[Congressional Record Volume 152, Number 96 (Thursday, July 20, 2006)]
[Senate]
[Pages S7949-S8012]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]




FANNIE LOU HAMER, ROSA PARKS, AND CORETTA SCOTT KING VOTING RIGHTS ACT 
               REAUTHORIZATION AND AMENDMENTS ACT OF 2006

  The PRESIDENT pro tempore. Under the previous order, the Senate will 
proceed to the consideration of H.R. 9, which the clerk will report.
  The legislative clerk read as follows:

       A bill (H.R. 9) to amend the Voting Rights Act of 1965.


                   Recognition of the Majority Leader

  The PRESIDENT pro tempore. The majority leader is recognized.


                                SCHEDULE

  Mr. FRIST. Mr. President, this morning we are proceeding directly to 
H.R. 9, the voting rights reauthorization bill. We have a unanimous 
consent order that provides for up to 8 hours of debate today, although 
I do not expect all that time will be necessary. We will proceed to a 
vote on passage of H.R. 9 whenever that time is used or yielded back, 
and therefore that vote will occur sometime this afternoon, and I 
expect passage of that voting rights reauthorization bill.
  There are several circuit and district court judges that will require 
some debate and votes today. We will have a unanimous consent agreement 
on those debate times shortly, and we will likely consider those 
judicial nominations following the passage of the Voting Rights Act.
  We have been working on an agreement on the child predator 
legislation for a short debate and vote, which will occur today, and we 
hope to have that agreement as well.
  Finally, we have an order to proceed to the child custody protection 
bill today, and we have Senators who would like to speak on this issue 
later today as well.
  Having said that, the schedule will require votes over the course of 
the day--possibly into the evening--in order to finish. Although there 
is a lot to do and people have requested time

[[Page S7950]]

to be set aside, I think a lot of that time can be yielded back over 
the course of the day and we will be able to complete the schedule as I 
have laid out.
  In a few moments, after the chairman makes his opening statements on 
the Voting Rights Act reauthorization, I will return with an opening 
statement as well. It has been a process we have expedited in many ways 
because the importance and significance of this legislation is very 
clear. So I am delighted that we are moving to it this morning and that 
we will be passing it later this afternoon.
  The PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator from Pennsylvania is 
recognized.
  Mr. SPECTER. Are we prepared to proceed at this time with the 
consideration of the Voting Rights Act?
  The PRESIDENT pro tempore. That is correct.
  Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, this is a historic day for the Senate and 
really a historic day for America as we move forward with Senate action 
to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act. This action, coming from the 
Judiciary Committee in our executive session yesterday afternoon, 
passed unanimously--18 to 0--moves the Senate toward completion of this 
reauthorization today and for submission to the President and for the 
formal signing next week.
  In an era where many have challenged the ability of the Congress to 
function in the public interests and in an era where there is so much 
partisan disagreement, it is good to see the two parties in the House 
and the Senate coming together to reauthorize this very important 
legislation.
  I thank and congratulate the members of the Senate Judiciary 
Committee for pulling together and moving ahead at this time, with a 
prodigious amount of work, to bring this important matter to the floor. 
The committee has proceeded with 9 hearings. We have had 46 witnesses. 
We have had 11 leading academics come to testify from such 
distinguished institutions as the Yale Law School, Stanford University, 
the University of Pennsylvania Law School, New York University Law 
School, and others.
  The House of Representatives held 12 hearings to gather evidence on 
voting discrimination, featuring testimony from some 46 witnesses.
  We have had some of the leading luminaries in the Nation testify, 
such as Professor Chandler Davidson, coauthor of the landmark book on 
the Voting Rights Act ``Quiet Revolution in the South;'' Theodore Shaw, 
Director-Counsel and President of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education 
Fund; Fred Gray, veteran civil rights attorney who began his career in 
the midst of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and has represented 
such civil rights leaders as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mrs. Rosa 
Parks.
  We have been mindful in presenting these witnesses and compiling this 
record that the Supreme Court has required very extensive records. 
The Supreme Court struck down parts of the landmark legislation 
protecting women against violence because the Court disagreed with the 
congressional ``method of reasoning.'' It is a little hard to 
understand that conclusion, but they have the final word. They have a 
test on the adequacy of the record; that it be congruent and 
proportional. It is sometimes hard to understand exactly what that test 
is, but we are on guard to compile a very extensive record in order to 
avoid having the act declared unconstitutional.

  The bill which we will vote on today accomplishes many important 
items. First, it strengthens voting rights protections nationwide by 
allowing voters who successfully challenge illegal voting practices to 
recover reasonable expenses of litigation. Second, it extends the 
protections for voters with limited English skills for 25 years. Those 
voters will continue to enjoy the protection of bilingual ballots and 
assistance at the polls. It also extends for 25 years the requirements 
that the Department of Justice preclear any voting change in certain 
covered jurisdictions where there has been a history of discrimination. 
The bill clarifies how the preclearance protections should work, 
guaranteeing that voting laws enacted with a discriminatory purpose 
never get enacted into law. So, it moves America in the right 
direction.
  The benefits and effects of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 have been 
profound, to put it mildly. It is the political power of the minorities 
for whom the Voting Rights Act was designed who pushed the Congress 
forward a year in advance of the expiration of the Voting Rights Act, 
to move ahead and get this important job done early.
  If you contrast 1964, before the Voting Rights Act was passed, with 
what is happening in America today, it is a different America. It is a 
different political reality. In 1964, there were only approximately 300 
African Americans in public office, including just 3 in the Congress. 
Few, if any, Black elected officials came from the South. Today, there 
are more than 9,000 Black elected officials, including 43 Members of 
Congress. This is the largest number ever. Quite a record. The Voting 
Rights Act has opened the political process for many of the 
approximately 6,000 Latino public officials who have been elected, 
including 263 at the State or Federal level, 27 of whom serve in 
Congress.
  This progress is especially striking in covered jurisdictions where 
hundreds of minorities hold office. In Georgia, for example, minorities 
are elected at rates proportionate to or higher than their numbers. In 
Georgia, the voting-age population is 27 percent African American. 
Almost 31 percent of its delegations to the House of Representatives 
are African American, and 26.5 percent of officials elected statewide 
are African American. Black candidates in Mississippi have achieved 
similar success. The State's voting age population is 34 percent 
African American. Almost 30 percent of its representatives in the State 
House and 25 percent of its delegations in the U.S. House of 
Representatives are African American.
  The Congress of 1965 relied on evidence that Black registration was 
so dramatically lower than White registration that the differences 
could only be explained by purposeful efforts to disenfranchise Black 
citizens. Indeed, in some cases, the gap was 50 percentage points. In 
Alabama, Black registration was just at 18 percent, and in Mississippi, 
a little over 6 percent. Today, in Alabama and Louisiana, Blacks are 
registered at approximately the same rate as White voters, and in 
Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Texas, Black registration and 
turnout in the 2004 election was higher than that of the Whites.
  The Congress of 1965 relied on findings of Federal courts and the 
Justice Department that the covered States were engaged in the practice 
of deliberate unconstitutional behavior. For example, the 1965 Senate 
report noted that Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi had lost every 
voting discrimination suit brought against them, and in the previous 8 
years, each State had eight or nine courts find them guilty of 
violating the Constitution.

  Today, the statistics paint a starkly different picture. Since 1982, 
only six cases have ended in court ruling or a consent decree finding 
that one of the 880 covered jurisdictions had committed 
unconstitutional discrimination against minority voters. During that 
time, six cases have found that a noncovered jurisdiction committed 
unconstitutional discrimination against minority voters. If the data is 
focused on the last 11 years, the results are even more dramatic. Since 
1995, only two cases ended in a finding that a covered jurisdiction 
unconstitutionally discriminated against minority voters.
  Looking at voting rights cases paints a similar picture. In 1982, 39 
court cases ended with a finding that one of the 880 covered 
jurisdictions had violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. That is 
the provision that prohibits discrimination nationwide. During the same 
period of time, 40 court cases have ended with a finding that one of 
the noncovered jurisdictions have violated Section 2. Not a perfect 
record, but it shows that discrimination has become more incidental and 
less systematic.
  There is no doubt this improved record is a direct result of the 
Voting Rights Act. When we take a look at civil rights legislation 
generally, the Voting Rights Act is the most important part of our 
effort to give minorities--give all Americans--their full range of 
constitutional civil rights.
  When we take a look at the activities of the three distinguished 
women for whom the Voting Rights Act has been named--Coretta Scott 
King, Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer--we see the

[[Page S7951]]

enormous contribution which they have made. Mrs. King, the widow of 
pioneering civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., devoted a 
lifetime to opposing racism, whether the 1960s segregation Alabama or 
the 1980s apartheid in South Africa. Fortunately, she lived to see so 
much of the progress America has made. Sadly, her husband, Dr. King, 
did not see that.
  I recall, not too long ago, when Mrs. King came to the Senate, in the 
adjoining room to the Senate Chambers, and spoke out forcefully on the 
issues of civil rights. She was a real heroin in America, to pursue the 
work of Dr. King.
  Every American schoolchild knows the story of Miss Rosa Parks who, on 
December 1, 1955, refused to give up her seat to a white passenger. She 
explained her motivation simply:

       People always say that I didn't give up my seat because I 
     was tired, but that isn't true. I was not tired physically. . 
     . . I was not old, . . . I was forty-two. No, the only tired 
     I was, was tired of giving in.

  Fannie Lou Hamer first learned that African Americans had a 
constitutional right to vote in 1962, when she was 44 years old. Ms. 
Hammer later explained that, despite death threats and violence, she 
was determined to exercise her constitutional rights and said:

       The only thing that they could do to me was to kill me, and 
     it seemed like they had been trying to do that a little bit 
     at a time ever since I could remember.

  So we come to this day in the Senate where we are on the verge of 
passing the Voting Rights Act, reauthorizing it as the House has done. 
The President will be speaking within the hour to the NAACP convention 
and doubtless will refer proudly to the acts of the Congress in 
presenting him with this bill.
  I want to pay tribute to the Judiciary Committee. All the members 
worked very hard to get these nine hearings and to examine the 
witnesses and to create a record. Senator Kennedy, who is on the floor, 
has been a stalwart leader in this field for a very long time. He was 
here when the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed. Not too many 
current Members of the Senate were present. Senator Byrd, Senator 
Inouye--this is not in my prepared text. I may be omitting someone. 
Senator Stevens came shortly thereafter--1968.
  Senator Kennedy doesn't need a microphone when he speaks about civil 
rights in this Chamber. He can be heard on the House floor--quite a 
distance away, past the Rotunda. He has not only been a spokesman for 
this act, he has been a persistent advocate. Not that it needed a whole 
lot of advocacy to persuade the latest chairman or my distinguished 
ranking member, Senator Leahy, to move ahead. This has been our 
priority item. We got the Judiciary Committee together on a Wednesday 
afternoon. It is pretty hard to get the Judiciary Committee together 
any time and to get a quorum, but we were present, 16 of the 18 
members. One member was on the floor managing a bill and the other 
couldn't be there. So there was that kind of enthusiasm.
  Now I want to yield to Senator Leahy, the distinguished ranking 
member. The committee has quite a record for 18 months. We moved 
promptly on January 4 to confirm the President's designee for Attorney 
General. We moved ahead to pass reform legislation on class actions and 
bankruptcy. We moved ahead, with Senator Leahy's leadership and the 
leadership of Judge Becker, to move asbestos out of committee--yet to 
be acted on, on the floor. We have confirmed two Supreme Court Justices 
and have moved the immigration bill out of committee. But none of our 
activities has been as important as the one we presented to the floor 
of the Senate yesterday when we voted out the Voting Rights Act.
  Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that additional materials be 
printed in the Record.
  There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in 
the Record, as follows:

       Below is a summary of all the cases that Senate Judiciary 
     Committee staff has located in which a court or a settlement 
     found a constitutional violation of voting rights.
       Only six cases resulted in a finding that a covered 
     jurisdiction committed unconstitutional discrimination 
     against minority voters. Six cases ended in a finding that 
     found that a covered jurisdiction had committed 
     unconstitutional discrimination against white voters. Six 
     cases in non-covered jurisdictions found unconstitutional 
     voting practices against minority voters, and two against 
     white or majority voters.
       An additional 22 cases found a constitutional violation, 
     but these did not involve racial discrimination or any 
     conduct addressed by the Voting Rights Act. Accordingly, 
     these cases are not relevant evidence for reauthorization.
       Staff reviewed the ACLU's 867-page Voting Rights Report, 
     which discusses 293 cases brought since June 1982. Staff also 
     reviewed the database for the University of Michigan Law 
     School Voting Rights Report. The database was constructed by 
     searching the ``federal court'' databases of Westlaw or Lexis 
     for any case that was decided since June 29, 1982 and 
     mentions section 2, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1973. Of all the 
     identified section 2 lawsuits, 209 produced at least one 
     published liability decision under section 2. Staff reviewed 
     the ``state reports'' introduced into the record and 
     available at RenewTheVRA.org. Finally, staff reviewed the 
     consent decrees introduced into the November 8, 2005 House 
     Judiciary Committee hearing on the minority language 
     provisions of the Voting Rights Act.

         I. Covered Jurisdictions Discriminating Against Voters


                                Alabama

       (1) Hunter v. Underwood, 730 F.2d 614 (11th Cir. 1984), 
     affirmed 471 U.S. 222 (1985) (ACLU Rep., p. 51).
       The ACLU represented two voters who were disenfranchised 
     under a nearly 80 year-old law that prohibited those who had 
     committed a ``crime of moral turpitude'' from voting. Id. at 
     p. 52. The court struck down the law because there was 
     evidence that when it was adopted in the early 1900s, the 
     legislators intended to disenfranchise black voters. The 
     Supreme Court unanimously affirmed that, in view of the proof 
     of racial motivation and continuing racially discriminatory 
     effect, the state law violated the Fourteenth Amendment.
       (2) Dillard v. City of Foley, 926 F. Supp. 1053 (M.D. Ala. 
     1995) (ACLU Rep., p. 57).
       African American plaintiffs in the City of Foley, Alabama, 
     filed a motion to require the City to adopt and implement a 
     nondiscriminatory annexation policy and to annex Mills 
     Quarters and Beulah Heights. Plaintiffs also claimed that the 
     City had violated section 5 and section 2. As a result of 
     negotiations, the parties entered into a consent decree. The 
     decree found plaintiffs had established ``a prima facie 
     violation of section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the 
     United States Constitution.'' Id. at p. 59.
       (3) Brown v. Board of School Comm'rs., 706 F. 2d 1103 (11th 
     Cir. 1983) (U Mich. L.Rep., http://www.votingreport.org.).
       A class of African American voters challenged Mobile 
     County's at-large system for electing School Board members. 
     In 1852, Mobile County created at-large school board 
     elections of 12 commissioners. In 1870, the election 
     procedures changed; instead of selecting all 12 
     commissioners, voters would select 9 of the 12 and the other 
     3 would be appointed. This system had the effect of ensuring 
     minority representation on the school board. In 1876, the 
     Alabama state legislature eliminated the Mobile County school 
     board system and returned the County to the 1852 at-large 
     election scheme which remained in effect until this suit was 
     brought.
       The district court found that by re-instating the at-large 
     election system, the Alabama state legislature intended to 
     discriminate against African Americans in Mobile County in 
     violation of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendment. The 
     Eleventh Circuit affirmed.


                                Georgia

       (4) Miller v. Johnson: 515 U.S. 900 (1995) (ACLU Rep., 126-
     27).
       In August 1991, the Georgia legislature adopted a 
     congressional redistricting plan based on the new census 
     containing two majority minority districts--the Fifth and the 
     Eleventh. A third district, the Second, had a 35.4% black 
     voting age population. The state submitted the plan for 
     preclearance, but the Attorney General objected to it. 
     Following another objection to a second plan, the state 
     adopted a third plan which contained three majority black 
     districts, the Fifth, the Eleventh, and the Second. The plan 
     was precleared on April 2, 1992. Following the decision in 
     Shaw v. Reno, a lawsuit was filed by white plaintiffs 
     claiming that the Eleventh Congressional District was 
     unconstitutional. One of the plaintiffs was George DeLoach, a 
     white man who had been defeated by McKinney in the 1992 
     Democratic primary. Although the Eleventh District was not as 
     irregular in shape as the district in Shaw v. Reno, the 
     district court found it to be unconstitutional, holding that 
     the ``contours of the Eleventh District . . . are so 
     dramatically irregular as to permit no other conclusion than 
     that they were manipulated along racial lines.'' The Supreme 
     Court affirmed. It did not find the Eleventh District was 
     bizarrely shaped, but it held the state had ``subordinated'' 
     its traditional redistricting principles to race without 
     having a compelling reason for doing so. The court criticized 
     the plan for splitting counties and municipalities and 
     joining black neighborhoods by the use of narrow, sparsely 
     populated ``land bridges.'' On remand the district court 
     allowed the plaintiffs to amend their complaint to challenge 
     the majority black Second District, which the court then held 
     was unconstitutional for the same reasons it had found the 
     Eleventh District to be unconstitutional, [and] the 
     legislature adjourned without adopting a congressional plan.

[[Page S7952]]

       (5) Common Cause v. Billups: 4:05-CV-201 HLM (N.D. Ga.) 
     (ACLU Rep., 185-91).
       The Department of Justice precleared the photo ID bill on 
     August 26, 2005. The ACLU filed suit in federal district 
     court, charging the law violated the state and federal 
     constitutions, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the 1964 Civil 
     Rights Act. The district court issued a preliminary 
     injunction holding plaintiffs had a substantial likelihood of 
     succeeding on several grounds, including claims that the 
     photo ID law was a poll tax and violated the equal protection 
     clause of the Constitution. The state appealed to the 
     Eleventh Circuit, which refused to stay the injunction. In an 
     attempt to address the poll tax burden cited by the district 
     court in its injunction, the Georgia legislature passed a new 
     photo ID bill providing for free photo identification cards.
       (6) Clark v. Putnam County: 168 F.3d 458 (11th Cir. 1999) 
     (ACLU Report at 384-89).
       In 1997, four white plaintiffs filed a lawsuit challenging 
     the constitutionality of the majority black county commission 
     districts as racial gerrymanders in violation of the Shaw/
     Miller line of cases. In January 2001, the district court 
     dismissed the complaint. The Eleventh Circuit reversed, 
     holding that the district court erred in failing to find 
     unconstitutional intentional discrimination.


                               Louisiana

       (7) Hays v. Louisiana, 515 U.S. 737 (1995) (ACLU Rep., p. 
     481).
       White plaintiffs successfully challenged Louisiana's Fourth 
     Congressional District as unconstitutional ``race-conscious'' 
     redistricting. Id. at p. 481. The Supreme Court granted 
     cert., but then dismissed the case for lack of standing.


                             North Carolina

       (8) Shaw v. Hunt, 517 U.S. 899 (1996) (ACLU Rep., p. 513).
       The 12th District of North Carolina was 57% black and was 
     persistently challenged by white voters and its boundaries 
     were considered by the Supreme Court four separate times. The 
     ACLU participated as an amicus in defending the 
     constitutionality of the 12th District. In 1996, the Supreme 
     Court struck down the plan for the 12th District on the 
     grounds that race was the ``predominant'' factor in drawing 
     the plan and the State had subordinated its traditional 
     redistricting principles to race. Id.


                             South Carolina

       (9) Smith v. Beasley, 946 F. Supp. 1174 (D.S.C. 1996) (ACLU 
     Rep., p. 572).
       White voters filed suit in 1995 challenging three state 
     senate districts. A year later, another group of white voters 
     filed suit challenging nine house districts. In both cases, 
     the plaintiffs claimed that the districts were drawn with 
     race as the predominant factor in violation of the Shaw/
     Miller line of decisions. The cases were consolidated for 
     trial, and black voters, represented by the ACLU, intervened 
     to defend the constitutionality of the challenged districts. 
     Following a trial, a court issued an order in September 1996, 
     finding three of the challenged senate districts and nine of 
     the house districts unconstitutional because they ``were 
     drawn with race as the predominant factor.'' Id.


                                 Texas

       (10) League of United Latin American Citizens v. Midland 
     Indep. Sch. Dist., 648 F. Supp. 596 (W.D. Tex. 1986) (U Mich. 
     L.Rep., http://www.votingreport.org).
       Latino plaintiffs argued that the at-large election system 
     diluted their votes. The parties agreed to a court order that 
     eliminated the election scheme and defendants submitted a 
     proposal in which four trustees would be elected from single-
     member districts and three would be elected at large. 
     Plaintiffs objected and filed a plan in which all seven 
     trustees would be elected from single-member districts. The 
     court, applying Gingles and the totality-of-circumstances 
     tests, held that defendants' plans violated section 2 and the 
     Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendment. The court ordered that a 
     seven-member district plan for electing trustees be 
     immediately implemented according to district boundaries 
     drawn by the court.


                                Virginia

       (11) Moon v. Meadows, 952 F. Supp. 1141 (E.D. Va. 1997) 
     (ACLU Rep., p. 691).
       In 1995, several white voters challenged the Third 
     Congressional District in federal court as an 
     unconstitutional racial gerrymander. In 1997, the district 
     court invalidated the Third Congressional District, finding 
     that race had predominated in drawing the district and that 
     the defendants could not adequately justify their use of race 
     as a districting factor.
       (12) Pegram v. City of Newport News, 4:94cv79 (E.D.Va. 
     1994) (ACLU Rep., p. 714).
       In July 1994, the ACLU filed suit on behalf of African 
     American voters challenging the at-large method of city 
     elections in the City of Newport News. On October 26, 1994, a 
     consent decree was entered in which the City admitted that 
     its at-large system violated section 2 as well as the 
     Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. The consent decree 
     required the City to implement a racially fair election plan.

      II. NON-COVERED JURISDICTIONS DISCRIMINATING AGAINST VOTERS


                               California

       (1) Garza v. County of Los Angeles, 918 F.2d 763 (9th Cir. 
     1990) (U Mich. Law School's Report. http://
www.votingreport.org).
       Latino voters alleged that district lines for the Los 
     Angeles County Board of Supervisors were gerrymandered to 
     dilute their voting strength. Plaintiffs requested creation 
     of a district with a Latino majority for the 1990 Board of 
     Supervisors election. The Ninth Circuit affirmed that the 
     County had adopted and applied a redistricting plan that 
     resulted in dilution of Latino voting power in violation of 
     section 2, and by establishing and maintaining the plan, the 
     County had intentionally discriminated against Latinos in 
     violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection 
     Clause.


                                Florida

       (2) McMillan v. Escambia County, 748 F.2d 1037 (11th Cir. 
     1984) (U Mich. L.Rep., http://www.votingreport.org).
       Black plaintiffs claimed that the at-large election of 
     county commissioners in Escambia County diluted their voting 
     power in violation of section 2 and the Fourteenth and 
     Fifteenth Amendments. The district court found that the State 
     had not implemented the plan with a racially discriminatory 
     purpose, but it had maintained it with such a purpose.


                                 Hawaii

       (3) Arakaki v. Hawaii, 314 F.3d 1091 (9th Cir. 2002) (U 
     Mich. L.Rep., http://www.votingreport.org).
       A group of Hawaiian citizens of various ethnic backgrounds 
     sued the State of Hawaii alleging that the requirement that 
     those appointed to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs must be of 
     Native Hawaiian ancestry violated the Fourteenth Amendment, 
     the Fifteenth Amendment, and section 2 of the Voting Rights 
     Act. The Eleventh Circuit found that the restriction on 
     candidates running for Office of Hawaiian Affairs on the 
     basis of race violated the Fifteenth Amendment as well 
     section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The Ninth Circuit vacated 
     the district court's judgment that the Fourteenth Amendment 
     had also been violated because plaintiffs did not have 
     standing to challenge the appointment procedures.


                               New Mexico

       (4) United States v. Socorro County, Civ. Action No. 93-
     1244-JP (November 8, 2005 House Judiciary Committee Hearing 
     Record)
       The United States sued pursuant to sections 2, 12(d), and 
     203 of the VRA, alleging violations of the VRA and the 14th 
     and 15th Amendments arising from Socorro County's election 
     practices and procedures as they affected Native American 
     citizens of the county, including those Native American 
     citizens who rely on whole or in part on the Navajo language. 
     In its 1993 consent agreement, the defendants did ``not 
     contest that in past elections [the county] failed to make 
     the election process in Socorro County equally available to 
     Native American and non-Native American citizens as required 
     by Section 2 [of the VRA] and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth 
     Amendments, nor [did] defendants contest that in past 
     elections the county has failed to comply fully with the 
     minority language requirements of Section 203 [of the VRA].''
       (5) United States v. Bernalillo County, Civ. Action No. 98-
     156 BB/LCS (November 8, 2005 House Judiciary Committee 
     Hearing Record)
       The United States sued pursuant to sections 2, 12(d), and 
     203 of the VRA, alleging violations of the VRA and the 14th 
     and 15th Amendments arising from Bernalillo County's election 
     practices and procedures as they affected Native American 
     citizens of the county, including those Native American 
     citizens who rely on whole or in part on the Navajo language. 
     In its 1998 consent decree, the defendants did ``not contest 
     that in past elections the county has failed in particular 
     areas to make the election process as accessible to Native 
     American citizens as it was to non-Native American citizens 
     as is required by Section 203, Section 2, and the Fourteenth 
     and Fifteenth Amendments.''


                                New York

       (6) Goosby v. Town Bd. of Town of Hempstead, 180 F. 3d 476 
     (2d Cir. 1999) (U Mich. L.Rep., http://www.votingreport.org).
       Representatives of the Town Board of Hempstead were chosen 
     through at-large elections. African American voters alleged 
     that they were unable to elect their preferred candidates. 
     The district court held that the at-large elections violated 
     section 2 and ordered the Town to submit a six single-member 
     district remedial plan. The Board submitted two plans. The 
     one the Board preferred was a two-district system, consisting 
     of one single-member district and one multi-member district. 
     The other plan consisted of six single-member districts. The 
     district court held that the two-district plan violated the 
     Fourteenth Amendment, but the six-district plan did not. The 
     Board appealed. The Second Circuit affirmed the district 
     court's holding that the Board's proposed two-district 
     plan violated section 2 and the Fourteenth Amendment 
     because blacks had no access to the Republican Party 
     candidate slating process.


