REAUTHORIZATION OF THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT; Congressional Record Vol. 152, No. 87
(Senate - June 29, 2006)

Text available as:

Formatting necessary for an accurate reading of this text may be shown by tags (e.g., <DELETED> or <BOLD>) or may be missing from this TXT display. For complete and accurate display of this text, see the PDF.


[Page S6772]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]


                REAUTHORIZATION OF THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT

  Mr. ALLEN. Mr. President, I also want to speak at length on a very 
important matter that I hope will also come to a vote on the floor of 
this Senate shortly; and that is the reauthorization of the Voting 
Rights Act. I am pleased this bill is moving through the committee 
process, and I commend Chairman Arlen Specter, who is moving on yet 
another important piece of legislation this session.
  The enactment of the Voting Rights Act was absolutely necessary 41 
years ago and was initially passed during a very tumultuous time in our 
country's history. In fact, the Voting Rights Act should have been 
passed many years before then. But history has proven that the law was 
just and appropriate to provide equal opportunities and protections to 
persons with the desire to express themselves at the ballot box.
  This is completely consistent with the spirit of the Declaration of 
Independence. And I believe we are all better off for the choices that 
were made back 41 years ago. And that has strengthened the fabric of 
our country. It has helped make us a more perfect union, and made us 
stronger as a country as we face challenges presently.
  The present legislation before us reauthorizes several key sections 
of the Voting Rights Act that will expire next year if no action is 
taken. The expiring parts are section 5, section 203, and sections 6 
through 9.
  This legislation helps ensure the fundamental right of all eligible 
citizens to vote. It sends a strong message that no matter what your 
race, religion, gender, or national origin, if you are a law-abiding 
citizen you have the right to vote. At the core of representative 
democracy is the participation of informed people. The people are the 
owners of this Government.
  While the U.S. Constitution surely guarantees the right to vote, 
legislation was and is still necessary to ensure that in practice that 
guarantee is never diminished. My Commonwealth of Virginia has come a 
long way since this law was first enacted, and a reauthorization is 
necessary to ensure this progress continues throughout the United 
States, from Florida to New York to Alaska.
  Now, some will argue that counties and cities and States cannot be 
removed from or ``bail out'' of the preclearance aspects of this if 
they so desire and have a good record on voting rights. Now, the facts 
are, though, that--and I am just speaking for the Commonwealth of 
Virginia--11 cities and counties in Virginia have been able to ``bail 
out'' of the Voting Rights Act by proving that ``no [racial] test or 
device has been used within such State or political subdivision for the 
purpose or with the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on 
account of race or color.'' The counties in Virginia that have been 
removed from preclearance review are--in alphabetical order--Augusta, 
Frederick, Greene, Pulaski, Roanoke, Rockingham, Shenandoah, and 
Warren, and the cities of Fairfax, Harrisonburg, and Winchester.
  Renewal of the act does not mean that the reauthorizing States still 
engage in voter discrimination on the basis of race. Renewal should 
instead be viewed as a continued unflagging commitment to ensuring the 
protection of a law-abiding persons's right to vote without subversion 
or unwarranted interference.
  The Voting Rights Act is a real and visible commitment made to ensure 
that voter discrimination will be stamped out and effectively 
prohibited if and when it does occur. Great strides have been made in 
ending voter discrimination in all of its forms since the Voting Rights 
Act was passed. It should also be noted that recognizing and addressing 
these problems is the appropriate prudent approach. It is responsible 
rather than ignoring those problems.
  Thanks in part to the Voting Rights Act, Virginia was the first State 
in the Nation to popularly elect the first Governor who is an African 
American. I hope after this November's elections, Virginia is not still 
the only State with this record, and that there will be two States that 
have elected Governors who are African Americans.

  Now, the election in Virginia, represented an inspirational success 
for a person, L. Douglas Wilder, who persevered and won that election. 
It was also an achievement for a State that only decades earlier had 
counties that closed their public schools rather than integrate them to 
comply with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of 
education.
  My friend and colleague in the other body, Representative John Lewis, 
and I recently returned from a pilgrimage to Farmville, VA, as part of 
a group organized by the Faith and Politics Institute. During this 
pilgrimage, and previous pilgrimages I have taken to Birmingham, 
Montgomery, and Selma, AL, we heard first-hand stories from still-
living civil rights leaders and also personal heartbreaking stories 
from people about the impediments faced by African Americans as they 
grew up with the racial discrimination that existed at that time.
  Now, as we strive for a society where all people are judged by the 
content of their character rather than by the color of their skin, we 
must join together in our great country of promise to make sure that 
everyone has an equal opportunity to participate and to succeed. 
Reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act is a tool that has, can, and 
will help achieve this goal of fairness. I am committed and dedicated 
to ensuring that the voting rights of all law-abiding Americans are 
protected, and the Voting Rights Act has proven to be an able vessel 
for accomplishing this important objective.
  I urge my colleagues to bring this important piece of legislation to 
the Senate floor as soon as practicable this summer so we can debate 
the issues and amendments and ultimately renew the Voting Rights Act.
  Mr. President, I wish my colleagues and all Americans a happy, safe, 
and patriotic Independence Day. With our friends and families, let's 
reflect on our foundational values that must be preserved. And a lot of 
these values need to be preserved from monarchical judges who prevent 
the pledge of allegiance in schools because of the words ``under God,'' 
but, on the other hand, allow the desecration of the flag.
  We have judges who redefine the institution of marriage, but allow 
local government officials, in a place like New London, CT, to act like 
lords--the reason we seceded from the monarchy--among those lords in 
New London, CT, to take people's homes--the American dream--using 
eminent domain, not because there was a public purpose of a school or a 
road to be built, but because they wanted to derive more tax revenue 
off of that property and that land.
  As Senators, let us return to act to secure our borders, develop 
energy independence, confirm sound judges, and renew the Voting Rights 
Act to make sure this is a land of opportunity for all.

                          ____________________