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Schumer Introduces Bipartisan Extension Of Historic Voting Rights Act

Legislation, Named After Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks And Coretta Scott King, Needed To Strengthen & Extend Voting Rights Act Of 1965 For 25 More Years

Bill Will Bolster Bilingual Voting Efforts, Including Spanish

Schumer: This Bill Will Solidify The Crown Jewel Of The Civil Rights Movement

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, an original cosponsor of this bipartisan legislation, today announced the introduction of a bill that will extend key provisions of the historic Voting Right Act for the next 25 years. The legislation, named after 3 civil rights icons, Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2006 (VRARA), will extend the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which has been previously renewed four times.

The Voting Rights Act is the most effective piece of civil rights legislation that we have ever passed, Senator Schumer said. It effectively addressed past injustices, and also set us on a path of more completely fulfilling the American promise of freedom and equality for all its peoples. The Act does not simply guarantee the right to vote, but it ensures that voters can effectively exercise that sacred part of the democratic process. We have come a long way since the days of the poll tax and raw voter intimidation in guaranteeing this right, but there is still a lot of work to do, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass it quickly.

Our founding fathers said it best when they penned these words in the Declaration of Independence: Government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed. And simply put: in our nation, there can be no consent without unfettered access to the voting booth. A renewed, and reenergized Voting Rights Act is exactly the right formula to ensure the right to vote for future generations of Americans, said Senator Schumer.

Three sections of the Voting Rights Act are set to expire in 2007, including provisions that require certain jurisdictions to preclear all voting changes with either the Department of Justice or the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, and to provide bilingual voting assistance in certain languages, including Spanish and AsianAmerican, Native American, and Native Alaskan languages so that citizens with Limited English Proficiency can cast an informed ballot. Another provision set to expire next year authorizes the Attorney General to assign federal observers to certain jurisdictions to monitor elections.

The VRARA legislation will:
" Renew and strengthen the expiring provisions of the Voting Rights Act for an additional 25 years;
" Restore Congresss original intent by preventing voting changes that are enacted with any discriminatory purpose and that diminish minority voting strength from being precleared;
" Allow prevailing parties in voting rights litigation to recover expert witness fees, as is already provided for in the vast majority of civil rights legislation.

The Voting Rights Act has been extremely effective in ensuring that all of our citizens are able to participate equally in the political process, Senator Schumer said. But many of the Acts successes in New York have come only since the last time we renewed its major provisions. For example, the first and only African American mayor of New York City wasnt elected until 1989, and the first and only African American wasnt elected to statewide office until 1994. In 2002, the first and only Asian American was elected to the New York City Council. And finally, just last year, a mayoral candidate became the first and only Latino to win his partys nomination. These strides are important, but they are too few and too recent to say for certain that the goals of the Voting Rights Act have been met.