                              Pennsylvania

       (7) Marks v. Stinson, 1994 WL 146113 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 26, 
     1994) (U Mich. L.Rep., http://www.votingreport.org).
       Republican candidate for State Senate, Bruce Marks, the 
     Republican State Committee and other plaintiffs challenged 
     the election of Democrat William Stinson for the Second 
     Senatorial District. Although Marks received approximately 
     500 more votes from the Election Day voting machines than 
     Stinson, Stinson received 1000 more votes than Marks in 
     absentee voting. Marks and the other plaintiffs contended 
     that Stinson

[[Page S7953]]

     and his campaign workers encouraged voters to undermine 
     proper absentee voting procedures and requirements, such as 
     falsely claiming that they would be out of the county or 
     would be physically unable to go to the polls on Election 
     Day. Plaintiffs also contended that Stinson and the other 
     Defendants had focused their efforts to encourage illegal 
     absentee voting on minorities.
       The court held: (1) defendants violated plaintiffs' First 
     Amendment rights of association because plaintiffs were 
     denied the freedom to form groups for the advancement of 
     political ideas and to campaign and vote for their chosen 
     candidates; (2) defendants' actions denied plaintiffs' right 
     to Equal Protection by discriminating against the Republican 
     candidate and by treating persons differently because of 
     their race; (3) defendants violated plaintiffs' Substantive 
     Due Process right to vote in state elections by abusing the 
     democratic process; and (4) defendants improperly applied a 
     ``standard, practice, or procedure'' in a discriminatory 
     fashion in violation of the VRA, targeting voters based on 
     race and denying minority voters the right to vote freely 
     without illegal interference. Finally, the court ordered the 
     certification of Bruce Marks as the winner of the Second 
     Senatorial District seat for the 1993 Special Election 
     because Marks would have won the election but for the illegal 
     actions of the defendants.


                               Tennessee

       (8) Brown v. Chattanooga board of Comm'rs, 722 F. Supp. 380 
     (E.D. Tenn. 1989) (U Mich. L.Rep., http://
www.votingreport.org).
       Black citizens of Chattanooga sued the Board of 
     Commissioners for its use of at-large elections. The court 
     held: (1) applying the Gingles test, the method of electing 
     Board of Commissioners violated section 2 because the 
     electoral practice resulted in an abridgment of black voter's 
     rights; and (2) the Property Qualified Voting provision of 
     the Chattanooga charter violated the Fourteenth Amendment 
     under rational basis review because permitting a nonresident 
     who owns a trivial amount of property to vote in municipal 
     elections does not further any rational governmental 
     interest.

           III. Constitutional Violations Not Involving Race

       (1) Vander Linden v. Hodges, 193 F.3d 268 (4th Cir. 1999) 
     (ACLU Rep., p. 562).
       Residents of Dorchester, Berkeley, and Charleston Counties, 
     in South Carolina, filed suit in 1991 alleging that the 
     counties' legislative delegation structure violated the 
     Fourteenth Amendment's one-person, one-vote requirement and 
     was adopted with an unconstitutional purpose to discriminate 
     against African American voters. The district court rejected 
     both claims. The Fourth Circuit held that the structure 
     violated the one-person, one-vote rule (making no findings of 
     discriminatory intent) and did not address the second claim.
       (2) NAACP v. Board of Trustees of Abbeville County School 
     District No. 60, Civ. No. 8-93-1047-03 (D.S.C. 1993) (ACLU 
     Rep., p. 583).
       The Board of Trustees of Abbeville County School District 
     60 traditionally consisted of nine members, five of whom were 
     elected from single member districts and two each from two 
     multi-member districts. African Americans were 32% of the 
     population of the school district, but all the districts were 
     majority white and only one member of the board was African 
     American. In 1993, black residents of the school district and 
     the local NAACP chapter filed suit challenging the method of 
     electing the board of trustees as violating the 
     Constitution's one person, one vote requirement and violating 
     section 2 by diluting minority voting strength. The court 
     decided that the existing plan for the board ``is an 
     unconstitutionally malapportioned plan, and is in violation 
     of sections 2 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act.'' Id. at 584.
       (3) Duffey v. Butts County Board of Commissioners: Civ. No. 
     92-233-3-MAC (M.D. Ga.) (ACLU Report at 237-38).
       Suit challenging districting plans for Board of Education 
     and Board of Commissioners that were determined to be 
     malapportioned after the 1990 census. Plaintiffs sought, and 
     obtained, a preliminary injunction finding that the election 
     districts were ``constitutionally malapportioned.'' Parties 
     entered consent decree that retained five single member 
     districts for both boards and established two majority black 
     districts. Plan was precleared by DOJ.
       (4) Calhoun County Branch of the NAACP v. Calhoun County: 
     Civ. No. 92-96-ALB/AMER(DF) (M.D. Ga.) (ACLU Report at 238-
     40).
       1979 suit to enjoin the use of at-large elections for 
     failure to comply with Section 5. The county had changed to 
     at-large voting in 1967 following increased black 
     registration. A three-judge panel enjoined the at-large 
     scheme, finding it had never been submitted for preclearance. 
     A consent order then created five single-member districts, 
     two of which were majority black, and two at-large seats. 
     After the 1990 census, black voters again sued, alleging the 
     districts were malapportioned. According to the ACLU report, 
     ``the district court entered an order enjoining the upcoming 
     primary election for the board of education under the 
     malapportioned plan. The parties then agreed upon a new plan 
     that complied with the equal population standard and 
     maintained two of the districts as majority black.''
       (5) Frank Davenport v. Clay County Board of Commissioners, 
     NO. 92-98-COL (JRE) (M.D. Ga.): Civ. No. 92-98-COL (JRE) 
     (M.D. Ga.) (ACLU Report at 256-59).
       The county had failed to preclear its change to an at-large 
     system of voting for county commissioners in 1967. In 1980, 
     members of the local NAACP challenged the at-large system and 
     the failure to comply with Section 5. The court found a 
     section 5 violation, which resulted in a return to single-
     member districts. After the 1990 census showed the commission 
     districts to be malapportioned (and following an attempt to 
     create equal districts which was not precleared before a 1992 
     legislative poison pill provision rendered it void), the 
     ACLU sued seeking a remedial plan for the upcoming 
     elections. The parties entered a consent decree in which 
     the county admitted the districts were malapportioned in 
     violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's one person one 
     vote requirement and agreed to the redistricting plan 
     which had been created before the 1992 poison pill 
     invalidated it. The plan was precleared by DOJ.
       (6) Jones v. Cook County: Civ. No. 7:94-cv-73 (WLS) (ACLU 
     Report at 271-72).
       The ACLU filed suit on behalf of black voters in 1994, 
     alleging that the county board of commissioners and board of 
     education districts were constitutionally malapportioned 
     after the 1990 census. According to the ACLU's report, ``In a 
     hearing on December 19, 1995, county officials agreed that 
     'the relevant voting districts in Cook County are 
     malapportioned in violation of the equal protection clause of 
     the fourteenth amendment to the United States Constitution.' 
     A consent decree allowed sitting commission members to retain 
     their seats but implemented a new plan, correcting the 
     malapportionment for the 1996 elections.''
       (7) Thomas v. Crawford County: 5:02 CV 222 (M.D. Ga.) (ACLU 
     Report at 272-74).
       2002 suit alleged single-member districts were 
     malapportioned in violation of the constitution's one-person-
     one-vote principle. The plaintiffs won summary judgment and a 
     preliminary injunction to prevent elections from taking place 
     under the plan. The court adopted a plan that maintained two 
     majority-black districts.
       (8) Wright v. City of Albany: 306 F. Supp. 2d 1228 (M.D. 
     Ga. 2003) (ACLU Rep. 289-93).
       Black residents of the city, represented by the ACLU, sued 
     in 2003 to enjoin use of an allegedly constitutionally 
     malapportioned districting plan and requested that the court 
     supervise the development and implementation of a remedial 
     plan that complied with the principle of one person, one 
     vote, and the VRA. According to the ACLU report, ``In a 
     series of subsequent orders, the court granted the 
     plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, enjoined the pending 
     elections, adopted a remedial plan prepared by the state 
     reapportionment office, and directed that a special election 
     for the mayor and city commission [be] held in February 
     2004.''
       (9) Woody v. Evans County Board of Commissioners: Civ. No. 
     692-073 (S.D. Ga. 1992) (ACLU Report at 297-300).
       In 1992, the ACLU filed suit on behalf of black voters 
     challenging an allegedly malapportioned districting plan for 
     the county commission and board of education under the 
     Constitution and Section 2 of the VRA. According to the ACLU 
     report, ``on June 29 the district court enjoined `holding 
     further elections under the existing malapportioned plan for 
     both bodies.' ''
       (10) Bryant v. Liberty County Board of Education: Civ. No. 
     492-145 (S.D. Ga.) (ACLU Report at 340-42).
       ``Because Liberty County was left with a malapportioned 
     districting plan based on the 1980 census, the ACLU filed 
     suit in 1992, on behalf of black voters seeking 
     constitutionally apportioned election districts for the 
     county. The court granted plaintiffs' motion for preliminary 
     injunctive relief on July 7, 1992, and the following year the 
     parties agreed to a redistricting plan in which two of the 
     six single member districts contained majority black voting 
     age populations. The plan was precleared by the Justice 
     Department on April 27, 1993.''
       (11) Hall v. Macon County: Civ. No. 94-185 (M.D. Ga.) (ACLU 
     Report at 348-49).
       According to the ACLU Report, ``The [Georgia] general 
     assembly failed to redistrict the two boards during its 1992, 
     1993, and 1994 sessions, and in 1994, the ACLU filed suit on 
     behalf of Macon County residents against county officials 
     seeking a constitutional plan for the 1994 elections. On July 
     12, 1994, the court enjoined the upcoming election and 
     ordered the parties to present remedial plans by July 15, 
     1994. In March 1995, the court ordered a five district plan 
     that remedied the one person, one vote violations and ordered 
     special elections be held.''
       (12) Morman v. City of Baconton: Civ. No. 1:03-CV-161-4 
     (WLS) (M.D. Ga.) (ACLU Report at 364-65).
       Suit to block the use of a constitutionally malapportioned 
     districting plan following the 2000 census. According to the 
     ACLU Report, ``Black residents of Baconton, with the 
     assistance of the ACLU, then filed suit in federal court to 
     enjoin use of the 1993 plan on the grounds that it would 
     violate Section 5 and the Fourteenth Amendment. The day 
     before the election the court held a hearing, and, hours 
     before the polls opened, granted an injunction prohibiting 
     the city from implementing the unprecleared and 
     unconstitutional plan.''
       (13) Ellis-Cooksey v. Newton County Board of Commissioners: 
     Civ. No. 1:92-CV-1283-MHS (N.D. Ga.) (ACLU Report at 370-73).
       According to the ACLU report, the 1990 census showed that 
     the five single member

[[Page S7954]]

     districts for the county board of commissioners and board of 
     education were constitutionally malapportioned. ``After the 
     legislature failed to enact a remedial plan, the ACLU filed 
     suit on behalf of black voters in Newton County in June 1992, 
     seeking constitutionally apportioned districts for the 
     commission and school board. The suit also sought to enjoin 
     upcoming primary elections, scheduled for July 21, 1992, as 
     well as the November 3 general election. The parties settled 
     the case the following month and the court issued an order 
     that `[t]he 1984 district plan does not constitutionally 
     reflect the current population.' ''
       (14) Lucas v. Pulaski County Board of Education: Civ. No. 
     92-364-3 (MAC) (M.D. Ga.) (ACLU Report at 380-84).
       Black residents of the county, represented by the ACLU, 
     filed suit in 1992 to enjoin upcoming elections under an 
     allegedly constitutionally malapportioned plan. According to 
     the ACLU report, ``On October 14, 1992, the district court 
     entered a consent order involving the board of Education, 
     affirming that `Defendants do not contest plaintiffs' 
     allegations that the districts as presently constituted are 
     malapportioned and in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment 
     of the Constitution.' ''
       (15) Cook v. Randolph County: Civ. No. 93-113-COL (M.D. 
     Ga.) (ACLU Report at 389-93).
       According to the ACLU Report, ``On October 5, 1993, black 
     voters, represented by the ACLU, filed suit. They asked the 
     court to enjoin elections for the school board and board of 
     commissioners on the grounds that the districting plan for 
     both bodies was either malapportioned in violation of the 
     Constitution and Section 2, or had not been precleared 
     pursuant to Section 5. Later that month, on October 29, the 
     parties signed a consent order stipulating that the existing 
     county districts were malapportioned, and agreeing on a 
     redistricting plan containing five single member districts 
     with a total deviation of 9.35%. Three of the five districts 
     were majority black.''
       (16) Houston v. Board of Commissioners of Sumter County: 
     Civ. No. 94-77-AMER (M.D. Ga.) (ACLU Report at 420-22).
       The ACLU brought suit in 1984 on behalf of black county 
     residents charging that the five member board of county 
     commissioners was malapportioned in violation of the 
     Constitution and Section 2 of the VRA. The suit also charged 
     defendants with failing to secure preclearance of a valid 
     reapportionment plan under Section 5. According to the ACLU 
     Report, ``After plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction 
     to block the 1984 board of commissioners election, a consent 
     order was issued acknowledging that the districts were 
     malapportioned, and instructing both parties to submit 
     reapportionment plans to the court. . . . On February 27, 
     1985, after trial on the merits, the court ruled the 
     challenged plan unconstitutional and directed the defendants 
     to adopt a new plan and seek preclearance under Section 5 
     within 30 days.''
       (17) Cooper v. Sumter County Board of Commissioners: Civ. 
     No. 1:92-cv-00105-DF (M.D. Ga.) (ACLU Report at 422-23).
       After the release of the 1990 census, the ACLU brought suit 
     on behalf of black plaintiffs, alleging that the county's 
     commission districts were malapportioned in violation of the 
     constitutional principle of one person, one vote. On July 27, 
     1992, the district court entered a consent order finding 
     ``malapportionment in excess of the legally acceptable 
     standard.''
       (18) Williams v. Tattnal County Board of Commissioners: 
     Civ. No. CV692-084 (S.D. Ga.) (ACLU Report at 426-27).
       After the 1990 census, the ACLU, on behalf of black 
     residents, sued to enjoin further 
     use of an allegedly constitutionally malapportioned 
     districting plan. According to the ACLU Report, ``On July 7, 
     1992, the district court, finding that the existing plan was 
     malapportioned, enjoined the July 1992, primary elections for 
     the board of commissioners and board of education until such 
     time as an election could be held under a court ordered or a 
     precleared plan.''
       (19) Spaulding v. Telfair County: Civ. No. 386-061 (M.D. 
     Ga.) (ACLU Report at 431-33).
       In September 1986, the ACLU filed suit on behalf of five 
     black voters alleging that 
     the county board of education was malapportioned. According 
     to the ACLU Report, ``On October 31, 1986, less than a week 
     before the November general election, the court entered a 
     consent order staying the elections, ordering a new 
     apportionment plan, and providing for a special election. The 
     court found that `Plaintiffs have established a prima facie 
     case that the current apportionment of the Board of Education 
     is in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment,' and required 
     the defendants to develop and implement a new apportionment 
     for the school board within 60 days.''
       (20) Crisp v. Telfair County: CV 302-040 (S.D. Ga.) (ACLU 
     Report at 439-41).
       The ACLU sued in August 2002, alleging that the county 
     commission lines were malapportioned in violation of the 
     Constitution and Section 2 of the VRA. According to the ACLU 
     Report, ``After plaintiffs filed suit, the county stipulated 
     that its commission districts were malapportioned, and that 
     `It is possible . . . to draw a five single member district 
     plan with at least one majority black district in Telfair 
     County.' The plaintiffs then filed for summary judgment and 
     asked the court to hold the existing plan unconstitutional 
     and order a new plan into effect. . . . Ruling that the 
     existing plan was malapportioned and `violates the one 
     person, one vote standard of the equal protection clause of 
     the Fourteenth Amendment,' the court noted that the plan had 
     been submitted for Section 5 preclearance and ruled the 
     motion for summary judgment was 'largely moot.' ''
       (21) Holloway v. Terrell County Board of Commissioners: CA-
     92-89-ALB/AMER(DF) (M.D. Ga.) (ACLU Report at 441-44).
       In June 1992, the ACLU filed suit on behalf of black voters 
     challenging the malapportionment of the county board of 
     commissioners under the Constitution and Section 2 of the 
     VRA. According to the ACLU Report, ``After the 
     reapportionment suit was brought in 1992, defendants admitted 
     the plan was malapportioned. . . . The parties negotiated a 
     new redistricting plan, corrected the malapportionment, and 
     created two effective majority black districts. Despite this 
     agreement, the county proposed, and had the 1993 Georgia 
     General Assembly adopt, a redistricting plan which plaintiffs 
     did not support. . . . In February 1994, the Department of 
     Justice precleared the county's redistricting plan over the 
     objections of the black community. . . .''
       (22) Flanders v. City of Soperton: Civ. No. 394-067 (S.D. 
     Ga.) (ACLU Report at 447-49).
       According to the ACLU Report, ``in November 1994, the ACLU 
     again brought suit on behalf of black voters in Soperton, 
     challenging the five member city council as malapportioned in 
     violation of one person, one vote. . . . A consent order was 
     filed August 7, 1995, in which both parties agreed the city 
     election districts were malapportioned, and adopted a 
     districting plan with a total deviation of 6.8% that 
     contained two majority black districts of 75.34% and 72.92% 
     black voting age population, respectively.''

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                                           MINORITY ELECTED OFFICIALS
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                   Citizen
                               minority voting      Minority         Minority     Number minority     Minority
            State               age population   percentage in    percentage in      officials     percentage in
                                  percentage      State Senate     State House         (2001)        U.S. House
                                (2000 Census)        (2005)           (2005)                         delegation
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Alabama......................  Black: 24.5....  22.86..........  25.71..........  756............  n/a
Alaska.......................  Black: 3.0.....  Black: 5.0.....  Black: 2.5.....  n/a............  n/a
                                                Native: 25.0...  Native: 20.0...
California...................  Hispanic of any  22.5...........  22.5...........  757 (as of       n/a
                                race: 21.4.                                        2000).
Florida......................  Black: 13.0....  Black: 7.5.....  Black: 13.3....  Black: 243.....  n/a
                               Hispanic of any  Latino: 15.0...  Latino: 9.2....  Latino: 89.....
                                race: 12.6.
Georgia......................  Black: 27.2....  19.6...........  21.7...........  611............  30.7
Louisiana....................  Black: 30.0....  23.1...........  21.9...........  705............  14.3
Mississippi..................  Black: 34.1....  21.2...........  29.5...........  897............  25
North Carolina...............  Black: 20.5....  14.0...........  15.8...........  491............  7.7
South Carolina...............  Black: 27.8....  17.4...........  20.1...........  534............  16.7
Texas........................  Black: 11.6....  Black: 6.5.....  Black: 9.3.....    .............  Black: 9.4
                               Hispanic of any  Latino: 19.4...  Latino: 18.0...  Latino: 2,000    Latino: 15.6
                                race: 26.5.                                        (as of 2003).
Virginia.....................  Black: 18.4....  12.5...........  11.0...........  246............  9.1
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Source for Citizen Minority Voting Age Population: U.S. Census Bureau Report on 2004 Election.
 Source for all other information: The Bullock-Gaddie Voting Rights Studies: An Analysis of Section 5 of the
  Voting Rights Act.


                                        MINORITY REGISTRATION AND TURNOUT
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                              2004 Registration                         2004 Turnout
                                 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
              State                     Minority                                 Minority             White
                                       percentage       White  percentage       percentage         percentage
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Alabama.........................  Black: 72.9........  73.8...............  Black: 63.9.......  62.2
Alaska..........................  n/a................  n/a................  Native: 44.8......  Non-Native: 68.4
California......................  Black: 67.9........  56.4...............  Black: 61.3.......  51.3
                                  Latino: 30.2.......    .................  Latino: 25.6......
Florida.........................  Black: 52.6........  64.7...............  Black: 44.5.......  58.4
                                  Latino: 38.2.......    .................  Latino: 34.0......
Georgia.........................  Black: 64.2........  63.5...............  Black: 54.4.......  53.6
Louisiana.......................  Black: 71.1........  75.1...............  Black: 62.1.......  64.0
Mississippi.....................  Black: 76.1........  72.3...............  Black: 66.8.......  58.9
North Carolina..................  Black: 70.4........  69.4...............  Black: 63.1.......  58.1
South Carolina..................  Black: 71.1........  74.4...............  Black: 59.5.......  63.4
Texas...........................  Black: 68.4........  61.5...............  Black: 55.8.......  50.6
                                  Latino: 41.5.......    .................  Latino: 29.3......
Virginia........................  Black: 57.4........  68.2...............  Black: 49.6.......  63.0
Nationwide......................  Black: 64.3........  67.9...............  Black: 56.1.......  60.3
                                  Latino: 34.3.......    .................  Latino: 28.0......
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Source for Citizen Minority Voting Age Population: U.S. Census Bureau Report on 2004 Election.
Source for all other information: The Bullock-Gaddie Voting Rights Studies: An Analysis of Section 5 of the
  Voting Rights Act.

  Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, it is with special thanks that I 
acknowledge Senator Leahy's leadership and cooperation, that I now 
yield to him.
  The PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator from Vermont is recognized.
  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President pro tempore, my dear friend, the senior 
Senator from Alaska, I see the majority leader on the floor. Is he 
seeking recognition?
  Mr. FRIST. I will be making some comments, as I mentioned earlier, 
after the distinguished ranking member.
  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, before I begin, I assume we will go back 
and forth, from side to side of the aisle on this. But as Democrats are 
recognized, I ask it be in this order: Senator Kennedy for 20 minutes, 
Senator Durbin for 15, Senator Feinstein for up to 20 minutes, Senator 
Salazar for up to 15 minutes, as Democrats, are recognized. I ask 
unanimous consent to that.
  The PRESIDENT pro tempore. Is there objection? Without objection, it 
is so ordered.
  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I appreciate what the senior Senator from 
Pennsylvania said. Senator Specter and I have been friends for many 
years. I think we have accomplished a great deal in the Judiciary 
Committee. I agree with him this is the most important thing we will 
do. But I might also note, on a personal note about the Senator from 
Pennsylvania, much of what was accomplished during that time he was 
fighting a very serious illness. I compliment the Senator from 
Pennsylvania for his perseverance during that time.
  The Voting Rights Act is the cornerstone of our civil rights laws. We 
honor those who fought through the years for equality by extending the 
Voting Rights Act to ensure their struggles are not forsaken and not 
forgotten, and that the progress we have made not be sacrificed. We 
honor their legacy by reaffirming our commitment to protect the right 
to vote for all Americans.
  The distinguished senior Senator from Massachusetts, who is on the 
floor, was in the forefront of this battle the first time around. He 
and his family, his late brothers, the President and brother Senator 
Robert Kennedy--President Kennedy, Senator Robert Kennedy, and now 
Senator Edward Kennedy, have been in the forefront of the civil rights 
battle. This has been a personal thing for them. It has been a 
commitment that has spoken to the conscience of our Nation, and I 
applaud my friend from Massachusetts for what he and has family have 
done.
  Reauthorizing and restoring the Voting Rights Act is the right thing 
to do, not only for those who came before--the brave and visionary 
people who fought for equality, some at great personal sacrifice, some 
even giving their lives--but also for those who come after us, our 
children and our grandchildren. All of our children, all of our 
grandchildren, should know that their right to vote will not be 
abridged, suppressed or denied in the United States of America, no 
matter their color, no matter their race, no matter what part of the 
country from which they come.
  I do thank the chairman for following the suggestion to convene the 
Judiciary Committee yesterday in special session to consider what 
really is bipartisan, bicameral legislation to reauthorize the Voting 
Rights Act. In fact, our Senate bill, S. 2703, is cosponsored by the 
distinguished Republican leader and the distinguished Democratic 
leader, by a bipartisan majority of the Judiciary Committee and by a 
bipartisan majority of the Senate. In fact, at the end of our committee 
meeting yesterday, we had a rollcall vote. We voted unanimously to 
report our bill favorably to the Senate.
  I mention that because so many of the things that have to go through 
the Judiciary Committee tend to be of a divisive nature. This was a 
unanimous vote. I have commended all those in the Judiciary Committee 
who worked so hard over the last several months to build a fair and 
extensive record and bring us to this point today. As I said earlier, I 
commend Senator Kennedy for his work. I agree with Senator Specter, 
when he gets passionate about a subject he doesn't need a microphone.
  I commend those who started with doubts--and there were serious 
doubts; some regional, some for legal matters. But those who had doubts 
have now come around to supporting our bipartisan bill.
  Because the bill we take up today and the bill from the committee to 
report are so similar, I know the Senate debate will be informed by the 
extensive record we have built before the Judiciary Committee. Over the 
last 4 months, we held nine hearings on all

[[Page S7964]]

aspects of this matter and on the overall bill itself. In another 
indication of bipartisanship, those hearings were chaired by large 
numbers of members of the committee and chaired by both Republican and 
Democratic Senators who wanted to send a signal that this is not a 
partisan matter.
  All of those hearings were fairly conducted. Those Senate hearings 
supplement those held in the House on this matter. Indeed, our first 
hearing was held for the express purpose of hearing from the lead 
sponsors from the House and to receive the results of their hearings 
into our Senate Record. In fact, in anticipation of this bill coming to 
the floor, I have included statements in the Record in the course of 
this week to help make sure we have a complete record before the Senate 
before we vote. For example, on Tuesday, my statement focused on the 
continuing need for Section 5. On Wednesday, my statement focused on 
the continuing need for Section 203. They reflect my views as the lead 
Democratic Senate sponsor.
  We have fewer than two dozen legislative days left in this session of 
Congress, so I appreciate the willingness of the Republican and 
Democratic leadership to take up this important measure without delay. 
I know the House of Representatives had to delay consideration of the 
Voting Act for a month due to the recalcitrance of some, recalcitrance 
that was overwhelmed in their vote. Here, I hope we do not suffer the 
same delay. This is a time for us to debate, consider, and vote on this 
important legislation. We should pass the bill in the same form as the 
House so it can be signed into law before the Senate recesses for the 
remainder of the summer.

