Congress recently passed the Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2006 (HR 9). I was pleased to join an overwhelming majority of my colleagues in support of this legislation.
The First Reconstruction Act of 1867 required states to revise their state Constitutions to guarantee male citizens of all races the right to vote. However, African Americans were frequently denied this right in many southern states despite Constitutional amendments until the passage of the Voting Rights Act. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 enabled the federal government to enforce laws which gave African Americans the right to vote. The Voting Rights Act, renewed in 1968, 1972, 1982, and 2006 continues to assure that all Americans are provided the right to vote.
The Voting Rights Act expressly prohibits state or local entities from impairing the right of any citizen to vote. The Act ensures voting rights for all citizens by prohibiting the use of any type of literacy test or device for voter registration, monitoring changes in election law in jurisdictions with a history of discrimination, and allowing federal election officials to observe election procedures in designated jurisdictions.
The success of the Voting Rights Act is unquestionable. Federal accountability ensured the enforcement of the Constitution. The Voting Rights Act led to dramatic increases in voter registration rates among African Americans and other minorities. Among other things, the Voting Rights Act continues to promote justice and equality in America by reducing the gap in voter registration rates among minorities.
The 2006 extension of the Voting Rights Act for an additional 25 years continues to ensure all citizens the right to vote. Key provisions of this require certain pre-approval for jurisdictions with histories of voting irregularities to have any changes in voting rules, such as a change in polling locations.
Representative John Lewis (D-GA), a leader and pioneer of the civil rights movement hailed the passage of the Voting Rights Act reauthorization as: “a great victory for the democratic process. It confirmed the commitment of this Congress, just like others before it, to the integrity and inclusiveness of the vote in America. The vote is precious, almost sacred. It is the most powerful non-violent tool we have in a democratic society. We have accomplished a great deal today to protect the security and integrity of the vote in America.”
The extension of the Voting Rights Act for another 25 years is an important step in preserving the right of every American citizen to participate freely in the democratic process. I am proud to cast my vote in favor of this important legislation.