On Tuesday, federal lawmakers announced that they had reached a bipartisan agreement regarding the renewal of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which protects the voting rights of racial minorities particularly in states with histories of discrimination. Some elements of the 1965 law were due to expire in 2007, including the provision that some states receive the approval of the Justice Department before changing their election procedures. The current legislation clarifies sections intended to prohibit any change with a discriminatory intent, to allow minorities to elect their candidates of choice, and to provide materials in other languages where necessary.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-WI), who led the 1982 renewal of the Voting Rights Act, introduced the renewal legislation, titled The Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2006 (VRARA), saying, “Though the Voting Rights Act has been enormously successful, we know our work is not yet complete. Discrimination in the electoral process continues to exist and threatens to undermine the progress that has been made over the last forty years.” The House Judiciary Committee will hear the bill (HR 9) on Thursday, after which it will move to the House floor and the Senate.
Leading civil rights and women’s rights groups have endorsed the legislation, including the Feminist Majority, the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and the League of Women Voters.