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Reauthorization of Expiring Portions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965

WHEREAS, the Voting Rights Act was passed by Congress and signed onto law by President Lyndon Baines Johnson on August 6, 1965; and

WHEREAS, August 6, 2005, represents the 40th Anniversary of the passage of the Voting Rights Act; and

WHEREAS, the Voting Rights Act eliminated the use of literacy tests and other arbitrary and discriminatory measures and provided for the appointment of federal examiners empowered to register qualified citizens to vote; and

WHEREAS, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed to supplement and implement the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution and further guarantee that no federal, state or local government shall in any way impede or discourage people from registering to vote or voting because of their race or color; and

WHEREAS, the anti-discrimination provisions of the Voting Rights Act are permanent; and

WHEREAS, three enforcement-related provisions of the Voting Rights Act will expire in 2007 unless reauthorized; and

WHEREAS, specifically, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires certain jurisdictions to obtain approval or "pre-clearance" from the U.S. Department of Justice or the U.S. District Court in D.C. before they can make any changes to voting practices or procedures is due to expire in 2007; and

WHEREAS, under Section 5, federal approval will be given only after the jurisdiction proves that the proposed change does not have the purpose or effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race or color; and

WHEREAS, Section 5 applies to any state or county where a literacy test was used as of November 1, 1964, and where less than 50% of the voting age residents of the local jurisdiction were registered to vote, or actually voted, in the presidential election of 1964, 1968, or 1972; and

WHEREAS, currently, Section 5 affects all or part of 16 states: All of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas. Most of Virginia, 4 counties in California, 5 counties in Florida, 2 townships in Michigan, 10 towns in New Hampshire, 3 counties in New York, 40 counties in North Carolina, and three counties in South Dakota; and

WHEREAS, Section 203, which requires certain jurisdictions to provide bilingual language assistance to voters in communities where there is a concentration of citizens who are limited English proficient, which was added to the Voting Rights Act in 1975, is also set to expire in 2007; and

WHEREAS, as of 2002, there are 382 local jurisdictions that need to provide language assistance in Spanish and 119 that must provide assistance to Asian Americans, Alaska Natives, and/or Native Americans; and

WHEREAS, because some of these jurisdictions overlap, a total of 466 local jurisdictions across 31 states are covered by the language minority provisions of the Act; and

WHEREAS, provisions in Sections 6-9 that authorize the federal government to send federal election examiners and observers to certain jurisdictions covered by Section 5 where there is evidence of attempts to intimidate minority voters at the polls is also set to expire in 2007; and

WHEREAS, Section 5 was reauthorized with broad bi-partisan support in 1970, 1975, and 1982 (for 25 years); Section 203 was enacted in 1975, and reauthorized in 1982 and 1992 (for 15 years); and

WHEREAS, while making Section 5 permanent may seem attractive, doing so would make it vulnerable to a constitutional challenge; because Section 5 is race conscious, it must be able to withstand "strict scrutiny" by the courts; and

WHEREAS, the provision must be "narrowly tailored" to address the harms it is designed to cure; many legal experts question whether the Court would find a permanent Section 5 to be "narrowly tailored," such as to survive a constitutional attack; and

WHEREAS, while a "nationwide" Section 5 is also an appealing prospect, it would also be vulnerable to constitutional attack as not "narrowly tailored" or "congruent and proportional" to address the harms it is designed to cure, as required by the Supreme Court's recent precedents; Section 5 is directed at jurisdictions with a history of discriminating against minority voters; and

WHEREAS, nationwide application of Section 5 would be extremely difficult to administer, given the volume of voting changes that would have to be reviewed; this expansion of coverage would dilute the Department of Justice's ability to appropriately focus its work on those jurisdictions where there is a history of voting discrimination.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP endorses and calls upon the Congress and President of the United States to reauthorize and strengthen the expiring provisions of the Voting Rights Act for at least 25 more years, until August 6, 2032 or later.