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Voting Rights Act must keep pace with times

October 01, 2005|By Herbert H. Lindsey

The Maryland State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People strongly supports reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as amended.

Some of our constituents have been caught up in the rumor that African- Americans' voting rights will expire in 2007. We know this to be totally false. The right to vote was guaranteed to African Americans by the passage of the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which was passed after the Civil War, and which does not expire.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed to supplement the 15th Amendment and the antidiscrimination provisions of the Voting Rights Act are also permanent and not subject to an expiration date.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 further protects the voting rights of people of color and ensures that no federal, state or local government may in any way impede people from registering to vote and voting because of the color of the skin. The majority of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and specifically the portions that guarantee that no one may be denied the right to vote because of her or his race or color, are also permanent.

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We are especially concerned about certain key provisions that are scheduled to expire in August 2007. If we allow those key provisions to expire, we risk losing protections that guarantee African-Americans the right to vote by 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Looking at the bigger picture, the right to vote is a right of every American, regardless of our race, color, religion, sex, or ethnic background.

Moreover, there are four key enforcement provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as amended that are scheduled to expire in August 2007. If allowed to expire, that would put many Americans, including African Americans, at risk of losing protections that guarantee the right to vote. We understand that certain provisions were put in the Act with the expectations that conditions threatening or undermining voting rights would be eliminated within a specified time.

There are, unfortunately, some states that have proven records of still trying to use official means to discourage ethnic minority Americans from registering and voting. Therefore, we send an urgent message calling for reauthorization of the 1965 Voting Rights Act of 1965 as amended.

We ask that your readers express their interest for reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as amended to their congressional representatives. We ask for your support to reauthorize the amended Act including the four key provisions scheduled to expire in August 2007.

The four key provisions are:

1. Section 4 "coverage formula" contains a formula defining jurisdictions subject to, or "covered" by special remedial provisions of the act;

2. Section 5 "preclearance," known as the "preclearance" requirement, is one of the special provisions of the act whose application is triggered by the coverage formula in Section 4(b);

3. The attorney general can assign federal examiners and appoint federal poll watchers in places to which federal examiners have been assigned in covered jurisdictions; and finally,

4. In the bilingual voting materials requirement, certain states and political subdivisions are required to provide voting materials in languages other than English.

Many of our ancestors fought tirelessly for the right to vote; some even paid for it with their lives. We accept it as an organizational priority to encourage our citizens to register and vote and to have a say in our future.

Herbert H. Lindsey is president of the NAACP Maryland State Conference in Baltimore.

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