WASHINGTON - July 14 - The American Civil Liberties Union today applauded the vote of the House of Representatives approving renewal of the Voting Rights Act, the landmark 1965 civil rights legislation. The House passed a "clean" version of the bill, upholding key provisions that would otherwise expire in 2007 and turning back controversial challenges that would have weakened the bill.
"This marks a milestone in civil rights," said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLUís Washington Legislative office. "The protections of the Voting Rights Act are just as vital now for fostering equality as they were when it was passed 41 years ago. The passage of the billís key provisions ensures that millions of citizens will not be denied their fundamental right to vote in fair, free elections."
House passage of the Voting Rights Act without the weakening amendments sets the stage for Senate action on the bill. Said Fredrickson, "We look forward to speedy Senate approval of this essential legislation."
The ACLU has waged a massive campaign over the last several years to promote passage of the Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2006. The organization's efforts included:
Public meetings around the country to raise awareness and build support for the legislation;
Public education, including an 800-page comprehensive report on why the law is still needed;
Congressional testimony by ACLU President Nadine Strossen and ACLU Voting Rights Project Director Laughlin McDonald;
A national advertising campaign;
Web action alerts that generated thousands of phone calls and e-mails from ACLU members;
Meetings of ACLU members with members of Congress around the country.
The reauthorization bill (HR 9/S 2703) includes several provisions that were due to expire in 2007 and which aroused opposition from a small group of extremists. Those are: Section 5, which requires jurisdictions with significant histories of discrimination to get federal approval of any new voting practices; Section 203, mandating help at the polls for some voters with limited English proficiency; and Section 8, authorizing the attorney general to appoint federal election observers where there is evidence of efforts to intimidate minority voters at the polls.