  There has been speculation about why we are here today. Some tied it 
to the fact that for the first time in his Presidency, President Bush 
is going to appear before the National Association for the Advancement 
of Colored People, the NAACP. I, for one, applaud him for going before 
the NAACP. All Presidents should, Republican or Democrat. And in fact, 
if that had anything to do with the success in getting this bill moved 
expeditiously through the Senate, I have a number of other 
organizations I hope will invite him to get other legislation moving.
  The House-passed bill and the committee-reported bill is very 
similar. We introduced them in a bipartisan, bicameral, coordinated 
effort in May. The only change made to the House-passed bill was the 
inclusion of a governmental study added in the House Judiciary 
Committee. I urge the Senate to accept that addition.
  The only change made during the Senate Judiciary Committee was to add 
an Hispanic civil rights leader to the roster of the civil rights 
leaders for whom the bill is named. We did this at the suggestion of 
Senator Salazar. It is a good suggestion. We did this unanimously. I 
commend the Senator for it. As Senator Salazar has reminded us, ``Cesar 
Chavez is an American hero. He sacrificed his life to empower the most 
vulnerable in America. He believed strongly in the democracy of America 
and saw the right to vote as a cornerstone of our freedom.'' I offered 
the amendment in the Judiciary Committee and it was adopted without 
dissent.
  I told Senator Salazar that I recall the dinner with Marcelle and 
myself, our son Kevin and his wife Carolyn, and our granddaughter 
Francesca in the small Italian restaurant, Sarduccis, in Montpelier, 
Vermont. A family next to us came over to introduce themselves. It was 
Cesar Chavez's son. He apologized for interrupting our dinner. He 
wanted to say hello. I told him how proud I was to be interrupted and 
to meet him because his father had been a hero of mine. They were in 
Vermont because they were going to the Barre Quarry where the memorial 
to his father was carved.
  I have also consulted with Senator Salazar. Neither of us wants to 
complicate final passage of the Voting Rights Act so I urge the Senate 
to proceed to the House-passed bill and resist amendments so it can be 
signed into law without having to be reconsidered by the House. With 
respect to the short title of the bill and the roster of civil rights 
leaders honored, I have committed to work with Senator Salazar to 
conform the law to include due recognition of the contribution to our 
civil rights and voting rights by Cesar Chavez in follow up 
legislation.
  The Voting Rights Act reauthorization is named for three very 
important civil rights leaders, as the Senator from Pennsylvania 
pointed out.
  Fannie Lou Hamer was a courageous advocate for the right to vote. She 
risked her life to secure the right to vote for all Americans. Coretta 
Scott King was a tenacious fighter for equality for the civil rights 
movement in the 1960s, and right up to the time of her passing. Many of 
us in this Chamber met the late Mrs. King. Everyone in the Senate can 
remember when less than a year ago the body of Rosa Parks lay in state 
in the Capitol. She was the first African American woman in our history 
to be so honored. She was honored because of her dignified refusal to 
be treated as a second-class citizen sparked the Montgomery bus 
boycotts that are often cited as the symbolic beginning of the modern 
civil rights movement.
  Everyone in this Chamber would be horrified to think that somebody 
would be treated differently because of the color of their skin, but in 
the lifetime of every Senator sitting in this Chamber today, we have 
seen such discrimination. Let's make sure we take this step. It will 
not remove all discrimination, by any means, but it is a major step to 
let everyone in the country know that all of us are equal as Americans 
with equal rights, despite the color of our skin.
  Last week, after months of work, the House of Representatives, led by 
Congressmen John Conyers, Mel Watt, John Lewis, and Chairman 
Sensenbrenner, rejected all efforts to reduce the sweep and effect of 
the Voting Rights Act. Congressman John Lewis--himself a courageous 
leader during those transformational struggles only decades ago, a man 
who was nearly killed trying to retain the rights of African Americans, 
said during the House debate:

       When historians pick up their pens and write about this 
     period, let it be said that those of us in the Congress in 
     2006, we did the right thing. And our forefathers and our 
     foremothers would be very proud of us. Let us pass a clean 
     bill without any amendments.

  That is my friend John Lewis from the House of Representatives. I 
want our foremothers and forefathers to be proud of us, but I want our 
children and our grandchildren to be proud of us, too.
  The bill we are considering in the Senate today passed the other body 
with 390 votes in favor. In fact, the other body rejected all four 
amendments offered. They wanted to have a clean bill. They listened to 
John Lewis. They listened to the others. I congratulate the House 
cosponsors, both Republicans and Democrats, for their successful 
efforts. I hope we can repeat them in the Senate.
  On May 2, when our congressional leadership joined together on the 
steps of the Capitol to announce a bipartisan and bicameral 
introduction of the Voting Rights Act, it was a historic announcement. 
I noted in my journal it was one of the proudest moments I had in my 
years in the Senate, an occasion almost unprecedented during the recent 
years of partisanship.
  Let's not relent in our fight for the fundamental civil rights of all 
Americans. Working together, we should pass a clean bipartisan voting 
rights bill. Congress has reauthorized and revitalized the act four 
times, each time with overwhelming bipartisan support, pursuant to our 
constitutional powers. This is not a time for backsliding. This is a 
time to move forward together.
  So let us unite to renew this cornerstone, let us rededicate 
ourselves to its noble purpose, and let us commemorate the many who 
suffered and endured to bring our cherished ideals closer to reality 
for millions of our fellow Americans. Let us guarantee those rights for 
millions of our fellow Americans to come.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Burns). The Senator from Tennessee.
  Mr. FRIST. Mr. President, it was about 3 weeks ago that I joined 
President Bush on a trip to Memphis, TN, where we were joined by a 
close personal friend of mine, a man who is legendary in Tennessee and, 
indeed, throughout the country, the Rev. Dr. Ben Hooks.
  Dr. Hooks is a widely recognized, widely acknowledged champion of 
civil

[[Page S7965]]

rights. He presided with great courage and bold vision over the NAACP 
for 15 years as its executive director. He is in town this week for the 
NAACP meeting which is going on as I speak.
  He guided President Bush and myself, my wife Karyn, and the First 
Lady through the remarkable and inspiring National Civil Rights Museum 
which has been constructed at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, which was 
the actual site of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination. It was an 
inspiring visit, those moments as we walked through the exhibits, room 
to room, in that wonderful museum.
  In many ways, it shook my own conscience. To hear Dr. Hooks speak, to 
hear him recount the events surrounding that time, was to have history 
come alive. It was an ugly moment in our collective history, and 
certainly not America's finest hour.
  As we wandered through those rooms, listening to those words of Dr. 
Hooks, what struck my conscience most was how we as a Nation pushed 
through that time, how we as a Nation persevered to correct injustice 
just as we have at other points in American history.
  It reminded me of our ability to change, that when our laws become 
destructive to our unalienable rights--life, liberty, the pursuit of 
happiness--it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it.
  It reminded me of the importance, the absolute necessity, of ensuring 
the permanence of the changes we make, the permanence of our 
corrections to injustice.
  About 2 years ago, in the spring of 2004, Senator McConnell and I 
came to the Senate and offered an amendment to extend the expiring 
provisions of the Voting Rights Act permanently. However, at the 
insistence of a number of my colleagues we withdrew our amendment, 
while making clear that we were absolutely committed to renewing this 
important piece of legislation. Indeed, that day has come.
  A few months ago, I stood with Speaker Hastert, Chairman Specter, and 
Chairman Sensenbrenner on the steps of the Capitol where we reaffirmed 
at that time our commitment to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act. Thus, 
I am pleased this Congress will act to reauthorize the Voting Rights 
Act and, indeed, today, right now, the United States is doing just 
that.
  We expedited it through committee under the leadership of Chairman 
Specter so we could bring it to the Senate as quickly as possible. We 
will complete that action in a few hours today.
  Today the Senate is standing together to protect the right to vote 
for all Americans. We stand together, putting aside partisan 
differences, to ensure discrimination at the voting booth remains a 
relic of the past. We are working for a day when equality is more than 
a principle upon which our laws are founded, a day when equality is a 
reality by which our society is defined. We are working for the day 
when our equality, our oneness, is reflected not only in our laws but 
in the hearts and minds of every American.
  I hope and pray the day will come when racism and discrimination are 
only a part of our past and not our present.
  The Voting Rights Act of 1965 enshrined fair voting practices for all 
Americans. The act reaffirmed the 15th amendment to the Constitution, 
which says that:

       . . . the right of citizens of the United States to vote 
     shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by 
     any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of 
     servitude.

  The Voting Rights Act ensured that no American citizen and no 
election law of any State could deny access to the ballot box because 
of race, ethnicity, or language minority status. It took much courage 
and sacrifice to make that original Voting Rights Act into law, the 
courage and sacrifice of leaders such as Rosa Parks, Martin Luther 
King, Jr., Congressman John Lewis, to name a few.
  They paved the way to end discrimination and open the voting booths 
for millions of African Americans and other minorities who were 
previously denied the right to vote.
  In the 41 years--yes, it has been 41 years--since then, we have made 
tremendous progress. Thousands upon thousands of minorities have 
registered to vote. Minorities have been elected to hold office at the 
local level, at the State level, and the Federal level in increasing 
numbers.
  In short, the Voting Rights Act has worked. It has achieved its 
intended purpose. We need to build upon that progress by extending 
expiring provisions of the Voting Rights Act today.
  We owe it to the memories of those who fought before us, to those 
people who, right now, are reflected in those words of Dr. Hooks that 
we heard as we traveled through that Civil Rights Museum, and we owe it 
to our future--a future where equality is a reality, a reality in our 
hearts and in our minds, not just the law--to reauthorize the Voting 
Rights Act.
  I hope my colleagues will join me in voting for this critical 
legislation. I look forward to the President signing it into law.
  Mr. President, I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Kansas.
  Mr. BROWNBACK. Mr. President, I rise to speak on the Voting Rights 
Act, and I thank my colleague from Massachusetts who was here before me 
for allowing me to now speak briefly on this particular issue.
  The right to vote is quite literally the bedrock of the 
representative democracy we enjoy today. We must enable American 
citizens to fully participate in the political process if we are to 
truly be a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. 
It is central, and it is central that everybody is given that right in 
equal regard.
  The importance of the Voting Rights Act cannot be underestimated. It 
has transformed the face of our Republic and vindicated the noble 
values of our Nation. America has come a long way in the last four 
decades, and it is my hope that the reauthorization of the Voting 
Rights Act will help us to continue to extend the promise of democratic 
participation to every American.
  I have had the chance, twice now, to do the civil rights pilgrimage 
that the Faith in Politics group has sponsored to Selma, AL, to 
Montgomery, to several different places, and to hear from the firsthand 
experiences of individuals who were involved in the civil rights 
movement and in the freedom trails of the bus rides and in the 
protests, about the importance that the VRA was to them, was to getting 
involved, and is central in getting everybody participating in the 
democracy and a true opportunity to register to vote and to actually 
vote. It was and is critical. It is critical that we extend it.
  I also want to recognize and thank the Senator from Massachusetts for 
the central role his family has played in fighting for this particular 
language, this legislation. And it is important.
  Out of a strong desire to achieve this goal of everybody 
participating equally in this democracy, a bipartisan majority of 
Congress passed, and President Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 
1965. The aim of the act two generations ago was to fulfill the 
democratic promise of the Civil War amendments to the Constitution--a 
promise left unmet for a century after that terrible war had ended.
  The civil rights landscape has greatly improved in the country since 
1965, thanks in great part to the Voting Rights Act. The act has 
resulted in a tremendous increase in the ability of minority citizens 
to fully and fairly participate in our political system, both as voters 
and as candidates. The number of minority legislators has grown 
substantially.
  I am pleased to be a cosponsor of the pending Voting Rights Act 
reauthorization bill which the Judiciary Committee reported out 
unanimously yesterday. This bill recognizes the achievements of many 
and particularly of three champions of the civil rights era: Fannie Lou 
Hamer, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King. I believe we have a 
responsibility to carry on the work of these great Americans by 
reauthorizing the expiring sections of the Voting Rights Act.
  The bill does provide a flat bar to unconstitutional racial 
discrimination. It speaks clearly, aggressively, eloquently, and 
importantly on this topic. We cannot have racial discrimination in this 
country, period. We are extending this act. It is an important act. It 
is one that has helped make the values of democracy real on a tangible 
basis to individuals, and it is important that we extend it into the 
future.

[[Page S7966]]

  Mr. President, I am delighted to be a cosponsor of this bill. I urge 
my colleagues to pass it. I believe it will pass overwhelmingly.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Massachusetts.
  Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, this is an historic day. In the quietness 
of the moment, on the floor of the Senate, we are talking about a major 
piece of legislation that is basic to the fabric of what America is all 
about. But the quietness does not belie the fact that this is a 
momentous piece of legislation that marks the continuation of this 
Nation as a true democracy.
  I want, at the outset, to commend my friends and leaders on the 
Judiciary Committee, Senator Specter and Senator Leahy. I can remember 
talking with both of them early on about putting this on the Senate 
agenda, putting it on the Judiciary Committee agenda. There are not two 
Members of this body who are more committed to this legislation than 
Chairman Specter and Senator Leahy.
  We are here today because of their leadership and their strong 
commitment to the concept of making sure that America is going to be 
America by insisting on the extension of this voting rights 
legislation. They have both been tireless during the course of the 
series of hearings that we have held. They have been meticulous in 
terms of determining the witnesses that we would have and in building 
the legislative record, which is so important and of such great 
consequence in terms of maintaining the constitutionality of this 
legislation, which is, of course, so important. So I thank both of them 
for their leadership and their generous references earlier during their 
statements.
  Mr. President, the Constitution of the United States is an 
extraordinary document, the greatest charter that has ever been written 
in terms of preserving the rights and liberties of the people. Still, 
slavery was enshrined in the Constitution. And this country has had a 
challenging time freeing itself from the legacy of slavery. We had a 
difficult time in fighting the great Civil War. And we have had a 
challenging time freeing ourselves from discrimination--all forms of 
discrimination--but particularly racial discrimination. And we had a 
difficult time, particularly in the early 1960s, in passing 
legislation--legislation which could be enormously valuable in freeing 
a country from the stains of discrimination. But it takes much more 
than just legislation to achieve that.
  I was fortunate enough to be here at the time we passed the 1964 
civil rights bill that dealt with what we call public accommodations. 
It is difficult to believe that people were denied access to public 
accommodations--the ability to go to hotels, restaurants, and other 
places because of the color of their skin--in the United States of 
America. Mr. President, this legislation was debated for 10 months. Not 
just 1 day, as we all have today on voting rights, but for 10 months, 
the Senate was in session as we faced a filibuster on that legislation.
  Then, finally, Senator Everett Dirksen responded to the very eloquent 
pleas of President Johnson at that time and indicated that he was 
prepared to move the legislation forward and make some adjustments in 
the legislation. We were able to come to an agreement, and the law went 
into effect.
  In 1965, we had hours and hours and hours and hours during the course 
of the markup of the Voting Rights Act, and hours and hours and hours 
on the floor of the Senate to pass that legislation, with amendment 
after amendment after amendment. We were ultimately successful. And 
just off the Senate Chamber, in the President's Room--just a few yards 
from where I am standing today--President Johnson signed that 
legislation.
  Now, we continue the process. It has not always been easy during the 
continuation and the reauthorization of the Act. Rarely have we been as 
fortunate as we are today with the time agreement and an understanding 
that we will consider this and finalize it this evening, in a way that 
will avoid a contentious conference with the House of Representatives 
that could have gone on for weeks and even months, as we've seen in the 
past. This legislation will go to the President's desk, and he will 
sign it.
  There is no subject matter that brings out emotions like the issue of 
civil rights. That is, perhaps, understandable. But it is still very 
true. No issue that we debate--health care, education, increasing the 
minimum wage, age discrimination, environmental questions--whatever 
those matters are, nothing brings out the emotions like civil rights 
legislation.
  But here we have a very important piece of civil rights legislation 
that is going to be favorably considered, and I will speak about that 
in just a few moments. We have to understand, as important as this 
legislation is, it really is not worth the paper it is printed on 
unless it is going to be enforced. That is enormously important. As we 
pass this legislation and we talk about its importance, and the 
importance of its various provisions, we have to make sure we have an 
administration and a Justice Department that is going to enforce it. 
That has not always been the case.
  Secondly, it is enormously important that we have judges who 
interpret the legislation the way we intended for it to be interpreted.
  We have, in this situation, a bipartisan interpretation. We have a 
bicameral interpretation. There should be no reason that any court in 
this country--particularly a Supreme Court that is looking over its 
provisions--should not understand very clearly what we intended, the 
constitutional basis for it. We need judges who are going to interpret 
this in good faith. That has not always been the case, and I will 
reference that in terms of my comments.
  Then, we have to make sure we have a process and system so that, even 
if we have the legislation, and even if we have a Justice Department 
correctly interpret it, and even if we have judges correctly interpret 
it, we have to make sure there are not going to be other interferences 
with any individuals' ability to vote. That is another subject for 
another time, but enormously important.
  We need all of those factors, at least, to make sure that this basic 
and fundamental right, which is so important, and which we are 
addressing today, is actually going to be achieved and accomplished for 
our fellow citizens.
  Mr. President, we are, as I mentioned, poised to take another 
historic step in America's journey toward becoming the land of its 
ideals. As we all know, the battle for racial equality in America is 
far from over. The landmark civil rights laws that we have passed in 
the past four decades have provided a legal foundation, but the full 
promise of these laws has yet to be fulfilled.
  Literacy tests may no longer block access to the ballot box, but we 
cannot ignore the fact that discrimination is sometimes as plain as 
ever, and that more subtle forms of discrimination are plotted in back 
rooms, to be imposed by manipulating redistricting boundaries to dilute 
minority voting strength, or by systematic strategies on election day 
to discourage minority voting.
  The persistence of overt and more subtle discrimination makes it 
mandatory that we reauthorize the expiring provisions of the Voting 
Rights Act. This act is perhaps Congress's greatest contribution to the 
march toward equality in our society. As Martin Luther King, Jr., said, 
voting is ``civil right number one.'' It is the right in our democracy 
that preserves all others. So long as the vote is available and freely 
exercised by our entire citizenry, this Nation will remain strong and 
our other rights will be protected.
  For nearly a century, the 15th amendment guaranteed that ``the right 
of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or 
abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, 
color, or previous condition of servitude,'' but it took the Voting 
Rights Act of 1965 to breathe life into that basic guarantee. And it 
took the actions of many brave men and women, such as those who 
gathered at the Edmund Pettis Bridge and faced the shameful violence of 
those who would deny them the right to vote, before the Nation finally 
acted.
  I'm honored to have fought in the Senate for the Voting Rights Act 
each time it was before Congress--from its historic passage in 1965 to 
the votes to extend the act in 1970, 1975, and 1982

[[Page S7967]]

and to strengthen it along the way. I recall watching President Lyndon 
Baines Johnson sign the 1965 act just off this chamber in the 
President's Room. We knew that day that we had changed the country 
forever. And indeed we had. In 1965, there were only three African 
American and three Latino Members of Congress. Today, there are 41 
African-American Members in the House of Representatives, one African-
American Senator, 22 Latino House Members, and two Latino Senators. 
These gains would not have been possible without the Voting Rights Act.
  I recall extending the expiring provisions of the act in 1970. I 
remember extending it again in 1975, and adding protections for 
citizens who needed language assistance. We recognized that those 
voters warranted assistance because unequal education resulted in high 
rates of illiteracy and low rates of voter participation in those 
populations.
  And I recall well extending the act again in 1982. That time, we 
extended the expiring provisions of the act for 25 years and 
strengthened it by overturning the Supreme Court's decision in Mobile 
v. Bolden. That decision weakened the act by imposing an intent 
standard pursuant to section 2 of the act, but despite the opposition 
of President Reagan and his Department of Justice, we were able to 
restore the act's vitality by replacing that standard with a results 
test that provides greater protection for victims of discriminatory 
treatment.
  Finally, in 1992, we revisited the act to extend and broaden its 
coverage of individuals whose English language ability is insufficient 
to allow them to participate fully in our democratic system.
  In memory of Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr. 
and Coretta Scott King, and Cesar Chavez, I feel privileged to have the 
opportunity to support extension of the act once again for another 25 
years.
  Some have questioned whether there is still a need for the act's 
expiring provisions. They even argue that discrimination in voting is a 
thing of the past, and that we are relying on decades-old 
discrimination to stigmatize certain areas of the country today.
  I have heard the evidence presented over the past several months of 
hearings, and I can tell you that they are just plain wrong. Yes, we 
have made progress that was almost unimaginable in 1965. But the goal 
of the Voting Rights Act was to have full and equal access for every 
American regardless of race. We have not achieved that goal.
  In considering this bill, the Senate Judiciary Committee has held 
nine hearings and heard from some 46 witnesses. In addition, we have 
received numerous written statements and have voluminous reports from a 
variety of groups that have examined the state of voting rights in our 
Nation. We have explored every aspect of the expiring provisions of the 
act, and have all come to one inescapable conclusion: continuing 
discrimination requires that we pass this bill and reauthorize the 
Voting Rights Act. The evidence demonstrates that far too many 
Americans still face barriers because of their race, their ethnic 
background or their language minority status.
  Section 5 is the centerpiece of the expiring provisions of the act. 
It requires that covered jurisdictions preclear voting changes with the 
Department of Justice or the District Court in the District of Columbia 
by proving that the changes do not have a retrogressive purpose or 
effect. The act would reverse the second Bossier Parish decision and 
restore the section 5 standard to its original meaning by making it 
clear that a discriminatory purpose will prevent section 5 
preclearance. Even under the weaker standard that has governed since 
the Bossier decision, the Department of Justice has had to object to 
egregious discriminatory practices.
  The act as reauthorized also overturns the Supreme Court's decision 
in Georgia v. Ashcroft, restoring section 5's protection of voting 
districts where minority voters have an ability to elect their 
preferred candidates. This revision would preclude jurisdictions from 
replacing districts in which minority voters have the voting power to 
elect their preferred candidates with districts in which minority 
voters merely exercise influence.
  The number of objections under section 5 has remained large since we 
last reauthorized the act in 1982. Astonishingly, Professor Anita Earls 
of the University of North Carolina Law School testified that between 
1982 and 2004, the Department of Justice lodged 682 section 5 
objections in covered jurisdictions compared with only 481 objections 
prior to 1982. In Mississippi alone, the Department of Justice objected 
to 120 voting changes since 1982. This number is roughly double the 
number of objections made before 1982.
  Behind these statistics are stories of the voters who were able to 
participate in the political process because the Voting Rights Act 
protects their fundamental right to do so. For example, in 2001, the 
town of Kilmichael, MS, cancelled its elections just three weeks before 
election day. The Justice Department objected to the cancellation, 
finding that the town failed to establish that its actions were not 
motivated by the discriminatory purpose of preventing African-American 
voters from electing candidates of their choice. The town had recently 
become majority African-American and, for the first time in its 
history, several African-American candidates had a good chance of 
winning elected office. Section 5 prevented this discriminatory change 
from being implemented, and as a result, three African-American 
candidates were elected to the board of aldermen and an African-
American was elected mayor for the first time.
  Consider the Dinwiddie County Board of Supervisors in Virginia. It 
moved a polling place from a club with a large African-American 
membership to a white church on the other side of town, under the 
pretext that the church was more centrally located. We saw this tactic 
when we renewed the act in 1970. We didn't expect to see it again in on 
the eve of the 21st century, but we did.
  Some have argued that there has been a drop in the number of 
objections in recent years. As the record shows, that decline is 
explained by a number of reasons. First, of course, was the Supreme 
Court's restrictive interpretation of the purpose standard, which we 
will correct today. In addition, the numbers do not account for 
proposed changes that are rejected by the district court or proposed 
changes that are withdrawn once the Department of Justice asks for more 
information or litigation begins in the District Court. Equally as 
important are the discriminatory changes the act has deterred covered 
jurisdictions from ever enacting, and the dialog the act promotes 
between local election officials and minority community leaders to 
ensure consideration of minority communities' concerns in the 
legislative process.
  And, of course, there are matters that merit objection, but have been 
precleared by the Bush Department of Justice because the Department's 
political leadership refused to follow the recommendations of career 
experts.
  The Department twice precleared Georgia's effort to impose a photo 
identification requirement for voting. The first time, the district 
court threw it out as an unconstitutional poll tax. That's right, a 
poll tax in 2006. In 1965, we fought the poll tax during the debate of 
the original Voting Rights Act. After the Supreme Court ultimately held 
it unconstitutional, we thought this shameful practice had ended. But 
the court found that the Georgia law was just a 21st century version of 
this old evil.
  Georgia reenacted the law without the poll tax, and the Court still 
found that it unlawfully disadvantaged poor and minority voters, who 
are less likely to have the required identification.
  Recently, the Supreme Court held that the Texas Legislature had 
violated the Voting Rights Act by shifting 100,000 Latino voters out of 
a district just as they were about to defeat an incumbent and finally 
elect a candidate of their choice. Once again, section 5 would have 
blocked this practice, but the leadership of the Department of Justice 
overruled career experts who recommended an objection.
  The fact that the number of section 5 objections is a small 
percentage of the total number of submissions shouldn't be surprising. 
Jurisdictions take section 5 into consideration when adopting voting 
changes and many day-to-day changes are noncontroversial. What should 
surprise and concern us is

