Washington, D.C.–Today, President George W. Bush signed into law the Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2006. The Act extends vital protections for minority voters under the Voting Rights Act for twenty-five years, through 2032, including the provision of Section 203 language assistance in areas with a significant number of limited English proficient citizens, Section 5 preclearance of any new voting plans in jurisdictions with a history of voter discrimination, and the use of federal observers on Election Day.
The law additionally strengthened the original Voting Rights Act by making determination of Section 203 coverage more frequent–to every five years–after 2010, and by allowing civil rights groups to recover costs of litigation and the use of expert witnesses to enforce the Voting Rights Act.
Margaret Fung, Executive Director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) was at the signing ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House this morning, and issued the following statement:
We applaud the actions taken by Congress and President Bush to ensure that every American citizen will continue to have equal access to the vote. The Voting Rights Act has been critical in encouraging Asian American and other language minority voters to become more engaged in our nation’s civic life.
However, many American citizens still face voting barriers and are wrongfully turned away from the polls or denied their right to vote for candidates of their choice. We are glad that President Bush acknowledged the need for vigorous enforcement of voting rights laws, and we celebrate the extension of the Voting Rights Act for another 25 years.
AALDEF’s Voting Rights program conducts litigation, outreach, and technical assistance to promote civic participation among Asian American communities nationally, and in the process has expanded opportunities for tens of thousands of Asian Americans to have a voice in local and federal government.
AALDEF testified in support of Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution on November 8, 2005 and the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 13, 2006.
A copy of AALDEFs comprehensive report, Asian Americans and the Voting Rights Act: The Case for Reauthorization, was formally submitted to Congress in June 2006. The report is available at here.