also has an opportunity to restore the strength of the Act by clarifying language that has been muddied by recent Supreme Court decisions and by lowering the numerical threshold that triggers minority language provisions enabling more Americans to vote.

For the past 40 years, the Voting Rights Act has worked well to enfranchise the disenfranchised. But threats to minority voters and efforts to discourage minority voters continue. In making our democracy work, it is imperative that we do everything we can to ensure that every citizen’s right to vote is protected. Congressional reauthorization and strengthening of the Voting Rights Act will accomplish this vital goal.

Especially at a time when we are holding America’s democracy up for the world to use as a model, we need to make sure our own laws protect that which is most sacred.”