[[Page S7968]]

the fact that there continue to be objections and voting changes like 
the ones that I have described.
  It has also been argued that the section 5 coverage formula is both 
over and under-inclusive. The act addresses that problem by permitting 
jurisdictions where Federal oversight is no longer warranted to ``bail 
out'' from coverage under section 5. We have letters from two of the 
jurisdictions that have taken advantage of the bailout process 
explaining that they did not find that process to be onerous. So far, 
every jurisdiction that has sought a bailout has succeeded. For 
jurisdictions that should be covered but aren't, the act contains a 
mechanism by which a court may order a non-covered jurisdiction found 
to have violated the 14th or 15th amendments to obtain section 5 
preclearance for its voting changes. As a result, the act's 
preclearance requirement applies only to jurisdiction where there is a 
need for such oversight.
  The act will also reauthorize the provisions of the act that mandate 
the provision of election assistance in minority languages. In the 
course of our consideration of this bill, we heard substantial evidence 
demonstrating that these provisions are still necessary. The original 
rationale for enactment of these provisions was twofold. First, there 
are many Americans who speak languages other than English, many of whom 
are United States citizens by birth--including Native Americans, Alaska 
Natives, and Puerto Ricans. These Americans should not be denied the 
opportunity to be full participants in our democracy because of the 
languages they speak. They know they need to learn English to succeed 
in this country. That's why classes to learn English are oversubscribed 
all over the country.
  Additionally, Congress concluded that many Americans--including 
Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Asian Americans, and Hispanic 
Americans--suffer from inadequate educational opportunities that deny 
them the opportunity to master English at a sufficient level to fully 
understand electoral issues and cast meaningful ballots. The nationwide 
statistics illustrate the problem. Only 75 percent of Alaska Natives 
complete high school, compared to 90 percent of non-Natives, and only 
52 percent of all Hispanic Americans have a high school diploma, 
compared to over 80 percent of all Americans. We heard testimony that 
while many of these people may speak conversational English, they have 
been denied the educational instruction--often as a result of 
intentional discrimination--that would allow them to understand complex 
electoral issues and technical voting terminology in English alone.
  Finally, it is crucial that we extend the guarantees of all of the 
temporary provisions of the act for 25 years. Twenty-five years is not 
a long time when compared to the centuries of oppression that the law 
is intended to overcome. While we have made enormous progress, it takes 
time to overcome the deep-seated patterns of behavior that have denied 
minorities full access to the ballot. Indeed, the worst thing we could 
do would be to allow that progress to slip away because we ended the 
cure too soon. We know that the act is having an impact. We know that 
it is deterring discrimination. And we know that despite the act, 
racial bloc voting and other forms of discrimination continue to tilt 
the playing field for minority voters and candidates. We need to ensure 
that jurisdictions know that the act will be in force for a 
sufficiently long period that they cannot simply wait for its 
expiration, but must eliminate discrimination root and branch.
  The time has come to renew the Voting Rights Act. This historic piece 
of legislation renews our commitment to the fundamental values of 
America. It ensures that all of our citizens will have the right to 
play an effective role in our governance. It continues us down the path 
toward a democracy free of the blight of discrimination based on race, 
ethnicity and language. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said: ``The time 
is always right to do what is right.'' The right thing to do is to pass 
this bill and the time to do it is now.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Georgia.
  Mr. ISAKSON. Mr. President, I rise as a Senator from Georgia to 
express my support and join a unanimous Senate in support for extension 
of the Voting Rights Act. I come to the well to speak from a different 
perspective than some. I was born in the South in 1944, educated in its 
public schools in the 1950s and 1960s. I was in the fourth grade when 
Brown v. Board of Education was the ruling of the Supreme Court. I was 
in high school when the public schools of Atlanta were integrated. I 
went to the University of Georgia when the first students integrated 
that institution. I lived through all the changes that many refer to as 
history about which they have read.
  I lived through it, being there and seeing the heroes and the 
challenges and the transition through which the South has gone. Still, 
in speeches today we hear very often about the South in historic times, 
where wrong practices have been righted, but somehow we don't hear 
about the heroes who made the Voting Rights Act go from a piece of 
paper and a law to practical reality in the South.
  I am proud of so many citizens in Georgia, Black and White, urban and 
rural, Republican and Democrat, who over the past 41 years have made 
not only the letter of that law but the spirit of that law the spirit 
of our State--not the least of whom is Congressman John Lewis, a man of 
unquestioned character and, for anyone who lived during the 1960s and 
1950s, unquestioned courage. He and I are of different races and 
different political persuasions, but he is a man whose courage and 
conviction I honor and pay tribute to.
  Mayor Ivan Allen, Jr., was a White mayor of Atlanta in the 1960s 
whose actions would see to it that the actions passed in Congress were 
made a reality smoothly in the city, which gained the reputation of a 
city too busy to hate. We made a transition in a difficult time. We 
righted difficult wrongs. We made the letter of the law the spirit of 
the law.
  Andrew Young, the first African-American mayor of Atlanta, in 
following Sam Massell, who followed Ivan Allen, ensured that those 
transitions continued in the 1980s, and that voting rights and all 
rights were the primary responsibility of our government and its 
leadership.
  Carl Sanders, the Governor of Georgia, probably lost his chance at a 
second term because of his courageous stance on behalf of seeing to it 
that the South continued to make progress.
  Joe Frank Harris, from rural Georgia, who was Governor in the 1980s, 
continued in tandem with Andrew Young to see to it that our capital 
city and State remained committed to all of the provisions of equality 
in our society.
  The attorneys general in this issue are so important. Republican Mike 
Bowers, during many years of service to our State as attorney general, 
time and again saw to it that what was intended by the Voting Rights 
Act was the practice in our State.
  Our current attorney general today, an African American, Thurbert 
Baker, is a tribute to the progress our State has made and is an 
outspoken defender of the Voting Rights Act and our State's intention 
to ensure that all of Georgia's legal residents, regardless of race or 
ethnicity, have the right to vote.
  A great Senator, Sam Nunn, served in this Senate, whose office I hold 
now downstairs. Sam Nunn, during the years of the 1970s and 1980s and 
early 1990s, was a steadfast beacon of support for ensuring that we 
continued the spirit and the letter of the Voting Rights Act.
  The late Senator Paul Coverdell, a Republican from Georgia, in his 
term in the Georgia legislature in the House and Senate, over 20 years 
of service, fought tirelessly to ensure that our State delivered on the 
guarantee of the right to vote for all Georgians.
  As we reflect on the true wrongs that existed in the 1950s and 1960s, 
and where those wrongs may have taken place, we owe it to history and 
to the credit of these great individuals to pay tribute to those who 
took the law and made it a reality. I am proud of my State. I am proud 
of the transition it has made. I pay tribute to its leaders.

  My vote today in favor of the extension of the Voting Rights Act is 
in equal parts a commitment to that end and a tribute to those 
Georgians who made the Voting Rights Act a reality in my State.

[[Page S7969]]

  I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Mr. President, the right of a citizen to vote is the 
most basic right in any democracy. At the signing of the Voting Rights 
Act in 1965 in this very Capitol Rotunda, the President of the United 
States, Lyndon Johnson, said these words:

       The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by 
     man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible 
     walls which imprison men because they are different from 
     other men.

  The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a critical breakthrough in the 
struggle for civil rights. However, the Voting Rights Act, which came 
the next year, 1965, is considered the most important and successful 
civil rights law of the 20th century, because it finally ensured every 
voting-age citizen of this Nation a voice in his or her own fate.
  The passage of the 14th amendment in 1868 and the passage of the 15th 
amendment in 1870 both prohibited disenfranchisement on the basis of 
race. But in the absence of legislative protection for the right to 
vote, that right was systematically denied to millions of African 
Americans for nearly a century. Similarly, Mexican Americans, Asian 
Americans, Native Americans, and Alaskan Natives were excluded from the 
ballot box through an assortment of voting tests and intimidation.
  We are all here today because of the courage and persistence of the 
civil rights leaders of the last century, who fought so long and hard 
to attain the franchise the Constitution had already granted them.
  Several of these heroes are memorialized in the title of this bill: 
Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King, and Cesar Chavez. All 
of us owe them a debt of gratitude.
  On this day, I am also mindful of the contributions Californians have 
made in the civil rights battles. Let me share one story.
  On June 10, 1964, the Civil Rights Act was being filibustered on this 
very floor. No filibuster of a civil rights bill in the 20th century 
had ever been broken. Senator Claire Engle of California, who held the 
seat I now occupy, was suffering at the time from terminal brain 
cancer. He was wheeled in dramatic fashion into this Chamber. He was 
too sick to speak, but he indicated his ``aye'' vote for cloture by 
gesturing toward his eyes. His vote proved to be the decisive 67th vote 
that overcame the filibuster and ultimately led to passage of the Civil 
Rights Act of 1964. Senator Engle died later that year. However, the 
filibuster was no longer an impassable barrier to civil rights 
legislation, and the Senate passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 the 
following year. I thank my predecessor and I pay him tribute.
  In the last 50 years, California has often been ahead of the curve in 
guaranteeing voting rights. In 1961, California prohibited election day 
challenges based on literacy.
  In 1971, California required that a copy of the election ballot in 
Spanish be posted in each polling place, where the language minority 
population was greater than 3 percent.
  In 1973, California passed a law allowing the use of languages 
besides English in polling places and required county clerks to recruit 
bilingual deputy registrars and precinct board members.
  In 1975, California allowed voters to register to vote by mail.
  In 2001, California passed the California Voting Rights Act--the 
first State voting rights act in the Nation--to combat racial bloc 
voting.
  Unfortunately, however, the end of the 20th century did not mark the 
end of efforts to disenfranchise minority voters in my State and the 
Nation. Nevertheless, several provisions of the Voting Rights Act will 
expire in August of 2007 if we don't take this action today.
  Two of the provisions set to expire are particularly significant. The 
first is section 5, which requires jurisdictions with a history of 
discrimination to clear any changes in voting procedures with the 
Department of Justice before instituting any change.
  The second is section 203, which requires language assistance for 
bilingual voters in jurisdictions with a large number of citizens for 
whom English is a second language.
  The section 5 so-called ``preclearance'' provision is critically 
important. I guess this is the section that has drawn the most comment 
on this reauthorization. It is important because it stops attempts to 
disenfranchise voters before they can start, not after they start.
  In the last decade, the Department of Justice has repeatedly struck 
down proposed changes to voting procedures under section 5 
preclearance. This section has prevented the redrawing of municipal 
boundaries designed specifically to disenfranchise minority voters, 
blocked attempts to exclude minority candidates from the ballot, denied 
efforts to change methods of elections intended to dilute minority 
voting strength, kept polling places from being moved to locations that 
would have reduced minority voter turnout, and it has thrown out 
redistricting proposals that would have marginalized minority voters. 
Clearly, this section has served us well.
  In California, the rejection of a discriminatory redistricting plan 
in Monterey County under section 5 led to the first election of a 
Latino to the Monterey County Boards of Supervisors in more than 100 
years.
  The most significant impact of section 5, I believe, is not from its 
enforcement mechanism but from its deterrent effect. Just as the 
presence of police deters more crime than is stopped by actual police 
intervention, it is likely that the threat of Government action 
prevents far more attempts to disenfranchise voters than the Department 
of Justice's review actually does.
  Let me speak about section 203. Its requirement of language 
assistance in jurisdictions with a large number of citizens for whom 
English is a second language has enabled citizens to vote who 
otherwise, frankly, could not have.
  For example, a study found that in the 1990 general election, 
bilingual assistance was used by 18 percent of Latino voters in the 
State of California.
  Los Angeles is the largest and most diverse local election 
jurisdiction in our country. It provides assistance under the Voting 
Rights Act to voters in six languages other than English.
  According to a November 2000 exit survey of language minority voters 
in Los Angeles and Orange County in California, 54 percent of Asian-
American voters and 46 percent of Latino voters reported that language 
assistance made them more likely to vote. That is actual documentation.
  In a hearing before the Judiciary Committee on the impact of section 
203, Deborah Wright, acting assistant registrar and county clerk for 
Los Angeles County, testified that written translations are provided in 
Los Angeles County because of the complex nature of issues facing the 
voters in our State. I can tell you that California ballots are among 
the longest and most complicated in our Nation. She explained to our 
committee that California often presents voters with numerous, complex 
ballot initiatives and propositions. Such complicated ballots challenge 
all voters to be prepared and to have the information they need prior 
to casting their ballots.
  Often, a high level of English proficiency is needed even by native 
speakers of English to understand these ballot initiatives and to cast 
an informed ballot. I myself have trouble sometimes understanding the 
propositions. I believe the California experience is persuasive that 
appropriate targeted language assistance makes it much more likely that 
informed voters vote, and that is important.
  My mother was an immigrant from Russia. She came here when she was a 
small child. She had only a primary school education. Her family was 
very poor. Her parents never spoke English. She studied English and, as 
an adult, passed the language exam and became a naturalized citizen. 
Still, when it came time to vote, I helped her with her ballot. We 
would go over the propositions, I would read them in English, we would 
discuss them, otherwise she could never fully understand them because 
they were complicated and filled with legalese.

[[Page S7970]]

  As I said, California's ballots can be long, and despite ballot 
simplification, which is now a part of the California ballot, they can 
still be very confusing. Section 203 enables the full comprehension of 
a ballot, and I believe that is very important.
  We are reauthorizing this bill today. I don't believe we can permit 
these provisions to expire and leave the next generation of Americans 
without full protection of their voting rights. That is why I am very 
proud to be a cosponsor of the Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, Coretta 
Scott King, and Cesar E. Chavez Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and 
Amendments Act of 2006.
  This legislation will reauthorize the expiring provisions of the 
Voting Rights Act for an additional 25 years so that it can continue to 
be a kind of deterrent to any chicanery, any manipulation, anyone's ill 
intent to prevent any group of voters from exercising their right to 
the franchise under the Constitution of the United States.
  Under the guidance of Chairman Specter and Ranking Member Leahy over 
the last 2 months, our committee, the Judiciary Committee, has held 10 
hearings on reauthorizing this act--10 hearings. As a matter of fact, I 
can't remember any reauthorization in the 14 years I have been on the 
committee that has had 10 separate hearings. The exhaustive testimony 
from these hearings has confirmed both that these expiring provisions 
are still needed and that these provisions are constitutional.
  In response to this record, yesterday the Judiciary Committee 
unanimously voted to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act. I was also 
pleased to see the House pass the reauthorization last week with broad, 
bipartisan support. Today, this full Senate now has the opportunity to 
offer its own resounding endorsement of this very important bill.
  Thomas Paine wrote over 200 years ago that:

       The right of voting for representatives is the primary 
     right by which other rights are protected.

  I couldn't agree more. Today will be a historic occasion as we 
reauthorize this important bill for another 25 years. I am very proud 
to play a small role as a member of the Judiciary Committee in this 
vote.
  I thank the Chair. I yield back the remainder of my time.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Ensign). The Senator from Colorado.
  Mr. SALAZAR. Mr. President, at the outset of this historic day in the 
Senate, let me give my accolades to Senator Specter and to Senator 
Leahy for their leadership in the reauthorization of the Voting Rights 
Act. This is one of the finest days of the Senate of the 109th Congress 
because it is a demonstration of Republicans and Democrats coming 
together to deal with the very important question of our Nation.
  I congratulate the Judiciary Committee and all of those who have 
created a template for how we should do business in the Senate.
  I rise today to offer my unequivocal support for the Fannie Lou 
Hamer, Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King and Cesar E. Chavez Voting Rights 
Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2006.
  Almost a year ago, I stood on the Senate floor to pay tribute to the 
Voting Rights Act on the occasion of its 40th anniversary. In my 
remarks on that day, I urged my colleagues to rise above the 
partisanship that often plagues this body and to renew the promise of 
the landmark civil rights legislation by reauthorizing the key 
provisions that were set to expire in 2007. I am extremely pleased that 
the Senate today is poised to take action on this important 
legislation.
  Without enforcement and accountability of our Nation's voting laws 
for all Americans--for all Americans--the words of the Declaration of 
Independence declaring ``All men are created equal,'' the words written 
in the Constitution guaranteeing the inalienable right to vote, and the 
maxim of one person, one vote, those principles enshrined in our 
elected laws, are little more than empty words. The reauthorization of 
the Voting Rights Act is fundamental to protect these rights and values 
and to ensure that they translate into actual practice, actual 
representation, and an actual electoral voice for every American.

  I especially thank Senator Leahy for offering an amendment on my 
behalf in the committee that incorporated the name of Cesar E. Chavez, 
a true American hero, into the title of the Senate's reauthorization 
bill.
  Like the venerable American leaders who are now associated with this 
effort, Cesar Chavez sacrificed his life to empower the most vulnerable 
in America. He fought for all Americans to be included in our great 
democracy. It is only fitting that his name be a part of the 
reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act.
  As we move forward, I believe incorporating the names of these 
historic American leaders underscores the importance of reflecting on 
the history of our country and our never-ending--not yet completed--
quest to become a more inclusive America.
  When one looks back at our history, one learns some very painful 
lessons from that past. We must keep in mind that we, as a nation, for 
the first 250 years of our history allowed one group of people to own 
another group of people under a system of slavery simply based on the 
color of their skin. It took the bloodiest war of our country's 
history, even more bloody than World War II--the Civil War, where over 
half a million people were killed on our soil in America--to bring 
about an end to the system of slavery and to usher in the 13th and 14th 
and 15th amendments to our Constitution. In my estimation, these three 
amendments are the bedrock of the proposition that all constitutional 
liberties are endowed upon all Americans without exception. But it took 
many long years for the promise of these amendments to be realized in 
our own Nation.
  Notwithstanding the tremendous loss of blood and life during the 
Civil War, some years later, in 1896, in Plessy v. Ferguson, our own 
U.S. Supreme Court sanctioned a system of segregation and the doctrine 
of ``separate but equal.'' The Court's decision to uphold an 1890 
Louisiana statute mandating racially segregated but equal railroad 
carriages ushered in another dark period in our country's history where 
Jim Crow was the law of the land throughout the South. Similar laws 
applied to other groups. Throughout the Southwest, Mexican Americans in 
many places were systematically denied access to ``White Only'' 
restrooms and other places of public accommodation. Just as there were 
signs that said ``No Blacks Allowed'' in the South, there were also 
signs in many places across our country that read ``No Mexicans 
Allowed.''
  In the now infamous Plessy case, Justice Harlan, writing for the 
dissent in that case, looking ahead at the century to come, made the 
following observation:

       The destinies of the races, in this country, are 
     indissolubly linked together and the interests of both 
     require that the common government law shall not permit the 
     seeds of race hate to be planted under the sanction of law.

  Justice Harlan's statement was profound in its forecast for America. 
It is unfortunate that his words of warning were largely ignored for 
the next half century. It was not until 1920, for example, that our 
Constitution even guaranteed the right of women to vote, and it was not 
until 1954 that the U.S. Supreme Court, under the very able leadership 
of Chief Justice Warren, struck down the ``separate but equal'' 
doctrine as unconstitutional under the 14th amendment in the Brown v. 
Board of Education case. That case was argued by Thurgood Marshall, 
another American hero who gave his life for equal opportunity for all 
Americans.
  More hard-won change followed that 1954 decision of the U.S. Supreme 
Court.
  While the 15th amendment, which was ratified in 1870, guaranteed all 
citizens the right to vote regardless of race, in 1965--that wasn't 
that long ago--only a very small percentage of African Americans were 
registered to vote in States such as Mississippi and Alabama. In 
Mississippi in that year, only 6.7 percent of African Americans were 
registered to vote, and in Alabama less than 20 percent were registered 
to vote.
  The various tactics that were used back then to impede and discourage 
people from registering to vote and casting their right in our 
democracy on election day ranged from literacy tests, poll taxes, and 
language barriers, to overt intimidation and harassment. The Voting 
Rights Act went on to attack those discriminatory practices in

[[Page S7971]]

people's exercise of their fundamental right to vote.
  On August 6, 1965, when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting 
Rights Act, America took a critical step forward in fulfilling our 
constitutional ideals.
  Just a year earlier, President Johnson had signed the Civil Rights 
Act of 1964 proclaiming that in America, as he said:

       We believe that all men are created equal, yet many are 
     denied equal treatment. We believe that all men have certain 
     unalienable rights, yet many Americans do not enjoy those 
     rights. We believe that all men are entitled to the blessings 
     of liberty, yet millions are being deprived of those 
     blessings, not because of their own failures, but because of 
     the color of the skin.

  President Johnson knew then what we still recognize today on this 
floor of the Senate.
  The enactment of both of these critical pieces of legislation in the 
1960s was another major step forward in our country's journey to become 
an inclusive America for all citizens--for all citizens--and enjoy the 
rights and protections guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
  When he recalled the day when the Voting Rights Act was signed by 
President Johnson, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., wisely pointed out 
that:

       The bill that lay on the polished mahogany desk was born in 
     violence in Selma, AL, where a stubborn sheriff had stumbled 
     against the future.

  Dr. King was, of course, referring to Bloody Sunday, the Selma 
incident which took place on March 7, 1965, where more than 500 
nonviolent civil rights marchers attempting a 54-mile march to the 
State capital to call for voting rights were confronted by an 
aggressive and violent assault by the authorities.
  In response to the violence in Selma and the death of Jimmy Lee 
Jackson, who was shot 3 weeks earlier by a State trooper during a civil 
rights demonstration, President Johnson addressed Congress and the 
Nation on March 15, 1965, to press for the passage of the Voting Rights 
Act. Indeed, President Johnson's speech served as a rallying call to 
the Nation and to the Congress. In that speech, Lyndon Johnson said to 
the Nation:

       At times history and fate meet at a single time in a single 
     place to shape a turning point in man's unending search for 
     freedom. So it was at Lexington and Concord. So it was a 
     century ago at Appomattox. So it was last week in Selma, 
     Alabama.
       This time, on this issue, there must be no delay, no 
     hesitation and no compromise with our purpose. We cannot, we 
     must not, refuse to protect the right of every American to 
     vote in every election that he may desire to participate in.

  Five months later, on August 7, 1965, President Johnson signed the 
Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law.
  In our country's history in America, we have often stumbled, but 
great leaders, such as Dr. King and those whose names are associated 
with this authorization--Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King, Fannie Lou 
Hamer, and Cesar Chavez--those are people who gave their lives to make 
certain that when we stumble, we get up and we continue our path of 
America forward, we continue an America in progress.
  Since the passage of the Voting Rights Act, the doors to opportunity 
for political participation by previously disenfranchised groups have 
swung open. Their voices are now heard and counted across America. This 
progress is evident through the Nation in all levels of government 
today. The number of Black elected officials nationwide has risen from 
only 300 in 1964 to more than 9,000 today. In addition, today there are 
over 5,000 Latinos who now hold public office, and there are still 
hundreds more Asian Americans and Native Americans serving as elected 
officials.
  It is with this history in mind--and with the increasing diversity of 
our country--that I look to the future of an inclusive America 
continuing to fulfill the promises and guarantees to all Americans that 
our Constitution provides.
  Our work is not yet done. Although significant advances to ensure 
voting rights for all Americans have been made, the testimony presented 
before the Senate Judiciary Committee points to still an unfortunate 
truth: that Americans are still too often being kept from the polls.
  The greatness of this country depends on our learning and not 
forgetting the painful lessons of our past, including poll taxes and 
literacy tests that prevented countless of individuals from exercising 
their right to vote.
  I believe the United States, the Federal Government must remain 
vigilant in safeguarding all Americans' sacred right to vote. This 
legislation today is a manifestation of that vigilance of the Congress. 
It represents the Senate working at its best.
  Mr. President, I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Vermont.
  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I know the distinguished Senator from 
Virginia is going to be recognized, but I have a quick housekeeping 
issue.
  The distinguished chairman, the distinguished Senator from 
Pennsylvania, and I want to make sure we go back and forth, side to 
side. So following the distinguished Senator from Virginia, we will go 
to the distinguished Senator from North Dakota. Following the next 
Republican, I ask unanimous consent that the distinguished Senator from 
Illinois, Mr. Durbin, be recognized for 15 minutes.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I compliment the distinguished Senator from 
Colorado for his speech. I mentioned him earlier in my speech on the 
floor and his tremendous contribution to this bill. We can all agree 
the time to end discrimination is still here, and we can work to do 
that.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Virginia is recognized.
  Mr. ALLEN. Mr. President, I rise to commend the Judiciary Committee 
but most importantly commend to my colleagues on the passage of the 
Voting Rights Act renewal this afternoon.
  I spoke right before Independence Day last month on June 29 on the 
importance of certain principles as we celebrated the Declaration of 
Independence. I quoted and I will quote again the importance of this 
document which is the spirit of America:

       We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are 
     created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with 
     certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, 
     Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness--That to secure these 
     Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their 
     just Powers from the Consent of the Governed. . . .

  So in our representative democracy, in our Republic, voting is how 
the owners, the people of our country in their counties, cities, and 
States, express their views for the just powers of our government.
  I spoke on how it was important for the Senate to act on this measure 
as promptly as possible. I commend the chairman of the Judiciary 
Committee, Senator Specter, and the ranking member, Senator Leahy, for 
moving yet another important piece of legislation this session. The 
enactment of the Voting Rights Act was absolutely necessary 41 years 
ago and was passed during a tumultuous time in our Nation's history. 
History has proven, though, that this law was just and clearly 
appropriate to provide equal opportunities and protections to persons 
with the desire to express themselves and give their consent at the 
ballot box. We are all better off--we are so much better off--for the 
choices made during that time because this strengthened the fabric of 
our country. It has made our country a more perfect union--and as we 
strive to be a more perfect union, it has made us stronger as we have 
faced the challenges of recent years, presently, and in the future.

