Voting Rights Act reauthorization: what you need to know.The League of Women Voters League of Women Voters, voluntary public service organization of U.S. citizens. Organized in 1920 in Chicago as an outgrowth of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, it had as its original nucleus the leaders of the latter organization. recognized during its inception that the way to fulfill the promise of our democracy was to make it work for all citizens--that mission and commitment remain as vital today as ever. Together, LCCR LCCR Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
LCCR Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the League have fought to secure equal voting rights Voting rights
The right to vote on matters that are put to a vote of security holders. For example the right to vote for directors.
The type of voting and the amount of control held by the owners of a class of stock. as the very foundation of that democracy, recognizing that the franchise is central to our individual and collective ability to impact public policy and achieve real differences in our communities.
This year Congress is debating reauthorization of the expiring provisions of the Voting Rights Act Voting Rights Act
Act passed by the U.S. Congress in 1965 to ensure the voting rights of African Americans. Though the Constitution's 15th Amendment (passed 1870) had guaranteed the right to vote regardless of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude,” of 1965 (VRA VRA Visual Resources Association
VRA Voting Rights Act of 1965
VRA Volta River Authority
VRA Veterans Recruitment Appointment
VRA Virginia Recycling Association
VRA Volunteer Rescue Association ( Australia)
VRA Voice Risk Analysis ). This historic Act is widely considered the most effective civil rights law in American history for its ability to protect the right to vote of ALL Americans. When passed in 1965, the VRA put teeth into the 15th Amendment's guarantee that no citizen can be denied the right to vote because of the color of their skin. It outlawed poll taxes, literacy tests, White-only primaries and other devices that kept minorities from voting.
The safeguards expiring in 2007 include Section 5, the "preclearance" provision. This requires states and local governments with a history of significant discrimination to obtain approval from the Department of Justice or a federal district court before they can make changes in election procedures. This provision prevents discrimination before it starts by making covered jurisdictions show that the proposed change is not discriminatory.
The language assistance provisions of the VRA are also set to expire. This critical part of the VRA ensures that large communities of citizens with limited English proficiency can access the electoral process. It requires that oral and written language assistance be provided for language minorities who need assistance navigating often complicated rules and ballot procedures. The language minority provisions benefit Alaska Natives Alaska Natives are indigenous peoples of the Americas native to the state of Alaska within the United States. They include Inupiat, Yupik, Aleut, and several Native American peoples, including Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian, Eyak, and a number of Northern Athabaskan peoples. , American Indians American Indians: see Americas, antiquity and prehistory of the; Natives, Middle American; Natives, North American; Natives, South American. , Asians and Spanish Heritage persons who Congress has found have faced, and continue to face, significant voting discrimination.
Another of the expiring provisions authorizes the U.S. Attorney General's office to send Election Day observers to monitor polling places and the counting of ballots in areas with a history of discrimination.
Since initial passage, the VRA has been renewed five times by bipartisan majorities in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. House and Senate and has been signed by four Republican presidents. Each time its temporary provisions have been reauthorized and expanded to afford people of color Noun 1. people of color - a race with skin pigmentation different from the white race (especially Blacks)
people of colour, colour, color
race - people who are believed to belong to the same genetic stock; "some biologists doubt that there are important the opportunity to influence government in ways that were not thought possible 50 years ago. The VRA has been instrumental in protecting the political voice of minorities, preventing purposeful discrimination and expanding the diversity of views within our representative bodies. Indeed, we owe achievements like increased minority voter turn-out rates and representation in the United States Congress to the VRA.
The Work Is Not Over
Nonetheless, despite the achievements of the civil rights movement and the progress made during the last four decades in minority registration and voting, as well as the inclusion of language minority citizens in the democratic process, there is no question that barriers to equal minority voter participation continue to exist.
During these four decades, a second generation of discrimination has emerged which serves to abridge TO ABRIDGE, practice. To make shorter in words, so as to retain the sense or substance. In law it signifies particularly the making of a declaration or count shorter, by taking or severing away some of the substance from it. Brook, tit. Abridgment; Com. Dig. Abridgment; 1 Vin. Ab. 109. or deny minorities their equal voting rights. Whether it is an at-large election, an annexation, polling place change or redistricting redistricting: see legislative apportionment. , changes in voting procedures and practices have resulted in discrimination against minority voters. Likewise, when language minorities in communities across America are denied the language assistance that they need in order to cast an informed vote, we know the right of minority citizens to cast an effective ballot is in jeopardy.
Today, we know that there is much work left to be done, because gains made by minority voters could be lost if the expiring provisions are not renewed and strengthened.
In recent elections we have seen partisan challenges targeting African-American and Latino voters and widespread dissemination in minority neighborhoods of disinformation dis·in·for·ma·tion
1. Deliberately misleading information announced publicly or leaked by a government or especially by an intelligence agency in order to influence public opinion or the government in another nation: flyers on or before Election Day. Furthermore, in places like South Dakota South Dakota (dəkō`tə), state in the N central United States. It is bordered by North Dakota (N), Minnesota and Iowa (E), Nebraska (S), and Wyoming and Montana (W). with large Native American populations, overt racial appeals, egregious attempts to intimidate minority voters and other tactics reminiscent of the Deep South in the 1960s have been documented.
In 2001, three weeks before Election Day in Kilmichael, Mississippi Kilmichael is a town in Montgomery County, Mississippi, United States. As of the 2000 census, the town population was 830. Geography
Kilmichael is located at (33.442175, -89.569761)GR1. , the all-white town council decided to cancel the municipal elections when it became clear that, for the first time in the town's history, a black candidate would win the mayoral election. However, because Mississippi is covered by the Voting Rights Act, Kilmichael's change in election procedure--in this case canceling an election--had to be approved by the Department of Justice before it could take effect. The Department of Justice concluded that Kilmichael's decision to cancel the election was racially motivated and insisted that the election go on as planned. Without the VRA--in 2001 no less!--it is possible that the all-white town council would have prevailed.
Kilmichael is not an isolated example. A recent study by the National Commission on the Voting Rights Act (NCVRA) reports that exclusionary tactics continue to be employed with the same frequency as they were before 1982, the year of the last major VRA reauthorization.
Recent reports from the RenewtheVRA.org collaborative highlight voter discrimination across the country: from Alaska and Texas to New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of and California. For example, in August 2003, weeks before a September election, Bexar County, TX, attempted to eliminate five early polling places that serve predominantly Latino neighborhoods--an act that would leave many Latino voters without convenient access to the polls.
Similarly, during the 2004 and 2005 elections in New York Unlike in most states, New York electoral law permits electoral fusion. As a result, New York ballots tend to list a large number of political parties. The endorsement of major party candidates by smaller parties can be important since smaller parties often use this ballot feature to City, voters and poll inspectors were monitored harassing Asian-American voters. Several hostile voters, referring to Asian-American voters, commented that, "You all are turning this country into a third world dump."
Renew and Restore the VRA
Renewal of the VRA is not a minority issue but an issue for all who care deeply about preserving American democracy and ensuring equal access to the electoral process. We have not reached our goal of equal opportunity and fairness for all until every voter has equal access to the polling place and the opportunity to cast an effective ballot. It is critical we renew and restore the VRA to guarantee that our democracy is open to all and works for all its citizens. To see what you can do to advance renewal and restoration of the VRA, see Hill Bulletin (p. 12).
Wade Henderson is Executive Director, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) is an umbrella group of American liberal interest groups. Organizational history
It was founded in 1950 by three leaders in the American civil rights movement: Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters founder A. (LCCR).