Sensenbrenner and Kennedy come together for reauthorization of Voting Right Act by Mitch E. Perry


In a rare display of bipartisanship, Congressional leaders are calling for the re-authorization of provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The law was first passed in 1965 in response to the civil-rights movement. The purpose was to prohibit laws, such as literacy tests, that had been used to deny blacks, American Indians and others the right to vote.

It was last reauthorized in 1982, and it is scheduled to expire in 2007.

Wisconsin Congressman James Sensenbrenner, one of the most conservative members of the House who has become famous in the past few months for his sponsorship of the bill that would make felons of illegal immigrants, spoke on a national conference call today with one of the most liberal members of the Senate, Ted Kennedy about the re-authorization….Sensenbrenner was in just his 2nd term in Congress the last time the law was renewed, in 1982….He admits he was skeptical that there was such a need for a law in the 80’s, but quickly reversed himself (roll tape#1 o.q.’1982�)

Ted Kennedy has been called “The Lion of the Senate�, serving in that body for nearly 44 years now….He recalled in his first term working on the Voting Rights Act in 1965, and how there was the thought - at that time – that it would become superfluous after 25 years – but that has not been the case (roll tape#2 o.q.�that we do�)

Section 5 of the Act requires that the United States Department of Justice "preclear" any "covered jurisdiction"'s attempt to change a voting standard, practice or procedure. Section 5, as currently authorized by Congress, stays in effect until 2007. The burden of proof under Section 5 is on the governmental body to establish that the proposed change does not have a retrogressive purpose …Hillsborough County is one of 5 counties in Florida that fall under that part of the law…In all, Section 5 affects all or parts of 16 states..It applies to any state or county where a literacy test was used as of November 1s 1964, and where less than 50% of the voting age residents of the jurisdiction were registered to vote, or actually voted, in the presidential election of 1964, 1968, or 1972.

The Conference call was set up by the Washington based Leadership Counsel on Civil Rights …Wade Henderson is the Executive Director of that group (roll tape#3o.q.�Americans from voting�)

Henderson says the VRA did away with banning racial discrimination and voting nationwide , and extended protection to other groups – but there are plenty of egregious abuses that it does NOT protect (roll tape#4 o.q.�threats and intimidation�)

Senator Kennedy said it was important that Congress vet the extention of the Voting Rights Acts so that they are not rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court (roll tape#5 o.q.�to defend�)

House Judiciary committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner says he hopes to have the bill passed and on the President’s Bill before the August break (roll tape#6 o.q.’adjourns�)

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