  What this legislation does is help ensure the fundamental right of 
all eligible citizens to vote. It sends a strong message, a renewal, a 
reconfirmation that no matter one's gender, race, ethnicity or 
religion, you have an opportunity to vote if you are a law-abiding 
citizen in this country. It is the core--it is absolutely the core of a 
representative democracy, that we do have the participation of an 
informed people. Again, the people are the owners of the Government.
  Virginia has come a long way. They have come a long way because the 
Constitution said: You have the right to vote, but we all know that not 
everyone did have the right to vote. It took many years before African 
Americans were allowed to vote, but then there were all sorts of 
devices that prevented them from voting. It took many years before 
women were given the right to vote. Virginia has come a long way

[[Page S7972]]

since the Voting Rights Act was enacted 41 years ago. I think it is 
important that the Act is reauthorized, not just for Virginia but 
throughout the United States. It applies everywhere from Florida to 
Alaska to New York.
  Some will argue that counties and cities and States cannot be removed 
from or ``bail out'' of preclearance if they so desire and have a good 
record. The facts are that there are 11 counties and cities in Virginia 
that have been able to ``bail out'' of the Voting Rights Act by proving 
that ``no racial test or device has been used within such State or 
political subdivision for the purpose or with the effect of denying or 
bridging the right to vote on account of race or color.'' The counties 
in Virginia that have been removed from this preclearance review are 
Augusta, Frederick, Greene, Pulaski, Roanoke, Rockingham, Shenandoah, 
and Warren and the cities of Fairfax, Harrisonburg, and Winchester.
  The renewal of this act does not mean that the reauthorizing States 
still engage in voter discrimination on the basis of race. Renewal 
should instead be viewed as a continued unflagging commitment to 
ensuring the protection of a law-abiding person's right to vote without 
subversion or unwarranted interference.
  Thanks in part to the Voting Rights Act, Virginia was the first State 
in our Union to popularly elect the first Governor who is an African 
American. I hope that after this November's elections, Virginia will 
not be the only State to have a Governor elected who is an African 
American. In fact, I would be happy if there were two more Governors 
elected this year who are African American. The election in Virginia 
represented an inspirational success for one person, L. Douglas Wilder, 
who was elected Governor because of his perseverance in winning. But it 
is also an advancement and a matter of pride, I think, and an 
achievement of the Commonwealth of Virginia, which only decades earlier 
had counties that closed their public schools rather than integrate 
them to comply with the Brown v. Board of Education decision.
  Now, we realize we have made progress, but we need to continue to 
make strides. We need to strive to be a society, as Martin Luther King, 
Jr., stated, ``Where people are judged by the content of their 
character rather than by the color of their skin.''
  We must join together in our great country, a country that has 
tremendous promise, to make sure that everybody, no matter their race, 
or their ethnicity, or their religion, or their gender, has that equal 
opportunity to lead a fulfilling life, to compete and to succeed in our 
country.
  The reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act is a tool that has, can, 
and will help achieve this goal of fairness in America. So I urge my 
colleagues this afternoon to renew and pass this important piece of 
legislation. We can and have debated the issue, but we also know the 
results. The results of the Voting Rights Act has made this a more 
perfect union. Let's keep this country moving forward, making sure this 
is a land of opportunity for all. I commend this measure to the 
positive vote of all my colleagues.
  Mr. President, I thank my colleagues for their attention, and I yield 
the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from North Dakota is recognized.
  Mr. DORGAN. Mr. President, I just this morning spoke to a couple of 
hundred young people called Junior Statesmen who are gathered in the 
Capitol. It is an organization that comes to the Capitol and learns 
about Government. I talked to them about the Voting Rights Act some, 
and I talked to them about what we take so much for granted in this 
country, including the right to vote.
  I described what happened, at least as I read the history books, on 
November 15, 1917, at Occoquan Prison. That is the day on which a good 
number of women were severely beaten at the Occoquan Prison. Several 
dozen women were picked up because they demonstrated in front of the 
White House. They were arrested for demonstrating because they were in 
the streets demonstrating, insisting that women ought to have the right 
to vote in this country. Because they demanded the right to vote, 
demonstrating in the streets of this capital, they were arrested and 
taken to the Occoquan Prison. Among those women were Lucy Burns and 
Alice Paul.
  The description of what they did to those women includes putting 
handcuffs on Lucy Burns, tying the handcuffs with a chain, and then 
putting the chain above a cell door and letting her hang the entire 
evening, with blood running down her arms. That was the fate of Lucy 
Burns. Alice Paul had a tube forced down her throat. They tried to 
force feed Alice Paul, and she nearly drowned. The transgression of 
these women: They were demanding the right of women to vote.

  It is interesting what some people have done to demand the right of 
citizenship and what others so often and so regularly take for granted.
  My colleague was talking, I believe, about the struggle that 
minorities in this country, including especially African Americans, 
have made to have the right to vote, and I believe the previous speaker 
was talking about Selma, AL, on March 7 in 1965, when State troopers 
brutally beat civil rights workers. The marchers were fighting for 
their right to vote. On that day, in 1965, that day in March, they were 
brutally beaten because they insisted on the right to vote, just as 
Alice Paul and Lucy Burns had done some 60 years before that.
  Lyndon Johnson said this about what is called Bloody Sunday. He said:

       At times, history and fate meet at a single time in a 
     single place to shape a turning point in man's unending 
     search for freedom. So it was at Lexington and Concord. So it 
     was last week in Selma, Alabama. There, long-suffering men 
     and women peacefully protested the denial of their rights as 
     Americans. Many were brutally assaulted. One good man, a man 
     of God, was killed.

  From that, we know that the Voting Rights Act was passed a very short 
time later.
  Days later, in a joint session of Congress, President Johnson 
outlined the Voting Rights Act, and within months, the Congress had 
passed it.
  Let me talk about another minority in this country, Native Americans, 
the first Americans, those who were here first--American Indians. 
Although the Voting Rights Act applies to all Americans and all 
minorities, let me talk just a little about its impact on Native 
Americans, American Indians.
  They were first given U.S. citizenship rights in 1924. Think of that. 
Almost a century and a half of this country's experience passed before 
Indians were recognized. It took from 1924, nearly 40 years later, for 
all of the States in this Nation to say to American Indians: Yes, you 
have the right to vote. You have the full rights of American 
citizenship. The last State to clear the hurdles and the obstacles to 
voting by American Indians was New Mexico, in 1962, only 3 years before 
the Voting Rights Act. Think of that. These were the Americans who were 
here first. They lived here when the rest of us came here--American 
Indians.
  We come today on the issue of extending the Voting Rights Act. I 
believe it has been almost a quarter of a century since we have done 
that; 1982 was the last time Congress reauthorized the Voting Rights 
Act. It has been hailed by many as the single most effective piece of 
civil rights legislation that has ever been passed.
  I was in Philadelphia some weeks ago and went to the Constitution 
Center. At the Constitution Center they have these statues of the 55 
men--yes, only men--who sat in that hot room in the hot summer and 
wrote the Constitution of the United States. The three words that began 
that great document were, ``we the people''--not just some of the 
people, all the people--``we the people.'' And all of the power in this 
document called the Constitution of the United States is vested in the 
power of one--one American casting one vote at one time. That is all 
the power in this Government. That exceeds all the power of all the 
Presidents, all the power of all the Senators--the power of one person 
to cast one vote on one day to alter the destiny of this country.
  Except we have learned over time that some have been denied that 
opportunity: African Americans, American Indians, women. It has taken a 
long time and a bloody struggle, regrettably, to make certain that 
everyone has the right to exercise the power of one, to become part of 
``we the people.''
  My guess is that the spirit of Lucy Byrne and Alice Paul exists in 
this debate about voting rights. The spirit of

[[Page S7973]]

the civil rights marchers who were beaten brutally--one lost his life 
on that bloody Sunday--their spirit exists as this Congress turns again 
to the subject of voting rights and asks the question: Will we do 
everything possible to ensure that every American is able to exercise 
the power of one as part of ``we the people'' in this great country? 
That is why this is such an important piece of legislation. That is why 
some take it for granted day after day. It is why others have given 
their lives for it.
  Today, when this Congress passes the Voting Rights Act, to extend the 
Voting Rights Act once again, I think it will have been one of its 
finest hours.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Illinois.
  Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, if you are a student of history, this is a 
moment that you should reflect on and savor. Just a short time ago, I 
came to the floor and sat in the back row and listened as Senator Ted 
Kennedy of Massachusetts spoke. I wanted to be here to see it because 
Senator Ted Kennedy was one of the few who was a Member of the Senate 
when the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965, more than 40 years ago. He 
recounted the struggle that led to the passage of that legislation--and 
it was a struggle. He talked about President Lyndon Baines Johnson 
coming back to Capitol Hill, with which he was so familiar as a Member 
of the Senate, and just a few feet away from where I am standing, in 
one of the small rooms known as the President's Room, signing the 
Voting Rights Act of 1965.
  I wanted to come and hear Ted Kennedy tell that story because I do 
appreciate it--not just as history but because of what that meant to 
America. Some say it was the most significant civil rights legislation 
in our history. It is hard to argue that it was not because if 
Americans don't have the right to vote, they don't have the most basic 
right that we appreciate and treasure as American citizens.
  On the day that President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Voting 
Rights Act of 1965, he said it was one of the most monumental laws in 
the history of American freedom. And then he said:

       Today is a triumph for freedom as huge as any victory 
     that's ever been won on any battlefield. Today we strike away 
     the last major shackle of fierce and ancient bonds.

  Those beautiful words were quoted in the autobiography of Dr. Martin 
Luther King, Jr. They are a reminder that what we are about today is 
not just another piece of legislation. It is only 12 or 13 pages long--
small by Senate standards--but what it does is make another commitment 
by our generation to the same basic values and principles that guided 
this Congress to pass the first Voting Rights Act of 1965.
  In August of last year, I was invited to Atlanta, GA, to represent my 
caucus of the Senate to march with civil rights leaders and ordinary 
people to celebrate the 40th anniversary of that Voting Rights Act. I 
was proud to march in the footsteps of civil rights giants, to 
celebrate a bill that has often been called the most significant civil 
rights law ever passed by Congress.

  It has broad support today. Yesterday, in my Senate Judiciary 
Committee it passed unanimously, with a bipartisan vote. That is a 
great tribute to that committee and where America's thinking is today 
on Capitol Hill. But it was bitterly fought in 1965. People died for 
that law. Civil rights workers James Cheney, Michael Schwerner, Andrew 
Goodman, and so many others were murdered simply because they had the 
courage to step up and say every American has the right to vote.
  It has been so long ago, it sounds like ancient history, and you may 
be puzzled to think: People would give their lives? Ordinary people 
would die over this, over this battle? The answer is yes. Black, White, 
and brown Americans came forward and said it was worth dying for 
because it really was the cornerstone of America's democracy.
  Just a few years ago, I made a trip down South, my first step to 
Selma, AL. When the civil rights march at Selma took place, I was a 
student here in Washington. I sat around in my apartment with several 
other students and we talked about getting in a car and driving down to 
Selma and being part of that march. I remember it like it was 
yesterday. I couldn't get away from my job, I had other excuses, and I 
didn't go. I have thought about that so many times, how I wished I had 
been there at that moment, to have been part of that historic march 
across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, but I missed it and regretted it ever 
since.
  Three years ago, Congressman John Lewis, from the State of Georgia, 
invited me, Senator Brownback of Kansas, and others to join him in a 
little commemorative pilgrimage to the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Early one 
Sunday morning we got up and drove over to Selma and John Lewis and Sam 
Brownback and I walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
  John Lewis was the perfect person to bring us on that pilgrimage 
because he had been there on that bloody day when the first march took 
place. When we went there on that Sunday morning, it was quiet and 
peaceful. But he marched us down to the very spot where the Alabama 
State Troopers turned and started beating him--beating him unconscious. 
He fell to the ground and nearly died. But he survived and that cause 
survived and today John Lewis is a Congressman.
  What does that have to do with this debate? Just last week, 
Congressman John Lewis spoke in the House about the history of the 
Voting Rights Act, and here is what he said:

       When we marched from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, it was 
     dangerous. It was a matter of life and death. I was beaten, I 
     had a concussion at the bridge. I almost died. I gave blood, 
     but some of my colleagues gave their very lives.

  It is good for us to reflect on that and to value what John Lewis and 
his courage meant to America and so many others, and why this bill at 
this moment is important for America. We honor the legacy of civil 
rights heroes by extending the Voting Rights Act provisions that would 
expire in just a short time.
  The bill itself is named after three extraordinary civil rights 
heroes: Coretta Scott King, who continued her husband's leadership of 
America's movement for racial justice and human rights; Rosa Parks, 
what a brave lady, who ignited the Montgomery Alabama bus boycott; and 
Fannie Lou Hamer, the sharecropper who became a civil rights champion. 
She was nearly beaten to death trying to register to vote. And her 
famous declaration? Fannie Lou Hamer said, ``I am sick and tired of 
being sick and tired.''
  Last week, the House of Representatives passed the Voting Rights Act 
by a vote of 390 to 33. It was a proud moment for that Chamber. In his 
autobiography, Dr. Martin Luther King reflects on this Voting Rights 
Act, and this is what Dr. King wrote:

       When President Johnson declared that Selma, AL, is joined 
     in American history with Lexington, Concord, and Appomattox, 
     he honored not only our embattled Negroes, but the 
     overwhelming majority of the nation, Negro and white. The 
     victory in Selma is now being written in the Congress. Before 
     long, more than a million Negroes will be new voters and 
     psychologically, new people. Selma is a shining moment in the 
     conscience of man. If the worst in American life lurked in 
     the dark streets of Selma, the best of American democratic 
     instincts arose from across the nation to overcome it.

  What powerful and hopeful words.
  It is wrong for us to equate racism and prejudice with the South in 
America. Sadly, it has touched every corner of our great Nation. Every 
one of us in our towns and communities and villages, North and South, 
East and West, have struggled with some form of racism in the course of 
our history.
  In the 1960s, Illinois fielded its first African-American candidate, 
a woman named Fannie Jones from East St. Louis, IL, my hometown, who 
ran for clerk of the Illinois Supreme Court. She lost. It wasn't even 
close. But she was the first to try to run statewide.
  Then fast-forward. By 1978, Illinois elected its first African-
American statewide, Roland Burris of Chicago, as State comptroller.
  Now bring it to the present day, and I am honored that my State, 
Illinois, the land of Lincoln, can claim that the two biggest vote 
getters in its history are African Americans: my close friend, 
Secretary of State Jesse White, and my colleague, in whom I have such 
great pride, Barack Obama the two biggest vote getters in the land of 
Lincoln. It says a lot about how far we have come just in my short 
political lifetime.

[[Page S7974]]

  Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to reauthorize this 
bill. Today, the Members of the Senate have an opportunity to make 
history by passing this strong, bipartisan extension of the Voting 
Rights Act. A lot of people argued when this debate began that it was 
unnecessary. Voting rights? Where is that a problem in America, they 
said? I wish it were not a problem.

  Listen again to what Congressman John Lewis said last week:

       Yes, we have made some progress. We have come a distance. 
     We are no longer met with bullwhips, fire hoses, and violence 
     when we attempt to register and vote. But the sad fact is, 
     the sad truth is, discrimination still exists, and that is 
     why we still need the Voting Rights Act. . . . We cannot 
     separate the debate today from our history and the past we 
     have traveled.

  We had hearings before the Senate and House Judiciary Committees, 
more hearings than I have ever seen on any single piece of legislation: 
21 hearings on the Voting Rights Act over the past 9 months, 12 in the 
House, 9 in the Senate. Over 100 witnesses appeared or submitted 
statements for the Record, thousands of pages of reports and evidence, 
so there would be no question about the need for this bill.
  I attended and listened to some of these hearings. They were 
contentious. People were debating whether we needed a Voting Rights Act 
or whether this was some vestige of America's past which had no 
relevance today. But the evidence shows that attempts at voter 
discrimination are not simply a chapter from our history; they continue 
to threaten us and our democracy today. We have made progress as a 
nation over the past few decades, but discrimination endures, many 
times in more subtle forms.
  A recent example was in the State of Georgia which passed two 
different voter ID laws over the past year, over the strong objections 
of the African Americans who live in that State. They argued that this 
new Georgia law would diminish the voting rights of the minorities, the 
poor, the elderly, and those without formal education. Both of 
Georgia's laws were struck down by Federal courts. The first law was 
determined to constitute a modern day poll tax, an unconstitutional 
infringement on the fundamental right to vote. The second law, slightly 
improved, was struck down last week by a Federal judge who ruled it was 
discriminatory and unconstitutional.
  This is what the New York Times said recently about ``Georgia's new 
poll tax,'' as they call it:

       In 1966, the Supreme Court held that the poll tax was 
     unconstitutional. Nearly 40 years later, Georgia still is 
     charging people to vote, this time with a new voter ID law 
     that requires many people without driver's licenses--a group 
     that is disproportionately poor, black, and elderly--to pay 
     $20 or more for a state ID card. Georgia went ahead with this 
     even though there is not a single place in the entire city of 
     Atlanta where the cards are sold. The law is a national 
     disgrace.

  And a reminder that laws which we now look back on with 
embarrassment, laws that required African Americans to pay a poll tax 
before they could vote, laws which had literacy tests and 
constitutional tests before a person can vote, and say: That is the 
past; thank goodness it is behind us. This Georgia law which imposed a 
new requirement for a voter ID, which would have cost many voters $20, 
was, in the view of the Federal court system, a new poll tax.
  Unfortunately, it is part of a pattern. Since 1982, the Federal 
Justice Department has objected to nearly 100 proposed changes to 
election procedures in Georgia alone on the grounds that the changes 
would have a discriminatory impact on minority voters. The Justice 
Department has sent Federal observers to monitor nearly twice the 
number of elections in Georgia since 1982 as it did between 1965 and 
1982.
  Let me add again, though I am giving examples from Georgia, I do not 
stand here as a northerner by definition and argue we only find 
discrimination in the South. Discrimination and race has haunted our 
Nation from coast to coast. It is naive and wrong to believe it is only 
a southern phenomenon, but the fact is, in this situation, in Georgia, 
repeatedly minority voters have been challenged and have been denied 
the right to vote.
  Both of the protections, the requirement the Justice Department 
approve changes to electoral procedures in States with histories of 
voter discrimination and Federal monitoring of elections in such 
jurisdictions, are only possible because of the sections of the Voting 
Rights Act that must be renewed.
  Let's take another case that is not in the South. Eighty-three 
percent of Buffalo County, South Dakota, is Native American, but they 
were packed into a single State legislative district. Non-Natives, who 
make up 17 percent of the population of the county, controlled two out 
of three seats on the county commission. Buffalo County was 
successfully sued in the year 2003 in South Dakota. The case was 
settled by a consent decree. In that consent decree, Buffalo County, 
South Dakota, admitted that its plan was discriminatory and agreed to 
submit to Federal supervision of future change.
  Once again, it was one of the provisions of the Voting Rights Act 
which would expire without our action today--section 5--that entitled 
the U.S. Justice Department to protect the rights of Americans to vote 
in South Dakota.
  In another case in 2004, a Federal judge invalidated South Dakota's 
redistricting plan. In her opinion, the judge described the State's 
long history of discrimination against Native Americans, including some 
very recent examples. The judge quoted a South Dakota State legislator 
who, in expressing opposition to a bill that would have made it easier 
for Native Americans to register to vote, said in the year 2002:

       I'm not sure we want that sort of person in the polling 
     place.

  The record is thorough and clear. Voter discrimination continues. It 
remains a threat to American democracy. We need to pass this renewal of 
the Voting Rights Act. We need to step back as a nation and ask some 
important questions, not pat ourselves on the back on a bipartisan 
basis for passing this.
  Why is it so many voting machines in cities where the poorest people 
live don't work? Why is it people are denied their choices on the 
ballots because they are stuck with voting machinery that is antiquated 
or just plain dysfunctional? Why is it those who are challenged time 
and time again turn out to be the poor, the dispossessed? Why is it 
they have the toughest time when it comes to voting in America, if this 
is truly going to be a land of equal opportunity?
  There were attempts in the House and Senate to weaken this Voting 
Rights Act and I am glad they did not prevail. I am glad what we have 
before the Senate today is a strong, clear version of renewing this 
law. I want it to pass, but I don't want the conversation to end at 
that point. I hope we will accept the responsibility to challenge any 
State and to challenge even ourselves if we are creating unnecessary 
and unfair obstacles to voters who are trying to exercise the most 
basic right they have as Americans.
  Whether you are Republican, Democrat, or Independent, we need to be 
united in supporting the Voting Rights Act. This law, above all others, 
should be above politics and partisanship. We need to make sure that 
today in the Senate, we are all on the right side of history. The 
Voting Rights Act has served as a beacon of our democracy for over 40 
years. It should not be allowed to expire until voting discrimination 
has expired.
  When it passed in 1965, it was because of the moral and physical 
courage of people such as Congressman John Lewis of Georgia, Dr. Martin 
Luther King, Jr., Coretta Scott King, Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, and 
so many others. Passing the Voting Rights Act also required the 
persistence and courage of Members of Congress.
  No one in the Senate pushed longer and harder for voting rights for 
all Americans than a man named Paul Douglas of Illinois. My connection 
to the Senate began as a college student in 1966, a year after this law 
passed. I was an intern in the office of Senator Paul Douglas. I had 
the privilege to work in his office. I guess I was lucky in that he 
needed me every day. You cannot say that very often for an intern, but 
he needed me because Senator Douglas was a veteran of the Marine Corps, 
fought in World War II, and had lost the use of his left arm in combat. 
He insisted on signing every letter, so every night they would stack up 
all the mail that had been typed by all the people in his office, and 
Senator Douglas would sit at the long table, starting

[[Page S7975]]

at 5 o'clock, signing the letters, making little notes, making 
corrections. I got to sit next to him and pull the letters away. I was 
dazzled. There I was within a foot or two of this great man who had 
done so much.
  He came back after fighting the war to fight for the rights of those 
who were being discriminated against. He gave a lot of political blood 
in the Senate fighting for civil rights. If you read the LBJ books, 
stories of Lyndon Baines Johnson, you know that in the early days, 
before Lyndon Johnson became the great champion of the civil rights 
that he was in his late career, he was in pitched battle with the likes 
of Estes Kefauver, Hubert Humphrey, and Paul Douglas over the issue of 
civil rights, but the day finally came in 1965 when the Voting Rights 
Act passed. Senator Paul Douglas said it was his proudest achievement 
as a Senator.
  Today, American troops are risking their lives--and many have given 
their lives--to secure the right to vote for the people of Iraq and 
Afghanistan. The absolute least we can do is to have the courage to 
protect the right to vote for all Americans by giving resounding, 
bipartisan support to the renewal of the Voting Rights Act.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Graham). The Senator from Kentucky.
  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, the reauthorization of the Voting 
Rights Act brings back a lot of memories of my early life and 
childhood. When I was born in the Deep South, in Alabama, segregation, 
regretfully, was still very much in vogue. I remember all too well 
segregated restrooms, segregated entrances into movie theaters, and 
segregated schools which still existed when I started in the first 
grade in the late 1940s.
  I subsequently lived with my parents in Alabama for a few years. Then 
we moved to Louisville, KY, about the time Kentucky was integrating its 
schools in response to the 1954 landmark decision Brown v. Board of 
Education. Integration in public schools in Kentucky was smoothly 
accomplished, I think a tribute to our State which is somewhat southern 
and somewhat a border State. Kentucky accommodated itself to a new 
reality of integrated schools rather easily with the minimum amount of 
some of the distress that occurred in other parts further South and 
actually in some northern cities as well.
  In the early 1960s, I had an opportunity to be an intern over on the 
House side in 1963. I was here that summer when the extraordinary march 
on Washington occurred. I remember standing on the steps of the 
Capitol, looking down the Mall to the Lincoln Memorial. It was crowded 
with people from one side to the other all the way down to the Lincoln 
Memorial which, of course, is where Martin Luther King, Jr. made that 
extraordinary ``I Have a Dream'' speech. I couldn't hear it because I 
was at the opposite end of the Mall, but you sensed that you were in 
the midst of an extraordinary event that was going to change America. 
That night, I had an opportunity to watch the speech on television. You 
knew it was one of the most memorable speeches of all time in American 
history.
  The next year, I had a chance to be an intern on the Senate side, in 
Senator John Sherman Cooper's office. Senator Cooper was probably the 
only truly successful Kentucky Republican at that point in our history 
in our State. He was among the members of the Republican Party leading 
the charge for the public accommodations bill of 1964, that is, the 
civil rights bill of 1964 which, interestingly enough, on a percentage 
basis, was supported by more Republicans in the Senate than by 
Democrats. I think not many Americans know that, but that was, indeed, 
the case. A higher percentage of Republicans supported the civil rights 
bill of 1964 than did Democrats.
  I had a wonderful summer observing Senator Cooper at work when he 
was, in effect, leading the charge on the Republican side, along with 
Everett Dirksen, to stop the longest filibuster in the history of the 
Senate--and it is still the longest filibuster--that was employed 
against the civil rights bill of 1964. That filibuster was broken while 
I was an intern that summer. It was an exciting time. The bill was 
passed and President Johnson signed it.
  The next summer after I finished my first year of law school, I came 
back to Washington to visit some of the friends I had made in the two 
previous summers, for a week or so. I happened to be in Senator 
Cooper's office on the day President Johnson was to sign the 1965 
Voting Rights Act in the Rotunda of the Capitol. Senator Cooper came 
out, grabbed my arm in the reception room of his office and walked me 
over to the Rotunda where I got an opportunity to watch President 
Johnson sign the voting rights bill. The Rotunda was full of people. I 
was not exactly standing beside President Johnson--I was way off in the 
distance--but I do recall the presence of President Johnson. He was an 
enormous man. Not only was he very tall, he had a huge head, huge 
features, and he sort of stood out above this mass of humanity in the 
Rotunda of the Capitol. And so it was, indeed, a memorable day. I 
happen to have been there the day the original voting rights bill was 
signed.

  This is a piece of legislation which, obviously, has worked. African-
American voters are participating throughout America, and some 
statistics indicate in greater percentages, really, in the South than 
in other parts of the country.
  Coming on the heels of the removal of the discrimination in places of 
public accommodations, this bill, the very next year, eliminated the 
barriers to voting, so that all Americans could participate in the 
basic opportunities each of us has to go into an establishment of our 
choice--that decision having been made in 1964--and then to vote and to 
have an impact on elections--that decision having been made in 1965.
  We have, of course, renewed the Voting Rights Act periodically since 
that time, overwhelmingly, and on a bipartisan basis, year after year 
after year because Members of Congress realize this is a piece of 
legislation which has worked. And one of my favorite sayings that many 
of us use from time to time is, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. This a 
good piece of legislation which has served an important purpose over 
many years.
  I had an opportunity, as many of us did, yesterday to meet with 
members of the NAACP--which happens to be meeting here in Washington, 
as we speak--from my State in my office. They were excited to be here. 
There were older people, middle-aged people, and younger people in this 
group, all of them thrilled to be in Washington and to be in 
Washington, potentially, at the same time this very important 
legislation is going to be reauthorized. We know the President will be 
speaking to the NAACP and will be signing the bill. We will be able to 
pass it here in the Senate in a few hours. And this landmark piece of 
legislation will continue to make a difference not only in the South 
but for all of America and for all of us, whether we are African 
Americans or not.
  Mr. President, obviously, I rise today in support of this bill.
  America's history is a story of ever-increasing freedom, hope, and 
opportunity for all. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 represents one of 
this country's greatest steps forward in that story.
  Our most basic founding ideal is that sovereignty flows up, from the 
people to their elected leaders. The governors must have the consent of 
the governed.
  In order for that ideal to mean anything, every American must have 
freedom of political expression--including the free, unfettered right 
to vote.
  But prior to the Voting Rights Act's passage, for far too many 
African Americans, America did not live up to its promise that ``all 
men are created equal.'' Many African Americans were denied the right 
to vote.
  Thanks to brave men and women who held sit-ins at lunch counters, 
rode in Freedom Rides, marched in our Nation's capital, or simply 
refused to give up a seat on a bus, America was forced to look itself 
in the mirror, admit its failing, and recommit itself to its founding 
ideals.
  I am especially proud to stand in support of the reauthorization of 
the Voting Rights Act because, as I said, I was there when President 
Johnson signed the original Act in 1965.
  I was overwhelmed to witness such a moment in history, and moved that 
my hero, Senator Cooper, at the spur of the moment, had brought me to 
witness it.

