Rep. John Lewis on Delay in Voting Rights Act Vote
June 21, 2006 - "It is unfortunate and disappointing," said Rep. Lewis, "that we have encountered a setback in the passage of the Voting Rights Act reauthorization, H.R. 9. The bi-partisan, bi-cameral support of the House and Senate leadership for the Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2006, carefully crafted by Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Committee Member Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC), was a high point in the legislative history of the 109th Congress.
"It is very important that we move on H.R. 9 before the July break, and I hope that this Congress will be able to see its way clear to make that happen. It is ironic and very troubling that the opposition to H.R. 9 stems from the major objections of members of Congress from Georgia. Georgia is the last place that should seek to relieve itself from the commitment to fully empowered, equal participation that democracy implies.
"After all, it was during the middle of the last census that the Georgia State Legislature authored a redistricting plan that severely diluted the power of the African American vote. It was Georgia that developed the modern-day poll tax, as one federal judge called it, that disenfranchises rural voters, the elderly, the disabled, students and other minorities who have no government photo ID. It is the state of Georgia that has received over 80 objections from the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice since the last reauthorization, pointing to discriminatory voting plans agreed to by state, county, and local governments. And Georgia represents only a part of the over 1000 objections the DOJ has seen fit to make since the last reauthorization in 1982.
"The evidence shows that voting discrimination in America is not dead, and the Voting Rights Act must retain its original power in order to assure that democracy prevails in every hill and valley, every city and suburb, on every fertile farm and every desert plain in America. If we as a nation and a people are truly committed to the full participation of every American in the democratic process, then there should be no serious impediment to the passage of H.R. 9. To every Member who has looked at the overwhelming evidence, it is clear that we have come a great distance, but we still have a great distance to go before we can lay down the burden of voting discrimination in America."