Voting Rights and Fair Elections

This is why I keep harping on the Voting Rights Act, and the importance of fair elections. If we cannot have a fair election, nothing will ever change. Nothing. It is the one true power we hold as Americans. Sure, Dubya had a photo-friendly signing of the Voting Rights Act yesterday, but true to form, the Republicans aren't taking this lying down. (The link requires a login; bugmenot didn't have any working ones, so I'm including the entire text in the blockquote.)

Senate Democrats Suggest Republicans Tried to Undercut Voting Rights Act
Civil rights groups and Senate Democrats complained Thursday that even as President Bush signed a 25-year extension of expiring provisions of the Voting Rights Act into law, some Senate Judiciary Republicans might be trying to undermine it after the fact.

Nine of the 10 Republicans on the panel — including Chairman Arlen Specter —signed a report filed July 26 that accompanied the extension. Democrats and other advocates of the extension charge that the report could provide ammunition for future legal challenges against the 1965 law (PL 89-110).

Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who helped speed the measure to final passage and on to the president’s desk, is an unlikely suspect for the charge of undermining the law.

He has long made clear that he wanted as thorough a legislative history as possible to ensure that the version passed by Congress withstands any potential court challenges.

“The chairman filed a committee report in order to have a comprehensive congressional record,” a Senate Judiciary aide said.

In a statement, Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the Judiciary Committee’s ranking member, complained that Democrats did not see the final version of the report before it was filed and had not received a copy of it since. The committee approved the bill (S 2703) on July 19 and the Senate cleared it July 20.

Committee reports are not required under Senate rules, but in practice they are prepared for most bills. When laws are challenged in court, federal judges look at committee reports, along with hearing and floor debate transcripts and conference reports, to help determine legislative intent.

Republicans John Cornyn of Texas and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma prefaced their “additional views” filed with the report by saying, “We regret that these views will be filed post enactment. The expedited process prohibited normal order.”

Brian Walsh, a spokesman for Cornyn, said committee reports, including “additional views,” were “a natural part of the legislative process.”

The Democrats’ complaints came after a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House Thursday at which Bush signed the extension into law before an audience that included civil rights leaders and members of Congress from both parties.

The Senate cleared the extension the same day President Bush pledged his support during his first appearance before the NAACP’s annual convention. Republican senators such as Cornyn and Coburn voted in favor of the measure despite their previously stated concerns about the bill’s requirements that covered jurisdictions obtain advanced permission before changing their election procedures.
After-the-Fact Help

Democrats and advocacy group lawyers say Republicans might be trying to provide after-the-fact help to legal challenges against those provisions by including in the legislative history language that supports their position.

But a Democratic aide cited passages that are not on their face critical of the law. One reads “most of the record adduced in the House and Senate Judiciary committees is devoted to first-person accounts of alleged discrimination,” which Democrats say implies there is insufficient evidence to justify the remedies required in the bill.

“It’s outrageous that several members of that committee who signed this report who purport to support the [Voting Rights Act] show up at the signing ceremony at the same time they file this report which seeks to lay out a road map to challenge the constitutionality of the law,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU’s Washington office.

Leahy said the courts should look to the legislative findings included in the body of the legislation itself.

“Those findings, based on the record, were adopted by the House and unanimously by the Senate last week,” he said.

Mike DeWine of Ohio, who is in the middle of a tight re-election campaign, was the sole Republican who did not sign the report.

“He did not think the committee report was indicated in this case,” a spokesman for DeWine said.
Yeah, those tight re-election campaigns will make you think twice, huh?

Of course, we're still hearing "The VRA is no longer needed because so little voting discrimination occurs and that it unfairly targets the South."

Show me that minorities aren't still being disenfranchised, and maybe I'll agree with you.

(Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? Cross-post Squarepants...)

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