[[Page S7976]]

  It fills me with personal pride that I can today carry on a small 
part of Senator Cooper's legacy by voting to reauthorize the bill he 
worked so hard and so courageously to pass 41 years ago.
  The Voting Rights Act has proved to be a success for America. On 
March 15, 1965, President Johnson spoke before a joint session of 
Congress and challenged them to pass this historic legislation.
  At that time, he said:

       The time of justice has now come, and I tell you that I 
     believe sincerely that no force can hold it back . . . and 
     when it does, I think that day will brighten the lives of 
     every American.

  History has proven President Johnson correct. The Voting Rights Act 
brought about greater justice for all. And while we celebrate that 
achievement, we must continue to strive for more.
  I know my colleagues will join me in recognizing that our country 
will and must continue its progress toward a society in which every 
person, of every background, can realize the American Dream. With the 
passage of this bill, we are reaffirming that Dream.
  I believe I am safe in predicting this legislation will be approved 
overwhelmingly this afternoon, and it is something all Members of the 
Senate, on both sides of the aisle, can feel deeply proud of having 
accomplished.
  Mr. President, I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Arkansas.
  Mr. PRYOR. Mr. President, I rise today in support of the Voting 
Rights Act. I have in my pocket here a small copy of the U.S. 
Constitution that Senator Byrd gave me a few months ago. It is 
something I cherish.
  In February of 1870, the Constitution was amended with the 15th 
amendment. It says, in section 1:

       The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall 
     not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any 
     State on account of race, color, or previous condition of 
     servitude.

  Section 2 says:

       The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by 
     appropriate legislation.

  That was passed in 1870. Just a few years after the close of the 
Civil War, the 15th amendment was added to the Constitution. But it 
took this Congress really 95 years before it acted, in a meaningful 
way, to implement that second section which allows Congress to 
implement this law.
  I am reminded that in the last 50 years we have made a lot of 
progress when it comes to race relations in this country. We have 
opened doors. We have provided opportunities. We have changed things. 
It has really been a remarkable change for the better. However, I think 
every Senator would acknowledge today that there are still miles that 
need to be traveled. I know that when Lyndon Johnson rallied the Nation 
to press for the passage of the Civil Rights Act back in 1965, he said:

       This time, on this issue, there must be no delay, no 
     hesitation and no compromise with our purpose. We cannot, we 
     must not, refuse to protect the right of every American to 
     vote in every election that he may desire to participate in.

  Five months after the march in Selma, AL, President Johnson signed 
the Voting Rights Act into law. The Voting Rights Act, in that context, 
in that time, put an end to literacy tests, poll taxes, and other less 
direct methods to prohibit or discourage people from voting. They were 
clearly discriminatory tactics used all over this country but in the 
South particularly.
  In the South, after the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965, African-
American registration rose to a record 62 percent within just a few 
years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act.
  It has been an amazing success. When it was enacted, there were only 
300 African-American public officials in this country--only 300. Today, 
there are over 9,000. And the number of Latino elected officials is 
over 6,000.
  So there is no doubt the Voting Rights Act is important, that it has 
been very effective. There is no doubt that it is one of the most 
important things Congress has done to equalize and give opportunity to 
all Americans. It is also--there is no question about it--just as 
important today as it was four decades ago.
  I know the NAACP national convention is being held in Washington this 
week. I know they are very supportive of this. There are countless 
civil rights groups and organizations that are supportive of this, and 
they want to renew, reauthorize, and restore this act. I appreciate 
that, and I respect that. But also, in a broader context, this vote 
today allows us to stand not just with the NAACP, not just with civil 
rights groups but to stand with America.
  We have made, as I said, significant strides. We have done some great 
things, provided a lot of opportunity, opened a lot of doors. And we 
still have a few miles to go.
  One thing I have noticed, as former attorney general of the State of 
Arkansas, is that over the last few years there has developed a new 
generation of tactics to prevent people from voting, and some of these 
are very subtle. Some of these have to do with annexations or even 
redistricting that could be done for discriminatory purposes or 
changing the polling place without a lot of notice or making it very 
difficult for some people to get to. The Voting Rights Act is important 
today to make sure those practices end as well.
  It is hard for some of us to admit today--because we have made so 
much progress--that we still need this important legislation. I think 
everybody here wishes we did not. We would love to say we have 
accomplished the task and that we have equal voting opportunity for 
every American. We would all love to say that. But in reality, we know 
we do not, and we know we must continue the struggle.
  I am also reminded, in closing, what Woodrow Wilson said about this 
country. One time he said:

       America is the only idealistic nation in the world.

  I think he was right about that. We are an idealistic nation. We 
always strive for the better. In fact, we strive for perfection. We try 
to reach the ideal. We do not always get there. Certainly, the 
treatment of African Americans through the history of this Nation is a 
clear example of that. We do not always get to the ideal. We do not 
always get to the goal we set for ourselves. But one thing that makes 
America different from a lot of countries is that we try. We try. And 
we go the extra mile to try to make opportunities for people in this 
country and to try to live up to the ideals of our Founding Fathers and 
those ideals on which this Nation was founded. The Voting Rights Act is 
a very important part of that.
  I thank my colleagues for listening today, and I thank my colleagues 
for their votes today.
  Mr. President, I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Wisconsin.
  Mr. FEINGOLD. Mr. President, I, too, rise today to speak in support 
of the Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King Voting 
Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2006. I am pleased to 
be a cosponsor of and to have participated in the hearings held by the 
Judiciary Committee on this incredibly significant legislation.
  The Voting Rights Act may very well be the most important piece of 
Federal legislation ever passed, for without a meaningful chance to 
vote, there can be no equality before the law, no equal access to 
justice, no equal opportunity in the workplace or to share in the 
benefits and burdens of citizenship. Brave Americans risked their very 
lives in marches and demonstrations to pass this historic legislation.
  The electoral process in this country has improved significantly as a 
result of the Voting Rights Act. This success is evident in the 
increased participation in elections by minority voters and in the 
enhanced ability of minority voters to elect candidates of their 
choice. There is no doubt that progress has been made.
  But I think that Ted Shaw, the president of the NAACP Legal Defense 
and Education Fund, put it best when he testified before the Senate 
Judiciary Committee that:

       The Voting Rights Act was drafted to rid the country of 
     racial discrimination--not simply to reduce racial 
     discrimination in voting to what some view as a tolerable 
     level.

  As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and as the ranking 
member of the Subcommittee on the Constitution, you can take it from me 
that the committee has done due diligence in examining this issue. But 
you do not have to take it from me, of course. The extensive record the 
committee has compiled powerfully demonstrates the importance of the 
reauthorizing legislation before us today.

[[Page S7977]]

  Even in recent election cycles, Americans continue to be 
disenfranchised by discriminatory redistricting plans, through the 
denial of voting materials they are entitled to under the law, and 
through changes to election procedures that disadvantage minority 
candidates and voters, among other things.
  It is also worth noting that just a few weeks ago, the Supreme Court 
recognized that discriminatory redistricting plans are not simply a 
vestige of the past--finding a purposeful effort to dilute the voting 
power of over 100,000 Latino Americans. It is clear to me that we have 
come a long way from the bridge in Selma, AL, but we have not come far 
enough.
  Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act has been instrumental in bringing 
about the dramatic improvements in voting rights and representation for 
minorities in covered areas. Keeping it in place, with a reasonable 
bailout provision, is the best way to be sure we do not lose the 
progress that has taken place.
  Let me just say in response to some comments that were made during 
the Judiciary Committee's hearings that all Members of Congress, 
regardless of whether they are in a covered or noncovered jurisdiction 
and regardless of their political affiliation, have an interest in 
ensuring the continued effectiveness of the Voting Rights Act. As 
Federal legislators, we have a responsibility to address and eliminate 
discrimination wherever it is found. The integrity of our elections and 
of our very democracy depends on it.
  Let's not falter now. Let's not stop or turn back the clock but, 
rather, build on the extraordinary success of this legislation and 
reaffirm the promise that all citizens, no matter what the color of 
their skin, can participate fully and equally in the electoral process. 
We must reauthorize the expiring provisions of the act. We must ensure 
that section 5 can continue to serve as a powerful deterrent to 
violations in areas of the country with a history of systemic 
discrimination at the polls.
  We must also reauthorize section 203, which has empowered many voters 
with limited English proficiency to participate in our democratic 
process. It is also important that the Senate restore the original 
understanding of the act with respect to the opportunity-to-elect 
standard and to election procedures with discriminatory intent.
  There is much more work to do in terms of eradicating discrimination 
from our elections process, and reauthorizing and strengthening the 
Voting Rights Act is, of course, a step in the right direction. I will 
vote in favor of H.R. 9, and I urge my colleagues to do the same.
  Mr. President, I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Michigan.
  Ms. STABENOW. Thank you, Mr. President. Before speaking about this 
very important piece of legislation we are about to pass, I wish to 
briefly just indicate a thank you to the State Department.
  (The remarks of Ms. Stabenow are printed in today's Record under 
``Morning Business.'')
  Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, I rise in support of the Fannie Lou 
Hamer, Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King, and Cesar Chavez Voting Rights 
Reauthorization Act of 2006. We all know that this reauthorizes 
existing but currently expiring provisions of the Voting Rights Act for 
25 more years. I personally believe that when this was instituted in 
1965, there should not have been an expiration date and would prefer 
that in this bill there not be an expiration date. But I am 
appreciative of the fact that we have bipartisan support to continue 
this provision, and hopefully at some point we will be able to take off 
the ending date.
  I think about standing in this very important spot in the Senate. 
Right around the corner from us is a room we call the President's Room 
that President Lyndon Johnson used in 1965 to sign the original 
legislation because of its significance. We all know this is the 
bedrock of our democracy, the right to vote, the right to vote without 
harassment, intimidation, with correct information, knowing your vote 
in fact will be counted.
  I am proud of the fact that one of the folks who this bill is named 
after is Rosa Parks, who is from Detroit. We claim her as our own and 
are so proud of all she has done, along with the others this bill has 
been named after. But we are very proud that the mother of the civil 
rights movement is from our own beloved Detroit.
  Before 1965 and the bill's passage, we had communities with explicit 
poll taxes and literacy tests to prevent people of color from voting. 
We have in fact made great progress on civil rights since the original 
law. But as many of my colleagues have said, there is much more to be 
done. Now, unfortunately, we have more subtle and sometimes not so 
subtle forms of voter intimidation and suppression. Voters too many 
times are being told of the wrong polling place or flyers and phone 
calls tell people that the election was moved. I know in my State we 
have struggled with misinformation going out around elections. Why is 
it that it is predominantly in our cities where the lines are the 
longest, the voting machines are the oldest, and, in fact, there are 
fewer machines? We need to know we are not done with what this bill 
represents until those things are fixed, until every voting machine 
works, until there is enough to make sure everyone can vote, until 
there is a paper backup so we know the votes are being recorded 
accurately, and until every person or group that attempts to harass 
anybody in terms of exercising their American right to vote has been 
stopped.
  These practices are a reminder that our laws are only as good as the 
people who enforce them. That is the commitment we have behind it, to 
make sure that the principles and ideals of our democracy and of 
America are upheld.
  Passing this bill is a very important step for us. I am pleased this 
has been placed on the agenda and that we are going to come together 
overwhelmingly and pass it today. We need to make sure we are willing 
to take the next steps. We have election reform legislation introduced 
in the Senate that needs to be passed. For the life of me, I cannot 
imagine why when I go to the ATM machine, I can get a piece of paper, a 
receipt that tells me about my transaction, and yet there is resistance 
to us having a paper backup so we know that in fact the integrity of 
our vote and the voting process has been maintained. I hope this will 
be phase one in a series of things we do to make it clear that everyone 
in America has the right to vote, that we are stronger because of that. 
We certainly know we are a better country, a stronger country because 
of the law that was passed in 1965, the Voting Rights Act, and that we 
will be stronger because of this legislation's passage and that we, in 
fact, will be at our strongest and our best when we are fully committed 
to an accurate, full, and open voting process for every person and 
every community in America.
  I urge adoption of the bill and thank the Chair.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Oregon.
  Mr. SMITH. Mr. President, I rise to enthusiastically support the 
reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act. I will speak to that issue, 
but with the permission of the leadership, following these remarks, I 
ask unanimous consent that Senator Wyden and I be given a half an hour 
to speak as in morning business.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. SMITH. Mr. President, above the dais, our Nation's motto, e 
pluribus unum, is chiseled in the marble. That is more than a motto; it 
is one of America's greatest ideals. But it is an ideal that we are 
constantly in an effort to realize as fully as is humanly possible. Our 
Nation has made great progress on becoming one, and becoming one begins 
at the ballot box. Our Nation began at a time when even the institution 
of human slavery was tolerated--tragically for nearly 70 years--leading 
then to a horrendous Civil War that claimed the lives of nearly a 
million Americans trying to fully realize what that motto means. The 
institution of slavery was ended--thankfully--too late but ended 
nevertheless.
  In the bitter years that followed, the years of Reconstruction and 
all the heartache that flowed from the Civil War, there was a period of 
time in part of our country where African Americans were denied access 
to the ballot box and were disenfranchised by that. But it isn't just 
one region of the country where we have to constantly be vigilant about 
race relations; it is a challenge all over America. The challenge 
begins in every heart and in

[[Page S7978]]

every home. It is a fact that the Jim Crow laws were specifically 
designed to intimidate African Americans from voting. Thankfully, with 
the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, under the signature of 
President Lyndon Johnson, the constitutional promise was fully 
realized, and now we have an opportunity to extend it.
  The Voting Rights Act is already a statute, but certain of its 
provisions will expire if we do not do this. We have the privilege to 
do so today.
  The 15th amendment of the Constitution says: The right of citizens of 
the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United 
States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition 
of servitude. The 19th amendment was adopted later in 1920, which 
extended that right to women. But as I said, not until the Voting 
Rights Act were all the subtle and insidious barriers dropped around 
the country that prevented African Americans from exercising their 
franchise.
  Lyndon Johnson said, when he signed this act, that he did so so the 
full blessings of American life can be fully realized. For the full 
blessing of American life begins at the ballot box. Tragically, not all 
Americans exercise their right to vote, but those who want to should be 
able to have access, that their vote be cast and counted and that it be 
done so without intimidation or without fear.
  I rise to fully support this. My mother used to always say, treat 
others as they would want to be treated. That is another way of saying, 
treat others the way you would want to be treated. I have heard from 
many of our African-American citizens who have urged my vote for this. 
I proudly and with pleasure do so today. I suspect we will vote on this 
later.
  I believe the law is a teacher. The Voting Rights Act has taught 
Americans all over the continent that this is a central right and, 
therefore, I believe we are doing the right thing in reauthorizing 
these provisions that otherwise will expire.
  (The remarks of Mr. Smith and Mr. Wyden pertaining to the 
introduction of S. 3701 are located in today's Record under 
``Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions.'')
  Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President, I also congratulate our colleagues who have 
worked tirelessly to ensure the authorization of the exceptionally 
important Voting Rights ct. This law plays a critical role in ensuring 
that the right of all Americans to vote is protected. I intend to speak 
more extensively later on about the Voting Rights Act.
  Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President, I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Arizona.
  Mr. KYL. Mr. President, I rise today with my colleagues Senators 
Cornyn and Hatch from the Judiciary Committee--Senator Hatch having 
chaired the committee for several years--and the assistant majority 
leader of the Senate, Senator McConnell, to speak on the legislation 
renewing the Voting Rights Act.
  Let me begin by saying I support the Voting Rights Act extension. 
This law was critical to ending over 90 years of voting discrimination 
against African Americans in the South. Prior to this law, many States 
enforced discriminatory policies that were designed to and that did 
prevent African Americans from voting. Since that law was enacted, many 
of the same States where African Americans first voted in far lower 
numbers than Whites now have higher percentage of African Americans 
voting than other races.
  The Voting Rights Act is a historic achievement that has corrected 
one of the glaring injustices of our Nation's past. It has been an 
important step in our Nation's continuing progress toward our founding 
ideal that all men are created equal.
  Mr. President, I wish to address some questions that have been raised 
about this reauthorization and ask my colleagues if they concur in my 
interpretation.
  The bill amends section 5 by legislatively abrogating two Supreme 
Court cases interpreting the act: Reno v. Bossier Parish and Georgia v. 
Ashcroft. These changes are related to one another. They are designed 
to operate together to achieve a common objective: the protection of 
naturally occurring legislative districts with a majority of minority 
voters.
  The two changes to section 5 accomplish this goal by enhancing and 
refocusing the operation of section 5. These changes simultaneously bar 
redistricters from denying a large, compact group of minority voters a 
majority-minority district that it would receive in the absence of 
discrimination, and also to bar redistricters from breaking up a 
compact majority-minority district that has been created in the past.
  Some have raised the specter that Federal bureaucrats will abuse the 
authority we are giving them under this provision, that they will 
characterize all manner of practices as having a ``discriminatory 
purpose.'' In particular, there has been some suggestion that the new 
language will be abused by the Justice Department to require creation 
of the maximum number of Black majority districts possible or the 
maximum number of so-called coalition or influence districts, in which 
minority voters are combined with enough White voters of similar 
partisan leanings to elect a candidate.
  I don't think this is what the bill does, or that it can be 
reasonably read to do this. To say something has a discriminatory 
purpose is a term of art. It is the language of the jurisprudence of 
the 14th amendment, of cases such as Washington v. Davis, which define 
when particular action constitutes racial discrimination and violates 
the Constitution.
  There is a well-defined body of case law defining when racial 
discrimination violates the U.S. Constitution. That case law provides 
clear borders to the limits of the Executive discretion being granted 
in this bill.
  One traditional and important standard for identifying 
unconstitutional racial discrimination is to ask whether the challenged 
court action departs from normal rules of decision. In the case of 
redistricting, courts and the Justice Department would ask: Was the 
decision not to create a Black majority district a departure from 
ordinary districting rules? If a State has a large minority population 
concentrated in a particular area, ordinarily rules of districting--
following political and geographic borders and keeping districts as 
compact as possible--would recommend that these voters be given a 
majority-minority district. If the redistricters went out of their way 
to avoid creating such a majority minority--one that would be created 
under ordinary rules--that is unconstitutional racial discrimination, 
and it is banned by this bill. But this bill does not require the 
creation of a majority-minority district that would not be created 
under default districting rules. Nor does the bill require the creation 
of coalition or influence districts. It bars discrimination against 
racial minorities, not against electoral advantages sought by either 
Republicans or Democrats. Moreover, no group is entitled to always be 
included in a district where the candidate of its party will prevail.
  This section's abrogation of Bossier Parish does not permit a finding 
of discriminatory purpose that is based, in whole or in part, on a 
failure to adopt the optimal or maximum number of compact minority 
opportunity districts or on a determination that the plan seeks 
partisan advantage or protects incumbents. With the language of this 
bill, we are importing the constitutional test in section 5, and 
nothing else. With this understanding, I support this improvement to 
section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Texas.
  Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, I add that I share the views of my 
colleague from Arizona. Like he, I represent a State that is covered by 
section 5 of the Voting Rights Act which is one of the sections that is 
being reauthorized today, hopefully. I thus paid close attention to the 
changes being made in that section.
  Like my colleague from Arizona, I supported the provision that 
effectively instructs the Justice Department to refuse to preclear a 
voting practice that is motivated by a discriminatory, unconstitutional 
purpose. I also agree this is all this change does. It does not 
authorize the Justice Department to define for itself what is a 
``discriminatory purpose.'' The Constitution and the courts have 
already done that, and it is that constitutional

[[Page S7979]]

definition that is being incorporated in this legislation.
  That standard bars discrimination against a racial group, and it does 
not require discrimination in favor of any racial group. Thus, it does 
not require those drawing electoral maps to create misshapen districts 
simply in order to create as many majority-minority districts as 
possible. Nor does it require that minority voters be placed as often 
as possible in districts where candidates of the party they support 
will prevail.
  The equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution does not say all 
citizens are equal, but that some are more equal than others. Nor 
should the Voting Rights Act say that. The Voting Rights Act should not 
be read to require creation of so-called coalition districts that 
produce a Democratic or a Republican representative, as the case may 
be. I think that would raise serious constitutional questions if we 
adopted a free-flowing definition of purpose--or authorized the U.S. 
Department of Justice to invent one--that is untethered from the 
Constitution itself. I think this is sufficiently clear from the bill's 
incorporation of constitutional terms of art that I am confident this 
is how the provision will be applied by the Justice Department and by 
the courts.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Kentucky.
  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I would simply add there is a general 
agreement among Senators on this point. If someone is saying the bill 
authorizes the Justice Department to block a voting change because of a 
perceived discriminatory purpose that does not violate the 
Constitution, I have not heard them say it. Therefore, the bill should 
not be construed to require the creation of any district other than the 
majority-minority district that would be created if race were not 
considered--that would be created if instead only traditional 
districting principles were applied. Certainly a constitutionally 
grounded approach does not--does not--require the creation of the 
maximum number of majority-minority or Democratic or, for that matter, 
Republican-leaning districts.
  If those doing the redistricting refuse to create a naturally 
occurring majority-minority district, they are discriminating by race. 
But if they simply refuse to create a district where different races 
combine to elect a candidate of their preferred party, the 
discrimination is not against the races--it is hard to see how anyone 
could discriminate against both races by the same act--but rather it is 
against that party. And as unhappy as that party might be about being 
denied such a district, the denial does not violate the Constitution. 
Obviously, giving the Justice Department discretion to redefine what 
``discriminatory purpose'' means would be controversial. This is 
consensus legislation precisely because it avoids such litigation 
traps. It enforces the Constitution's requirements and no more.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Arizona.
  Mr. KYL. Mr. President, I think the point the distinguished assistant 
majority leader made is very important, and I am glad there is 
agreement on this important matter.
  I also wish to discuss one other of the bill's changes to section 5. 
That is the provision abrogating the Supreme Court's decision in 
Georgia v. Ashcroft. That Supreme Court case held that, when conducting 
a retrogression analysis of section 5 under the act, a court or the 
Justice Department should gauge whether a new electoral map has 
diminished a minority group's opportunities to participate in the 
political process by looking, in part, to whether the new plan creates 
coalition districts, or influences districts--that is the term they 
use--whether it protects positions in legislative leadership for 
minority representatives, and whether minority representatives support 
the new plan.
  Many people objected to this aspect of the Ashcroft decision because 
of its perceived potential to put a partisan thumb on the scale, so to 
speak, in the redistricting process. Their concern was if the fact that 
a coalition or influence district elects a candidate that minority 
voters largely voted for, then even if that candidate was not the 
minority group's preferred candidate of choice, any plan that does not 
preserve that district would be considered retrogressive under the 
Voting Rights Act.
  Similarly, there was concern that under Ashcroft, if a new voting map 
were to give advantage to legislative races to one party, and minority 
representatives--including committee chairmen and legislative leaders--
overwhelmingly were members of the opposite party, then that plan, too, 
would be deemed retrogressive for that reason.
  Personally, I do not think the Ashcroft decision should be read that 
way. I think it is clear the court intended to give States the option 
of using influence or coalition districts, but it did not intend to 
require the use of such districts, or to prevent them from later 
changing such districts.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Utah.
  Mr. HATCH. Mr. President, as one of the strong supporters of the 
Voting Rights Act, having supported it before in my Senate service, I 
have been very interested and, frankly, pleased with the comments that 
have been made. Let me add to what Senator Kyl said.
  Moreover, even if we are wrong about how George v. Ashcroft would 
have been interpreted and applied in the future, in any event, today's 
bill clearly ends any risk that section 5 of the Voting Rights Act will 
be applied as a one-way ratchet favoring Democrats or Republicans at 
the expense of one or the other.
  As the House committee report makes clear, the bill ``rejects'' the 
Supreme Court's interpretation of section 5 in George v. Ashcroft and 
establishes that the purpose of section 5's protection of minority 
voters is, in the words of the bill's new subsection (d), to ``protect 
the ability of such citizens to elect their preferred candidates of 
choice.''
  It is important to emphasize this language does not protect just any 
district with a representative who gets elected with some minority 
votes. Rather, it protects only a district in which ``such citizens''--
minority citizens--are the ones selecting their ``preferred candidate 
of choice'' with their own voting power. I emphasize the words ``such 
citizens'' and ``preferred'' because they are key to this part of the 
bill and keep it consistent with the language abrogating Bossier 
Parish. Both parts have a limited but important purpose: protecting 
naturally occurring majority-minority districts.
  The new subsection guarantees that districters will not discriminate 
against creating such districts. And this new subsection (d) ensures 
they will not break up such districts, at least not when neutral 
districting principles continue to commend the creation of such a 
district.
  I note in passing that forcing the preservation of a noncompact 
majority-minority district likely would run afoul of the Supreme 
Court's ruling against racial gerrymanders in Shaw v. Reno. And, like 
subsection (c), all that subsection (d) does is protect naturally 
occurring majority-minority districts. By limiting non-retrogression 
requirements to districts in which ``such minority citizens'' are able 
with their own vote power to elect ``preferred candidates of choice''--
not just a candidate of choice settled for when forced to compromise 
with other groups--the bill limits section 5 to protecting those 
naturally occurring, compact majority-minority districts with which 
section 5 was originally concerned.

