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U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters Celebrates House Passage of Voting Rights Act Reauthorization

July 15, 2009
Press Release

U.S. Representative Maxine Waters (CA-35), a senior member of the House Committee on the Judiciary, today joined with Members of the Congressional Black Caucus to lead the debate for reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA).

"Today, I cast a vote on behalf of the millions of men and women across the nation who have been blocked, intimidated, beaten, and even killed trying to exercise their Constitutionally guaranteed right to vote," said Rep. Waters.  "House passage of the Voting Rights Act is only the first step.  I will continue to fight to make sure it passes in the Senate and is signed into law by President Bush."

For months, Democrats and Republicans worked in good faith to construct a version of the VRA that would protect minority voting rights.  However, two weeks ago, when this non-controversial bill was scheduled to be brought to the floor for a vote, a handful of maverick Republicans were able to force a delay.  Their actions prevented it from being considered at all.  This week, a large coalition of civil rights leaders, African-American, Hispanic and Asian Members of Congress started putting more pressure on the Republicans to bring the VRA to the floor and vote to reauthorize it.

After many hours of behind the scenes negotiations within their party, the Republican leadership allowed four of their members, mostly from Southern states, to offer poison pill amendments that would have severely weakened protections in the VRA. 

"I believe each one of the Republican amendments was designed specifically to dilute essential provisions in the Voting Rights Act," said Rep. Waters.  "Each one of the amendments was resoundingly defeated, which was a victory for minority voting rights and democracy."
The VRA is responsible for minority communities being able to elect the representatives of their choice.  In 1964, there were only 300 black public officials nationwide.  Today there are more than 9,100, including 43 members of Congress.  In 1975, the VRA was expanded to include language minorities, resulting in nearly 6,000 Hispanic elected and appointed officials today, including 27 in Congress.  Native Americans, Asian Americans and others who have historically encountered harsh barriers to full political participation also have benefited greatly from the VRA.

This legislation must still be passed in the Senate and signed into law by President Bush.