Vote Yes on Voting Rights Act Reauthorization Act and Oppose All Amendments

Media 07.13.06

Recipient: U.S. House of Representatives

Dear Representative:

On behalf of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation’s oldest, largest, and most diverse civil and human rights coalition, we write to urge you to support The Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2006 (H.R. 9) and to oppose all amendments to the bill.

Amendments to H.R. 9 have been proposed that would repeal or have the effect of repealing the Act’s most powerful protections. We urge you to oppose all amendments to HR 9. If any of the proposed amendments are adopted, LCCR will oppose the bill on final passage.

An amendment by Representative Charles Norwood (R-GA), would replace the existing coverage formula with one that relies on voter turnout data from recent presidential elections. This amendment would amount to a repeal of Section 5, even though we know that voting discrimination continues in the currently covered jurisdictions.

Representative Lynn Westmorland (R-GA) has proposed an amendment that would require the Attorney General to determine annually whether each jurisdiction currently subject to Section 5 meets the requirements for bailout. Requiring an exhaustive annual review of the nearly 900 jurisdictions covered by Section 5 would shut down enforcement of the Voting Rights Act by the Department of Justice.

An amendment by Representative Louis Gohmert (R-TX) would limit the extension of the Voting Rights Act to 10 years and thus undermine the act’s goal of eliminating racial discrimination in voting. The evidence presented in the House record demonstrates a level of continued discrimination that is unlikely to be eradicated in 10 years. In order for Congress to assess whether a pattern of discriminatory conduct remains, it must be able to review voting changes through multiple redistricting cycles. The three years following the decennial Census are a time of the highest volume of voting changes and the greatest opportunity for discrimination. In the past, when Congress has reauthorized the act for short periods of time, it created an incentive for jurisdictions to “wait out” their obligations. If this amendment is adopted, LCCR will oppose the bill on final passage.

Representative Steve King (R-IA) has proposed an amendment that would repeal the language assistance provisions set out in Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act. The denial of language assistance to citizens who need it amounts to a modern-day literacy test for voting.

The right to vote is the foundation of our democracy and the Voting Rights Act provides the legal basis to protect this right for all Americans. We therefore urge your support for H.R. 9 and that you oppose any proposed amendments to the bill.

If you or your staff has any further questions, please feel free to contact Julie Fernandes, LCCR Senior Counsel, at 202-466-3311, or [email protected].

Wade Henderson, Executive Director
Dr. Dorothy Height, Chair