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Arizona is recognized.
  Mr. KYL. Mr. President, let me just say one final thing. I very much 
agree with Senator Hatch that the bill limits section 5, protecting 
those naturally occurring, compact majority-minority districts with 
which section 5 was originally concerned, and that nothing in this 
section of the act should be interpreted to require that the 
competitive position of the political party favored by minority voters 
be maintained or enhanced in any district. This change made by the bill 
is not intended to preserve or ensure the electability of candidates of 
any political party, even if that party's candidates are supported by 
members of minority groups.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Kentucky is recognized.
  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I agree very much, and I am glad that 
we can put this issue to bed.
  By anchoring section 5 in the concept of ``preferred candidates of 
choice''--another term of art whose meaning is

[[Page S7980]]

cemented in the Supreme Court's precedents--I think this bill 
eliminates any risk that section 5 of the Voting Rights Act will be 
interpreted to protect coalitions and influence districts and other 
tools of purely partisan gerrymanders. The term ``preferred candidates 
of choice'' has a clear meaning in the court's precedents: Minority 
candidates elected by a minority community.
  I think the use of this language eliminates the risk that courts will 
construe section 5 to protect candidates who rely on minority votes for 
their margin of victory in the general election but are not elected by 
a majority-minority district. And I agree that it may be good policy 
for a State to create districts in which different groups will combine 
to elect a common party candidate, but Federal law should not be used 
to require that the State permanently preserve such a district.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Vitter). The Senator from Texas is 
recognized.
  Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, I would simply add to the comments of the 
assistant majority leader that I, too, am glad that we have eliminated 
any risk in Georgia v. Ashcroft, and section 5 would be applied to 
require preservation of anything other than districts that allow 
naturally occurring minority-group majorities to elect minority 
candidates. Locking into place so-called coalition or influence 
districts would wreak havoc with the redistricting process and would 
stretch the Voting Rights Act beyond the scope of the Congress's 
authority under the 14th amendment.
  Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, I have some additional remarks that I 
would like to make on this important legislation.
  Forty-one years ago, when signing the landmark Voting Rights Act of 
1965 into law, Lyndon Johnson, the President of the United States, a 
former member of the Senate whose seat I am privileged to hold, 
described the act's passage as ``a triumph for freedom as huge as any 
victory that has ever been won on any battlefield.'' President 
Johnson's words captured the importance of the act's passage. It was a 
hard-fought victory at a tense time in American history.
  It is no secret why the Voting Rights Act was necessary. It was 
adopted at the height of the civil rights movement, when numerous 
jurisdictions throughout the United States had intentionally, 
systematically disenfranchised Blacks and other minorities from the 
electoral process.
  As a witness before the Senate Judiciary Committee noted, a Senate 
report from 1965 found that in every voting discrimination suit brought 
against Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, both the district court 
and the Court of Appeals found ``discriminatory use of tests and 
devices''--devices such as literacy, knowledge, and moral character 
tests. The Senate concluded that these were not ``isolated deviations 
from the norm'' but, instead, ``had been pursuant to a pattern or a 
practice of racial discrimination.'' Such practices had driven down to 
29.3 percent the average registration rate for Black citizens in these 
States--29.3 percent.
  Worse yet, violence and brutality were common. In 1961, a Black voter 
registration drive worker in McComb, MS was beaten by a cousin of the 
sheriff; a worker was ordered out of the registrar's office at gunpoint 
and then hit with a pistol; a Black sympathizer was murdered by a State 
representative; another Black who asked for Justice Department 
protection to testify at the inquest was beaten and killed 3 years 
later; a White activist's eye was gouged out; and, finally, 12 student 
nonviolent coordinating committee workers and local supporters were 
fined and sentenced to substantial terms in jail. And those were just 
some of the many terrible incidents that occurred.
  This type of bigotry and hatred at the polls, coupled with escalating 
violence and even the murder of activists, is the backdrop against 
which the Voting Rights Act was adopted--permanently enshrining into 
law the long-unfulfilled promise of citizenship and democratic 
participation for all Americans as guaranteed by the 15th amendment to 
the U.S. Constitution.
  The permanence of the Voting Rights Act is something that I am afraid 
is sometimes misunderstood or misstated in the popular press. The act's 
core provision found that section 2 prohibits the denial or abridgement 
of the right of any citizen to vote on account of race or color.
  That provision is permanent. That provision will never expire, and we 
are not addressing this permanent provision by the reauthorization that 
we will vote on today.
  Instead, we are addressing what at the time was a temporary, 5-year 
period where provisions were adopted to subject certain jurisdictions 
to Federal oversight of the voting laws and procedures until the intent 
of the Voting Rights Act was accomplished. This provision, section 5, 
along with later-added provisions designed to protect voters from 
discrimination based upon limited English proficiency, has been renewed 
several times since it was originally passed and will expire in the 
summer of 2007. Those are the provisions which we are addressing here 
today and which this vote today will reauthorize.
  Today, we are considering the renewal of these provisions at a time 
when we can look back with some pride as a country and say that the 
Voting Rights Act has fulfilled its promise. It worked.
  Today, we live in a different--albeit still imperfect--world. Today, 
no one can claim that the kind of systemic, invidious practices that 
plagued our election systems 40 years ago still exist in America. 
Today, the voter registration rates among Blacks, for example, in the 
covered jurisdictions is over 68.1 percent, as this chart indicates, 
higher than the 62.2 percent found in noncovered jurisdictions.
  Let me repeat that, Mr. President, because I think it is important. 
Earlier, you heard me say that as a result of the violence and the 
discrimination against Black voters in three Southern States before the 
Voting Rights Act was passed, voter registration rates for African 
Americans was about 29 percent. But today, 40 years later, as a result 
of the fact that the Voting Rights Act has accomplished its purpose, we 
now see voting registration rates nationwide at 62.2 percent. Perhaps 
the most amazing thing is that the rate of voter registration in those 
areas that were covered by section 5, because they had a history of 
discrimination and violation of the voting rights of minority voters, 
is actually higher than the rest of the country--68.1 percent--as 
opposed to 62.2 percent for the noncovered jurisdictions.
  A review of the voter registration data since the act's original 
passage shows that the covered jurisdictions have demonstrated equal or 
higher voter registration rates among Black voters as noncovered 
jurisdictions since the mid-1970s.

  I realize, though, this is not the only measure of the performance of 
the act. Another important indicator of its success is the continual 
decline--almost to the point of statistically negligible numbers--of 
objections issued by the Department of Justice to plans submitted under 
section 5 for pre clearance. You can see on this chart that I have 
demonstrated here, going back to 1982, to 2005--and again, this is for 
the nine covered jurisdictions--this is what we are focusing on with 
this reauthorization. In those nine covered jurisdictions that were 
required under section 5 to submit their election changes for 
preclearance, you see that in 1982, for 2,848 submissions, there were 
67 objections to those changes or a rate of roughly 2.32 percent. But 
if you jump down to 2005--let's go to 1995--it shows that this is 
really a bipartisan success under both Republican and Democrat 
Presidential administrations. In 1995, you can see that out of 3,999 
submissions, requests for pre clearance under section 5, there were 
only 19 objections as required through the required procedures.
  So you see actually the number of objections dropping from 2.32 
percent to, in 1995, under one-half of 1 percent. And the good news is, 
it just keeps getting better. In 2005, there were 3,811 submissions, 
and only 1 objection for preclearance of a change in voting practices 
or procedures in the covered jurisdictions. So I would submit that both 
the voter registration rates for African American voters in the covered 
jurisdictions, and the plummeting, really, of objections sustained to 
submissions requesting preclearance under

[[Page S7981]]

section 5, are strong and compelling evidence that, in fact, the Voting 
Rights Act has achieved--largely achieved--the purposes that Congress 
had hoped for and that no doubt millions of people who had previously 
been disenfranchised had prayed for.
  The evidence demonstrates the continued improvement of access to 
office for minorities. The statistics in the House record indicate that 
hundreds of minorities are now serving--not just getting to vote, they 
are actually serving in elected office, accomplishing again one of the 
important purposes of the Voting Rights Act. Indeed, in Georgia, 
minorities are elected at rates proportionate to or higher than the 
numbers proportionate to the general population would otherwise 
indicate. While Georgia's population is 28.7 percent African American, 
30.7 percent of its delegation to the United States House of 
Representatives, and 26.5 percent of the officials elected statewide 
are African American, a remarkable accomplishment.
  Black candidates in Mississippi have achieved similar success. The 
State's population is 36.3 percent African American, and 29.5 percent 
of its representatives in the State House, and 25 percent of its 
delegation in the United States House of Representatives are African 
American.
  In light of this strong indication that the act has largely achieved 
the purposes that Congress had intended, of course, the logical 
question before us is whether these provisions under section 5 should 
be reauthorized. The Judiciary Committee hearings were enlightening on 
this point, and I want to congratulate Chairman Specter for readily 
ceding to requests that were made to have a complete record so that not 
only Congress but the courts that may later examine this record can see 
what the facts are. Senator Specter worked hard to hold a sufficient 
number of fair and balanced hearings, but given our busy schedule on 
the Senate floor, that was not always easy to accomplish. However, I 
think it might have been beneficial for the long-term viability and 
success of the Voting Rights Act had we engaged in serious, reasoned 
deliberation over some of the suggested possible improvements, some 
suggested by our witnesses--improvements that would underscore the 
act's original purpose. It would modernize it to reflect today's 
reality. It would possibly expand the coverage of section 5 to 
jurisdictions where recent abuses have taken place or, perhaps, have 
improved the so-called bailout procedures for those jurisdictions that 
had a successful record of remedying, indeed eliminating, 
discrimination when it comes to voting rights.

  One idea that was offered was to update the coverage formula. I don't 
know if that is a good idea, but I would like to know. Some suggest 
that such an update would gut the act. I, for one, certainly don't want 
to see that happen. I don't want to see the act gutted. But I am 
skeptical that this would be the result. The amendment that was voted 
on in the House, for example, would have updated the coverage trigger 
to the most recent three Presidential elections from the current point, 
or trigger, of 1964, 1968, and 1972 elections.
  As I understand it, the map, after an update to cover the most recent 
three Presidential elections, would look something like this. In other 
words, rather than the nine covered jurisdictions, you would see 
jurisdictions around the country, both at the State and local level--
primarily at the local level--that would focus on the places where the 
problems really do exist and where the record demonstrates with some 
justification for the assertion of Federal power and intrusion into the 
local and State electoral processes.
  If this is an accurate reflection of the effects of updating the 
trigger to the most recent three Presidential elections, it certainly 
changes the map. But I suggest, just looking at this, it hardly guts 
it.
  It would have also been beneficial for us to have had a full 
discussion of ways to improve the act to ensure its important 
provisions were applied in a congruent and proportional way, something 
the Supreme Court will take into consideration when it considers the 
renewed act.
  Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted overwhelmingly to 
extend the expiring provisions of the act and adopt several substantial 
revisions included by the House, so I think it is important to comment 
on the House revisions to the act. In other words, we are not just 
reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act as it existed previously, there 
have been changes made. So I think it is important for us to identify 
those changes and reflect on them for a moment.
  There has been some debate about the meaning of these provisions. My 
understanding is that the purpose of these provisions is fairly 
straightforward, and I think the House legislative history reflects 
this; that is, the purpose is to ensure minorities are not prevented 
from holding elected offices in bodies such as Congress and ensure that 
no intentional, unconstitutional discrimination is allowed to proceed. 
It is important that our understanding about these provisions be clear 
so that their application will be likewise clear.
  I think the colloquy that we had on the Senate floor just a few 
moments ago helps to make that as clear as we possibly can.
  In short, the Voting Rights Act is simply the most important and most 
effective civil rights legislation ever passed, bar none. The extension 
of the expiring provisions is important for the continued protection of 
voting rights, even though it would have been preferable and even 
possibly constitutionally advisable for us to review the application of 
the act's preclearance and other provisions.
  Unfortunately, the act's language was a bit of a foregone conclusion, 
prohibiting the kind of debate and discussion and perhaps amendment 
process that might have been helpful to protect the act against future 
legal challenges.
  Few issues are as fundamental to our system of democracy and the 
promise of equal justice under law as the Voting Rights Act. I support 
reauthorization of the expiring provisions because the purpose of the 
Voting Rights Act is genuine, its goals are noble, and its success, as 
I hope to have demonstrated, is unparalleled.
  But I do want to say in conclusion that I share the concerns 
expressed by Chief Justice Roberts in the most recent redistricting 
case that has been heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. I hope the day will 
come when we will no longer, to use his words, be ``divvying us up by 
race.''
  It is my sincere hope that we will move beyond distinctions based on 
race in our policymaking, lest we, in the words of Justice Anthony 
Kennedy, make ``the offensive and demeaning assumption that voters of a 
particular race, because of their race, think alike, share the same 
political interests, and will prefer the same candidates at the polls.
  The question in the end is, Is this bill that we will vote on today 
the very best possible product?
  I would have to say the answer to that is, apparently not.
  In response to the question, is this the very best that we can do at 
this time?'' I would have to conclude, yes, it is. And I support it for 
that reason.
  I see my distinguished colleague from New York on the Senate floor.
  I yield the floor to her and anyone else who seeks an opportunity to 
speak.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from New York is recognized.
  Mrs. CLINTON. Mr. President, I am also here to voice my support for 
the Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King Voting Rights 
Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2006. It is so fitting that 
this legislation reauthorizing this landmark Civil Rights Act would be 
named for three women who are so well known as heroines of the struggle 
for civil rights in our own country.
  Thousands of Americans risked their lives, and some unfortunately 
lost them, during the civil rights movement to challenge an electoral 
system that prevented millions of our fellow citizens from exercising 
their constitutional right to vote.
  After a long struggle by activists and everyday citizens, President 
Johnson introduced and eventually signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 
into law.
  I vividly remember the day, 41 years ago, when I sat in front of our 
little black and white television set and watched President Johnson 
announce the signing into law of the Voting Rights Act. He opened his 
speech to the Nation that night with these memorable words:


[[Page S7982]]


       I speak tonight for the dignity of man and the destiny of 
     democracy.

  That was the culmination of a long struggle which continues even now 
because we still must work vigilantly to make certain that those who 
try to vote are allowed to do so, and that we keep watch to guarantee 
that every vote is counted.
  President Johnson was right all those years ago. When you deny a 
person his or her right to vote, you strip that individual of dignity 
and you weaken our democracy. The endurance of our democracy requires 
constant vigilance, a lesson that has been reinforced by the last two 
Presidential elections, both of which were affected by widespread 
allegations of voter disenfranchisement.
  I believe we have a moral as well as a political and historical 
obligation to ensure the integrity of our voting process. That was our 
Nation's obligation in 1965; it remains our obligation today.
  As we turn on our news and see the sights of conflict, as we hear the 
stories of sectarian violence, as we struggle to help nations 
understand and adopt democracy in their own lands, we more than ever 
must ensure that America is the place where the right to vote is fully 
and equally available to every citizen.
  We still have work to do, to renew protections for the right to vote, 
to enforce safeguards that guarantee the right to vote, and strengthen 
our election laws so that our right to vote is not impeded by accident 
or abuse. While parts of the Voting Rights Act are permanent, there are 
three important sections set to expire next year unless they are 
renewed.
  Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act requires that the Federal 
Government or a Federal court approve or, in the language of the act, 
``preclear'' all changes to voting procedures by jurisdictions that 
have a history of discrimination. The importance of this provision 
cannot be overstated. Section 5 is the bulwark. It stands to ensure 
that all minorities have equal access to the ballot box. Not only has 
Section 5 been used to strike down potentially discriminatory changes 
to election laws, but it has also deterred them.
  Equally important is the reauthorization of sections 6 through 9, 
which authorize the Federal Government to send examiners and observers 
to jurisdictions with a history of voter discrimination and voter 
intimidation, and to ensure that by the presence of the Federal 
Government--which represents all of us--no one will engage in such 
despicable behavior.
  Finally, section 203 of the Voting Rights Act requires bilingual 
assistance for areas with a concentration of citizens with limited 
English proficiency, including bilingual ballots, if necessary. Voters 
with limited English proficiency would in many instances be unable to 
participate in our political process and to fully exercise their rights 
of citizenship if this assistance were not available to help them 
understand what is on a ballot.
  Sometimes, even though I speak English, I think I need help 
understanding what is on some of our ballots when we have all kinds of 
bond issues and other kinds of activity. Imagine if you are, as are 
some of the people I have met, a legal immigrant from Latin America who 
is so proud to be a citizen and so worried she will make a mistake when 
she first goes to vote, or an elderly gentleman who came to this 
country fleeing oppression in the former Soviet Union, who speaks only 
Russian but has become a citizen, is learning English and wants to be 
able to understand what he is voting for. At a time when we are 
embroiled in a debate about how best to assimilate immigrants and to 
send out the message that we want people in our country to learn 
English, to participate as citizens, we don't want to set up any 
artificial barriers to them feeling totally involved in and supportive 
of and welcomed by our great democracy.
  These expiring sections of the Voting Rights Act, sections 5, 203, 6 
through 9, have all been reauthorized--first in the House, then in the 
Judiciary Committee yesterday here in the Senate. I am very pleased 
that has happened because I think we still need them.
  Of course, we have made so much progress. I am very proud of the 
progress our Nation has made, when you go back and look over more than 
200 years of history, what we have accomplished--it is just a 
miraculous, wonderful happening that could only occur in this great 
country of ours where we have steadily and surely knocked down the 
barriers to participation.
  But are we perfect? Of course not. There is no such thing as 
perfection on this Earth. We have survived as a nation and as the 
oldest democracy in part because we have had checks and balances and we 
have been under the rule of law, not of men. So this reauthorization is 
critical to making sure we still have the framework to make it possible 
for every person to believe that he or she can vote, and that vote will 
matter. Of course, the Voting Rights Act only works if it is actually 
enforced. We can have all the laws in the world. We have seen in so 
many authoritarian regimes, totalitarian regimes, where they have great 
sounding laws. The laws sound as though they are next to paradise, but 
it does not matter because no one enforces the laws.

  Unfortunately, I am worried we may be at that point in our own 
country when it comes to voting rights. The civil rights division at 
the Department of Justice has been purged by many of the people, career 
lawyers who enforced the law regardless of whether it was against 
Democrats or Republicans or in any part of the country. Now it is 
filled with political appointees who often choose ideology over 
evidence. That has resulted in a failure to enforce the Voting Rights 
Act. There are lots of examples. Look at the news coverage this past 
December: Six career lawyers and two analysts in the Department of 
Justice's civil rights division, it was reported, were basically 
overruled when they made recommendations about the Texas redistricting 
plan. The civil rights division officials were overruled when they 
recommended against Georgia's voter photo ID requirement which 
disadvantaged African Americans, the elderly, and other voters. 
Finally, that law was enjoined by a Federal court.
  These are isolated incidents in some people's minds, but I see, 
unfortunately, a pattern. We need to make sure our laws have teeth; 
otherwise, they are just for show, they do not make any difference at 
all. Unfortunately, almost two-thirds of the lawyers in the voting 
section of the civil rights division have left in the last few years. 
That sends a very disconcerting message that maybe the Voting Rights 
Act will be honored by word but not by deed.
  I hope when we reauthorize it, as I am confident we will do in the 
Senate, we will send a message that we expect it to be enforced and 
that it means something; otherwise, we are not going to be fulfilling 
the promise of a Constitution that sets voting and democracy at its 
core. I hope we will not only reauthorize the Voting Rights Act, that 
we will enforce the Voting Rights Act and, third, we will change some 
of our other laws to protect against some of the abuses now taking 
place around the country when it comes to voting.
  We have to strengthen our electoral system so that basic democratic 
values are protected as voting technology evolves and as it threatens 
to undermine the right to vote. We need to put a few simple principles 
into law and we should do it sooner rather than later so that we count 
every vote and we make sure every vote is counted.
  That is why I drafted and introduced, along with some of my 
colleagues in both Houses, the Count Every Vote Act, because I believe 
all Americans ought to have a reasonable opportunity to register and 
cast their vote if they are citizens. That should be part of being a 
citizen.
  In fact, I met with a group of young high school students from New 
York. We were talking about how we can get more young people involved 
in voting. One of them asked, when we turn 18, why aren't we 
automatically registered? That is a great idea. Citizens should be 
automatically registered. We need to make this part of the growing up 
in America. You turn 18, you get registered to vote, beginning a 
lifetime habit of voting.
  We also need to make sure every American citizen will be able to 
count on the fact that their name will not be illegally purged from the 
voter roles. We have seen that happen. It is still happening. What 
happens is, someone

[[Page S7983]]

in the political position of a State says, we will purge the voter 
roles to get rid of people who have moved or who may not be eligible to 
vote. I don't disagree with that. People who don't live in a 
jurisdiction or are not eligible should not be permitted to vote.

  Instead of purging on that very limited basis, oftentimes they purge 
hundreds and thousands of people unfairly, unlawfully. Someone shows up 
to vote and they are told, we are sorry, you are not registered to 
vote. The person does not know what has happened, but they are 
prohibited from voting.
  Every American voter who shows up at the polls should be confident 
they do not have to wait hours to cast ballots. I did a town hall 
meeting in Cleveland with my friend Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs 
Jones. We heard testimony from some students from Kenyon College who 
had to wait for 10 and 12 hours to be able to vote. They were eligible, 
they were registered, they were anxious to vote, and because of the way 
the number of voting machines was allocated and the discouragement that 
was meant to be sent that you would have to wait so long, it was an 
unfair treatment of these young people and not in keeping with our 
desire to increase the number of people who vote in our country.
  We also need to make sure the system of voting has not been 
compromised by politics or partisanship. It is flat wrong for someone 
who runs an election to also be running in the election and thereby be 
supervising their own election, or for someone to be running for 
election to some position, get the support of the person running the 
election as his campaign manager or spokesman. That is a conflict of 
interest. That ought to be prohibited. People need to feel, and they 
have every right to feel, confidence in the integrity of our electoral 
system.
  Finally, every American voter should know there are adequate 
safeguards against abuses or mistakes caused by the new computerized 
voting machines. There have been so many problems. They have broken 
down, they have double counted, they have failed to count, tests have 
been run showing how easy they are to hack into. We do not need that. 
We need a system people can count on. If we can go to an ATM and 
withdraw money, if we can have all the other advantages from access to 
computers and the Internet, for goodness sakes, we ought to be able to 
use electronic voting without raising questions about whether it is 
being truthful, whether it is being accurate, and whether it is even 
being operated correctly.
  This effort to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act is part of a larger 
struggle about basic rights, basic values, and basic opportunities. It 
is, at root, a struggle to ensure that we live up to the promise of 
democracy in this Nation. We do need to reinstate the decades-old 
voting rights protections. We need to enforce those voting rights 
presentations. We need to strengthen those voting rights protections. 
We need to do that because that is what we are as Americans. That is 
what we expect of ourselves.
  I hope after we reauthorize the Voting Rights Act, which I am 
confident we are going to do, then we turn our attention to making sure 
we enforce it, that we are doing everything we can to encourage people 
to vote, make it easy for them to vote, and make sure that every vote 
counts.
  Our ideals are important to us as Americans. Our principles about who 
we are, what we believe in, our core values as to what it means to be 
an American. I hope and trust when it comes to the most important 
function in a democracy--namely, running elections and giving people 
the right to make decisions about who governs us--that we will be 
second to none. We cannot say that now because other countries, 
frankly, are doing a better job than we are, but today is a good first 
step to get us back on the track of making sure that the world's oldest 
democracy demonstrates clearly we know how to run elections that people 
have confidence and trust in and that we want every single citizen to 
feel welcome to participate and to make the decisions that will 
determine the future of our country.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Georgia is recognized.
  Mr. CHAMBLISS. Mr. President, I rise in support of a bill to extend 
the expiring provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. While I support 
this bill, I continue to have some serious concerns with several 
aspects of it, not the least of which is the extension for an 
extraordinary 25 years.
  The act, originally passed in 1965, was unquestionably needed to 
bring the promise of the Constitution to many of our citizens who had 
been shut out of our national political process. The original act, a 
remedial measure to deal with past discrimination, provided that 
certain provisions would sunset after 5 years. I have grave concerns 
that a 25-year extension may well, by itself, doom the act in a future 
constitutional challenge, given the Supreme Court's jurisprudence 
concerning the need for narrowly tailored remedial measures to deal 
with past discrimination.
  Members of the House raised legitimate concerns last week and 
advanced positive amendments which I believe would have strengthened 
this bill and updated it to reflect the reality of profoundly improved 
race relations which exist today in my home State of Georgia.
  Let me talk about the positive progress. Today, a higher percentage 
of Black citizens in Georgia are registered to vote than are White 
citizens: 66 percent compared to 59 percent. Today, a higher percentage 
of Black citizens in Georgia turn out the vote than do White citizens: 
51 percent compared to 48 percent. The number of Black elected 
officials in Georgia has climbed steadily, from 30 in 1970 to 249 in 
1980, a 730-percent increase, to 582 in 2000.
  Let me talk about my home county which is in rural Georgia, the very 
southern part of our State. Our community is a beneficiary of this 
Voting Rights Act. Over the years, several members of our Black 
community have been elected to city council, county commission, and 
school board posts.
  Men and women such as Wesley Ball, Frank Wilson, Lamont Alderman, 
Justina Lewis, George Walker, Trudy Hill, Betty Hagin, Luke Strong, 
Jr., the Rev. Ronald Wilson, Debra Boyd, and Stine George. All of these 
outstanding men and women have been very professional public servants 
in representing our school board, our city, as well as our county.
  I am very proud to live in a city and county that has had individuals 
such as these as its representatives.
  Currently, there are nine statewide Black elected officials in 
Georgia, most of whom, interestingly enough, defeated White opponents, 
including the current attorney general, three State supreme court 
justices, including the chief justice, and the State labor 
commissioner.
  Today, 4 of Georgia's 13 Members of the U.S. House are Black, two of 
whom represent majority White districts.
  One of the continuing concerns about the bill as currently written is 
it mandates that Georgia continues to be a ``covered jurisdiction.'' 
That designation requires any election law change, no matter how minor, 
to be precleared by a Federal bureaucracy. Other States with much less 
impressive minority progress and less impressive minority participation 
are not covered, while Georgia is. Many of us share the view that this 
seems both unfair and unwise.
  Only a short while ago my colleague from Illinois acknowledged that 
voting discrimination occurs in noncovered States, yet he and others 
leave unaddressed the issue of whether the formula adopted in 1964 
should be modernized to reflect the reality of 2006, so that 
appropriate discrimination can be dealt with wherever it exists.
  Despite these concerns, I will vote in favor of this bill. It is a 
symbol of progress to so many of our citizens and it has made a 
difference in the lives of a generation of Georgians, Black and White.
  I urge my colleagues to join me in support.
  I yield the remainder of my time.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Oregon is recognized.
  Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to proceed for up 
to 20 minutes after the distinguished Senator from Illinois.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?
  Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President, I modify my request and ask unanimous 
consent

