From the ACLU Action Network:
This Saturday marks the 40th Anniversary of Congress passing the most successful piece of civil rights legislation in history: the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965. Unfortunately, unless Congress votes to renew several key sections of the law, they will expire by 2007.
Congress could begin considering renewal legislation as early as this fall, so we need your help now to make sure that all of the expiring provisions are renewed and restored and to prevent opponents of the VRA from sabotaging the reauthorization.
Today you can help ensure a return to fairness not just for immigrants, but for everybody, by urging Congress to support the Civil Liberties Restoration Act of 2005. These are not just “immigration” issues; current policies are a fundamental threat to the guarantee of due process for all people–as expressly required by the Constitution–and they endanger all of our rights.
Calling the VRA the most successful civil rights bill ever really isn’t an exaggeration. By the end of 1965, more than a quarter million blacks had registered to vote. In the past forty years, the number of African-American elected officials has risen from 300 to close to 10,000.
After nearly a century under the “Jim Crow” system, which denied African-Americans the right to vote, the Voting Rights Act finally made clear that the Constitution’s guarantee of equality under the law means what it says.
The expiring provisions include a section that requires voting districts with a history of discrimination to pre-approve or “pre-clear” changes to voting laws with the Justice Department or a federal court in Washington; a provision that gives the attorney general the authority to appoint poll watchers and election monitors; and a crucial provision that guarantees language assistance to voters with limited English proficiency.
These sections must be renewed if we are to ensure the continued success of the Voting Rights Act.
In addition, the legislation must also restore the spirit of the VRA by clarifying the kinds of circumstances that result in a retrenchment of voting rights for minority citizens. These important clarifications are needed because of recent Supreme Court decisions that have substantially weakened the effectiveness of the Act.
Although the law ended poll taxes and literacy tests that were expressly designed to disfranchise minorities, discrimination still occurs in subtler, yet no less harmful, forms. For instance, just last year, a federal court determined that the state of South Dakota was officially conspiring to disfranchise American Indians. And, the state of Louisiana has never had a proposed change to its electoral law approved by the Justice Department.
Click here to urge your representatives to renew the expiring sections and restore the original intent of the Act.