[[Page S7984]]

that after Senator Obama speaks, and after a Republican has spoken 
after Senator Obama, that I could be recognized for up to 20 minutes at 
that time.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection to the revised unanimous 
consent request?
  Mr. CHAMBLISS. Mr. President, reserving the right to object.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Georgia is recognized.
  Mr. CHAMBLISS. I will not object, but I say to the Senator from 
Oregon, if we could have the Senator from Illinois proceed, then the 
Senator from South Carolina, Mr. Graham, proceed, and then the Senator 
from Oregon.
  Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President, that is exactly the kind of scenario I 
envisioned, and I appreciate that from the Senator from Georgia, and 
renew my unanimous consent request.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?
  Without objection, it is so ordered.
  The Senator from Illinois is recognized.
  Mr. OBAMA. Thank you, Mr. President.
  Mr. President, I rise today both humbled and honored by the 
opportunity to express my support for renewal of the expiring 
provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. I thank the many people 
inside and outside Congress who have worked so hard over the past year 
to get us here. We owe a great debt of gratitude to the leadership on 
both sides of the aisle. We owe special thanks to Chairmen 
Sensenbrenner and Specter, Ranking Members Conyers and Leahy, and 
Representative Mel Watt. Without their hard work and dedication, and 
the support of voting rights advocates across the country, I doubt this 
bill would have come before us so soon.
  I thank both Chambers and both sides of the aisle, as well, for 
getting this done with the same broad support that drove the original 
act 40 years ago. At a time when Americans are frustrated with the 
partisan bickering that too often stalls our work, the refreshing 
display of bipartisanship we are seeing today reflects our collective 
belief in the success of the act and reminds us of how effective we can 
be when we work together.
  Nobody can deny we have come a long way since 1965. Look at the 
registration numbers. Only 2 years after the passage of the original 
act, registration numbers for minority voters in some States doubled. 
Soon after, not a single State covered by the Voting Rights Act had 
registered less than half of its minority voting-age population.
  Look at the influence of African-American elected officials at every 
single level of government. There are African-American Members of 
Congress. Since 2001, our Nation's top diplomat has been African 
American. In fact, most of America's elected African-American officials 
come from States covered by section 5 of the Voting Rights Act--States 
such as Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Georgia.
  But to me, the most striking evidence of our progress can be found 
right across this building in my dear friend Congressman John Lewis, 
who was on the front lines of the civil rights movement, risking life 
and limb for freedom. On March 7, 1965, he led 600 peaceful protesters, 
demanding the right to vote, across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, 
AL. I have often thought about the people on the Edmund Pettus Bridge 
that day, not only John Lewis and Hosea Williams, who led the march, 
but the hundreds of everyday Americans who left their homes and their 
churches to join it--Blacks and Whites, teenagers, children, teachers, 
bankers, shopkeepers; what Dr. King called a beloved community of God's 
children ready to stand for freedom.
  I wonder sometimes: Where did they find that kind of courage? When 
you are facing row after row of State troopers on horseback, armed with 
billy clubs and tear gas--when they are coming toward you spewing 
hatred and violence--how do you simply stop, kneel down, and pray to 
the Lord for salvation?
  But the most amazing thing of all is that after that day, after John 
Lewis was beaten within an inch of his life, after people's heads were 
gashed open and their eyes were burned, and they watched their 
children's innocence literally beaten out of them--after all that, they 
went back and marched again. They marched again. They crossed the 
bridge. They awakened a nation's conscience, and not 5 months later the 
Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law. It was reauthorized in 
1970, in 1975, and in 1982.
  Now, in 2006, John Lewis--the physical scars of those marches still 
visible--is an original cosponsor of the fourth reauthorization of the 
Voting Rights Act. He was joined last week by 389 of his House 
colleagues in voting for its passage.
  There were some in the House, and there may be some in the Senate, 
who argue that the act is no longer needed, that the protections of 
section 5's ``preclearance'' requirement--a requirement that ensures 
certain States are upholding the right to vote--are targeting the wrong 
States. Unfortunately, the evidence refutes that notion.
  Of the 1,100 objections issued by the Department of Justice since 
1965, 56 percent occurred since the last reauthorization in 1982. Over 
half have occurred since 1982. So despite the progress these States 
have made in upholding the right to vote, it is clear that problems 
still exist.
  There are others who have argued we should not renew section 203's 
protection of language minorities. These arguments have been tied to 
debates over immigration and they tend to muddle a noncontroversial 
issue--protecting the right to vote--with one of today's most 
contentious debates.
  But let's remember, you cannot request language assistance if you are 
not a voter. You cannot be a voter if you are not a citizen. And while 
voters, as citizens, must be proficient in English, many are simply 
more confident that they can cast ballots printed in their native 
languages without making errors. It is not an unreasonable assumption.
  A representative of the Southwestern Voter Registration Project is 
quoted as saying:

       Citizens who prefer Spanish registration cards do so 
     because they feel more connected to the process; they also 
     feel they trust the process more when they understand it.

  These sentiments--connection to and trust in our democratic process--
are exactly what we want from our voting rights legislation.
  Our challenges, of course, do not end at reauthorizing the Voting 
Rights Act. We have to prevent the problems we have seen in recent 
elections from happening again. We have seen political operatives purge 
voters from registration rolls for no legitimate reason, prevent 
eligible ex-felons from casting ballots, distribute polling equipment 
unevenly and deceive voters about the time, location, and rules of 
elections. Unfortunately, these efforts have been directed primarily at 
minority voters, the disabled, low-income individuals, and other 
historically disenfranchised groups.
  The Help America Vote Act, or HAVA, was a big step in the right 
direction. But we have to do more. We need to fully fund HAVA if we are 
going to move forward in the next stage of securing the right to vote 
for every citizen. We need to enforce critical requirements such as 
statewide registration databases. We need to make sure polling 
equipment is distributed equitably and equipment actually works. We 
need to work on getting more people to the polls on election day.
  We need to make sure that minority voters are not the subject of some 
deplorable intimidation tactics when they do go to the polls. In 2004, 
Native American voters in South Dakota were confronted by men posing as 
law enforcement. These hired intimidators joked about jail time for 
ballot missteps and followed voters to their cars to record their 
license plates.
  In Lake County, OH, some voters received a memo on bogus board of 
election letterhead, informing voters who registered through Democratic 
and NAACP drives that they could not vote.
  In Wisconsin, a flier purporting to be from the ``Milwaukee Black 
Voters League'' was circulated in predominantly African-American 
neighborhoods with the following message:

       If you've already voted in any election this year, you 
     can't vote in the presidential election. If you violate any 
     of these laws, you can get ten years in prison and your 
     children will get taken away from you.

  Now, think about that. We have a lot more work to do. This occasion 
is a

[[Page S7985]]

cause for celebration. But it is also an opportunity to renew our 
commitment to voting rights.
  As Congressman Lewis said last week:

       It's clear that we have come a great distance, but we still 
     have a great distance to go.

  The memory of Selma still lives on in the spirit of the Voting Rights 
Act. Since that day, the Voting Rights Act has been a critical tool in 
ensuring that all Americans not only have the right to vote but have 
the right to have their vote counted.
  Those of us concerned about protecting those rights cannot afford to 
rest on our laurels upon reauthorization of this bill. We need to take 
advantage of this rare, united front and continue to fight to ensure 
unimpeded access to the polls for all Americans. In other words, we 
need to take the spirit that existed on that bridge, and we have to 
spread it across this country.
  Two weeks after the first march was turned back, Dr. King spoke, and 
he told a gathering of organizers and activists and community members 
that they should not despair because the arc of the moral universe is 
long, but it bends toward justice. The arc of the moral universe is 
long, but it bends toward justice. That is because of the work that 
each of us does that it bends toward justice. It is because of people 
such as John Lewis and Fannie Lou Hamer and Coretta Scott King and Rosa 
Parks--all the giants upon whose shoulders we stand--that we are 
beneficiaries of that arc bending toward justice.

  That is why I stand here today. I would not be in the Senate had it 
not been for the efforts and courage of so many parents and 
grandparents and ordinary people who were willing to reach up and bend 
that arc in the direction of justice. I hope we continue to see that 
spirit live on not just during this debate but throughout all our work 
here in the Senate.
  Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from South Carolina is recognized.
  Mr. GRAHAM. Thank you, Mr. President.
  I wish to take a few moments to add my voice to the Senate debate in 
terms of why I will vote for the Voting Rights Act reauthorization.
  No. 1, I am a member of the Judiciary Committee, and I wish to 
congratulate our chairman, Senator Specter, and our ranking member, 
Senator Leahy, for getting the bill out of committee. It was an 18-to-0 
vote. I have enjoyed that committee in many ways, and one of the 
highlights of my time on that committee is getting this piece of 
legislation to the floor for a vote. I anticipate an overwhelming vote 
for the Voting Rights Acts.
  There are so many ways to say why, and so many approaches to explain 
the continued need. But the best I can say, in terms of my voice being 
added to the debate, is that I recognize it is just a voice, that I am 
in the Senate--I just turned 51 years old, a child of the South. I grew 
up in the 1950s and 1960s, and I went to segregated schools until, I 
think, the fifth or sixth grade.
  My life is better because of the civil rights movement.
  It has enriched the country. I have been able to interact with people 
in ways that would have been impossible if segregation had stood and, 
as Senator Obama indicated, his career in the Senate is possible. I 
would argue that most Americans' lives are better because in America 
you can interact in a meaningful way now. And one of the interactions 
is to be able to vote.
  But it is just a voice I add. To get here, literally, to get the 
Voting Rights Act passed back in the 1960s, people died. They shed 
their blood, their sweat. They put their hopes and dreams for their 
children on the line. They were willing to die for their insistence 
that they play a meaningful role in American society. And the most 
meaningful way you can participate is to be able to vote without fear.
  Dr. King is a fascinating historical figure now. He was a fascinating 
man while he lived. I have been in the military for quite a while. I 
have been around a lot of brave people--pilots who take off and fly in 
harm's way. I sort of have an affinity for military history. I always 
admired the people who would go up the hill in the face of overwhelming 
force or stand with their comrades when it looked as though all hope 
was lost because that was the right thing to do.
  They were willing to sacrifice their life not only for their country 
but for their fellow service members, the people in their unit. How 
hard that must have been. Some people rise to the occasion and some 
don't. Those who rise to the occasion are called heroes, rightly so. 
Those who fail to rise to the occasion are called human beings.
  All human beings, me included, should celebrate the heroes. The thing 
that I admire most about Dr. King and his associates is that it is one 
thing to put your own life at risk. It is another thing to put your 
family at risk. I would imagine, never having met Dr. King, that one of 
his biggest fears was not about his personal safety but about what 
might happen to his family. To me that is the ultimate act of bravery, 
to know that if you do nothing, your family is going to be locked into 
a system where life is very meaningless. And to do something so heroic 
and so challenging that you put your family at risk had to be a very 
hard decision.
  So as we reauthorize the Voting Rights Act, we need to remember, all 
of us who vote, that it is not that big a deal. There is no one in the 
Senate. Hardly anyone is listening. We have some visitors here in the 
Capitol. It is going to pass pretty quickly. Everybody knows the 
outcome. In the 1960s, people did not know the outcome. I argue that 
the fact we reauthorized this without a whole lot of discussion and 
rancor is the best testament to its success. All the fears and all the 
playing on people's prejudices that would come from integration, if it 
came about, or allowing everyone to vote, if it came about, they were 
just that--baseless fears. As you look back from 2006 over the history 
of the Voting Rights Act, there is nothing to fear. Allowing Americans 
to fully participate in a democracy has been a wonderful thing. 
Allowing people to go to the movie they went to go to and go to the 
restaurant they want to eat at and play on the same sports teams as 
every other person in their neighborhood, regardless of race, creed, or 
color, is a wonderful thing. At the time it was a frightful thing.
  That says nothing about this generation being good and the last 
generation being evil. It speaks to the weakness of humanity. Within 
all of us there is a fear that can be tapped into. We have to guard 
against that. We have to be on constant guard not to let the issues of 
our day play on our fears.
  I argue that one of those issues we are dealing with today that is 
playing on the fears of the past and the weaknesses of humanity is the 
immigration issue. I hope as we move forward on the immigration issue, 
we can understand that obeying the law is an essential part of America, 
and people need to be punished when they break it. But America's 
strength has been absorbing people from all over the world, from 
different backgrounds, races, and creeds, and allowing them to share in 
the American dream. We should do it in an orderly way, not a chaotic 
way.
  To the issue at hand, the Voting Rights Act will be extended. I 
believe it is for 25 years. Some of the data in the act is based on 
1968, 1972 turnout models. The act does not recognize the progress 
particularly in my region of the country. I think it should have, but 
it didn't. So we will just move on.
  South Carolina has made great strides forward in terms of African 
American voting participation and minority African American 
representation at all levels of State government and local government. 
My State is better for that. I am proud of the progress that has been 
made. To those who made it happen, those who risked their blood, sweat 
and tears, I owe you a debt, as everyone of my generation does. When I 
cast my vote today, it will be in your honor and your memory.
  I hope 25 years from now it can be said that there will be no need 
for the Voting Rights Act because things have changed for the better. I 
can't read the future or predict what the world will be like 25 years 
from now or what America will be like. But if we keep making the 
progress we have in the last 25 years, it can happen.
  It is incumbent upon each Member of this body--regardless of 
political differences, party affiliation, or personal background--to 
try to bring out the

[[Page S7986]]

best in our country no matter how hard the issue might be, no matter 
how emotional it might be, and no matter how much people play on our 
fears. Just as those who came before us rejected the desire to play on 
fears and prejudices and risked their personal safety, I hope this 
generation of political leaders that I am now a part of will live up to 
the ideals demonstrated by Americans in the past who were brave, who 
risked it all for the common good.
  I will close with this thought: As Senator Obama said, if we can 
embrace the spirit that led to the Voting Rights Act--a sense of fair 
play, fair treatment--and apply it to other areas and other issues 
facing our Nation, we will be much stronger. It is with that sense of 
purpose and hope that I will vote to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act.
  To my fellow South Carolinians, you have come a long way. You have 
much to be proud of. But we, like every other part of this country, 
still have a long way to go.
  I yield the floor.
  Mr. LUGAR. Mr. President, I rise today to express my strong support 
for the reauthorization of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965.
  I was a member of the Indianapolis School Board and mayor of 
Indianapolis during the civil rights movement, and I witnessed 
firsthand the critical importance of promoting justice and 
understanding in our communities. Following the tragic death of Dr. 
Martin Luther King, Jr., while I was serving as mayor, so many of my 
friends and neighbors in Indianapolis came together in peace and 
reconciliation, and I am grateful that our city served as a model to so 
many other cities that were unfortunately stricken with violence and 
division.
  It is in the spirit of justice, harmony, and compassion that we must 
join together to pass this important legislation. This is a signal 
moment for the Senate, and I am pleased that President Bush will sign 
this bill into law as the 41st anniversary of the signing of the Voting 
Rights Act approaches on August 6.
  Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. President, I rise to voice my support for 
reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act of 1965. H.R. 9, the bill to 
reauthorize the Voting Rights Act, is an important piece of 
legislation. I wish to take a few moments to express my thoughts on the 
great progress prompted by the Voting Rights Act in my State, as well 
as to express a few concerns.
  My home State of Alabama--the site of the Selma to Montgomery voting 
rights march--had a grim history on voting rights. Before 1965, only 19 
percent of African Americans in our State were registered to vote, and 
they were denied the right to vote through any number of tactics and 
strategies. Behind those tactics and strategies--the multiple ``tests 
and devices''--lay a ruthless decision to deny Black citizens the right 
to vote so that the majority of the White community could maintain 
political power.
  The results of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were some of the best 
things that ever happened to Alabama. Before the Voting Rights Act, 
Alabama had fewer than a dozen Black elected officials. As of 2001, the 
most recent figures available, Alabama had over 750 African-American 
office holders--second only to Mississippi. These elected officials 
include a U.S. Congressman, 8 State senators, 27 members of the State 
House of Representatives, 46 mayors, 80 members of county commissions, 
school board members, town council members and the like.
  Voter registration rates for Blacks and Whites in Alabama are now 
virtually identical. In fact, in the last Presidential election, 
according to the Census Bureau, a larger percentage of African 
Americans voted than Whites in the State of Alabama. Now, that was the 
goal of the act--to have this kind of progress occur. In fact, over the 
past 15 years, Alabama has not had a single court find the State guilty 
of violating the 15th amendment or the very broad protections afforded 
by section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The same cannot be said of 
Arkansas; Colorado; Hawaii; Ohio; Maryland; Massachusetts; Missouri; 
Montana; Nebraska; Wisconsin; Chicago, IL; Hempstead, NY; Los Angeles 
County, CA; or Dade County, FL--none of which are covered by section 
5's preclearance requirement.
  The people of Alabama understand that these changes in our State are 
good, and they do not want to do anything that would suggest that there 
is any interest in moving away from the great right to vote. We want to 
reauthorize the Voting Rights Act. How we reauthorize the act is 
something that is worthy of discussion, however. The witnesses we have 
heard in the Judiciary Committee over the past couple of months have 
had many different ideas, and after hearing from them, I am concerned 
that we should have listened more carefully to some of their 
recommendations.
  My concerns stem, in part, from the extraordinary nature of some of 
the temporary provisions of the Voting Rights Act particularly the 
``preclearance'' requirement of section 5. Section 5 requires Alabama 
and other covered jurisdictions to ``preclear'' any change in ``any 
voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, 
or procedure with respect to voting.'' The preclearance requirement 
applies to ``[a]ny change affecting voting, even though it appears to 
be minor or indirect.'' As a representative of the Department of 
Justice testified in the House of Representatives, ``There is no de 
minimis exception'' to the preclearance requirement.
  In 1966, the Supreme Court in South Carolina v. Katzenbach upheld 
section 5's preclearance requirement ``as a
necessary and constitutional response to some States' `extraordinary 
stratagem[s] of contriving new rules of various kinds for the sole 
purpose of perpetuating voting discrimination in the face of adverse 
federal court decrees.' '' The Court ``acknowledged that suspension of 
new voting regulations pending preclearance was an extraordinary 
departure from the traditional course of relations between the States 
and the Federal Government,'' but ``held it constitutional as a 
permitted congressional response to the unremitting attempts by some 
state and local officials to frustrate their citizens' equal enjoyment 
of the right to vote.'' In other words, the preclearance requirement 
was an extraordinary response to an extraordinary problem--unrelenting 
efforts by some State and local officials to contrive new rules for 
voting and elections after each defeat in Federal court.
  During the reauthorization process, we have been presented relatively 
little present-day evidence of continued ``unremitting attempts by some 
state and local officials to frustrate their citizens' equal enjoyment 
of the right to vote'' as was the case in 1965--especially the kind of 
change-the-rules-after-losing tactics that prompted the section 5 
preclearance requirement. According to Richard L. Hasen, William H. 
Hannon Distinguished Professor of Law at Loyola Law School in Los 
Angeles: ``In the most recent 1998 to 2002 period, DOJ objected to a 
meager 0.05 percent of preclearance requests. Updating these data, DOJ 
interposed just two objections nationwide overall in 2004, and one 
objection in 2005.'' These data suggest relatively isolated attempts to 
interfere with voting rights not widespread, ``extraordinary 
stratagem[s]'' to perpetuate discrimination in voting.
  To be sure, there have been examples of misconduct, such as the 
cancellation of the June 5, 2001, city council and mayoral elections in 
the town of Kilmichael, MS, and I do not want to minimize those 
violations in any way. Such misconduct did not appear to be common or 
widespread, however, and it could have been remedied through ordinary 
litigation under section 2 of the act and 42 U.S.C. Sec.  1983. In 
fact, a disturbing aspect of the Kilmichael incident is that the 
attorney general's objection to the cancellation of the election came 
on December 11, 2001 over 7 months after the election had been 
canceled. This was no doubt due in part to the town's failure to submit 
the change in a timely fashion, but it nonetheless appears that 
minority voters would have received justice more quickly through a 
lawsuit in Federal court, accompanied by a request for a preliminary 
injunction and/or a temporary restraining order.

  In light of the dearth of present-day preclearance objections or 
evidence of violations that, due to their nature or number, cannot be 
remedied through litigation, I am concerned that reauthorizing section 
5's preclearance requirement for 25 years as proposed in

[[Page S7987]]

H.R. 9 will not pass constitutional muster in the litigation that is 
certain to follow its enactment. In City of Boerne v. Flores, the 
Supreme Court held that when Congress enacts legislation to enforce 
constitutional guarantees, ``[t]here must be a congruence and 
proportionality between the injury to be prevented or remedied and the 
means adopted to that end.'' The Court cited the Voting Rights Act of 
1965 as an example of appropriate congressional enforcement legislation 
that it had upheld. The Court observed, however, that ``[s]trong 
measures appropriate to address one harm may be an unwarranted response 
to another, lesser one.''
  I am worried because, in extending section 5's preclearance 
requirement for another 25 years, H.R. 9 does little to acknowledge the 
tremendous progress made over the past 40 years in Alabama and other 
covered jurisdictions. Today is not 1965, and the situation with 
respect to voting rights in Alabama and other covered jurisdictions is 
dramatically different from 1965. I would have expected Congress to 
recognize this tremendous progress in covered jurisdictions by 
modernizing section 5 to reflect present-day progress and remaining 
problems.
  For example, Congress ought to update the coverage trigger in section 
4(b) of the act. It is simply illogical--in 2006--to base coverage 
solely on registration and voter turnout data from the Presidential 
elections in 1964, 1968, 1972. What about the Presidential elections of 
1996, 2000, and 2004? What about the 14 noncovered jurisdictions that 
Federal courts have found guilty of constitutional or section 2 
violations in recent years? Those years and those jurisdictions could 
easily be added to the coverage formula in section 4(b), but H.R. 9 
does not update the coverage formula to include them. Given the dearth 
of preclearance objections, it seems that some minor or de minimis 
voting changes ought to be removed from the preclearance requirement, 
as well.
  Congress also needs to make changes to improve the ``bailout'' 
process in section 4(a) of the act. According to the Department of 
Justice, out of 914 covered States and political subdivisions, only 11 
covered jurisdictions, all in Virginia, have bailed out from coverage, 
and thus preclearance, under section 4(a). It is obvious that bailout 
is not working properly, but H.R. 9 does not correct that problem. For 
example, even if a town in Alabama has a perfect record on voting 
rights and meets every one of the requirements for bailout, it cannot 
seek bailout because section 4(a) only allows a ``political 
subdivision'' to bail out, and section 14(c)(2) defines ``political 
subdivision'' to mean ``any county or parish'' but not any city or 
town. That should be changed, but this bill does not address it. I also 
think we should have given serious consideration to Professor Hasen's 
``proactive bailout'' proposal to improve the bailout process.
  I am also concerned that the Supreme Court will think that a 25-year 
reauthorization is simply too long to pass constitutional muster. In 
1965, Congress only authorized the temporary provisions of the Voting 
Rights Act for 5 years. They have now been in effect for 41 years. I am 
worried that the Supreme Court will conclude that it is not ``congruent 
and proportional'' to require some States to preclear every single 
voting change, no matter how minor or insignificant, until the year 
2031 based on data regarding voter turnout and registration from 1964--
67 years earlier.
  Finally, I am concerned about H.R. 9's language adding new 
subsections (b), (c), and (d) to section 5 of the Voting Rights Act to 
alter the Supreme Court's decisions in Georgia v. Ashcroft and Reno v. 
Bossier Parish School Board, Bossier Parish II. In its decision in 
Bossier Parish II, in particular, the Court warned that the 
interpretation of section 5 rejected in that case ``would also 
exacerbate the `substantial' federalism costs that the preclearance 
procedure already exacts perhaps to the extent of raising concerns 
about Sec. 5's constitutionality.'' Altering these decisions adds to 
the risks taken in failing to modernize and modify the provisions of 
the Voting Rights Act to address the voting rights problems of the 21st 
century. It is particularly important therefore, that these new 
provisions be strictly interpreted.
  The ``ability . . . to elect their preferred candidates of choice'' 
language in new subsections 5(b) and 5(d) prevents the elimination of 
what the Supreme Court called ``majority-minority districts'' in 
Georgia v. Ashcroft, in exchange for the creation of what it called 
``influence districts.'' Neither the language of new subsections 5(b) 
and 5(d) nor the ``any discriminatory purpose'' language of new 
subsection 5(c) requires the creation of or locks into place 
``influence'' or ``coalitional'' districts, however. The concept of 
``influence'' or ``coalitional'' districts is far too amorphous to 
impose as a requirement of Federal law. Imposing such new restrictions 
on the redistricting process would prove both unworkable and 
unconstitutional.
  I agree with the comments made earlier this afternoon by Senator 
McConnell, Senator Hatch, Senator Kyl, and Senator Cornyn. We must 
remember that we are reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act not creating a 
``gerrymandering rights act.'' The bipartisan support for this bill 
indicates that both Republicans and Democrats do not expect or intend 
it to be interpreted to advantage one party or the other.
  Although the Voting Rights Act is now 40 years old, many of my 
constituents have vivid recollections of discrimination at the ballot 
box, and they have strong memories of the civil rights movement that 
led to the most historic changes that were encapsulated in the Voting 
Rights Act. These are wonderful people. They love America and are proud 
of the changes in Alabama and our Nation. They have a strong attachment 
to the Voting Rights Act. All Alabamians want to see the progress 
continue. In light of the wrongs that have occurred in the past and out 
of respect for those who placed their very lives at risk for change, I 
will vote in favor of H.R. 9.
  Mr. BURR. Mr. President, I rise today in support of reauthorizing the 
Voting Rights Act.
  The democratic process of citizens electing those who will govern 
them is a cornerstone of America. It is this design which has 
contributed greatly to making our Nation stable, resilient, and a 
leader in the world. Every citizen over the age of 18 who can legally 
vote has a constitutional right to do so.
  The 15th amendment of the Constitution states, ``The right of 
citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged 
by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or 
previous condition of servitude.''
  To enforce the 15th amendment, President Lyndon Johnson signed the 
Voting Rights Act into law on August 6, 1965. This legislation 
prevented States from suppressing or denying African Americans and 
others the opportunity to participate in the electoral process, and it 
continues to do so today.
  Most of the Voting Rights Act is permanent law. However, certain 
sections of the law are set to expire in 2007 if not reauthorized by 
this Congress. These sections, including requirements for Federal 
review of State and local election laws, the placement of Federal 
election observers, and voting assistance programs for bilingual 
American citizens, were established so that Congress could periodically 
reevaluate and amend them if needed.
  I stand here today representing a State, portions of which have been 
classified by this act as having a troubled past, and I support 
reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act.
  North Carolina is proud of the progress it has made over the last 
several decades. North Carolinians continue to learn from history and 
will continue to strive to serve as a model for the rest of the Nation 
in equality and fairness.
  I must emphasize that regardless of the outcome of this 
reauthorization vote, which I will support and I am confident will pass 
this Chamber unanimously, no citizen will lose the right to vote in 
2007 as a result of any expiring provisions. As Members of Congress, we 
have the responsibility to preserve the constitutional rights of all 
individuals but also to make sure that the law of the land is evenly 
and fairly applied and enforced.
  Voting rights for African Americans or any other citizen group are 
granted by the 15th amendment. Voting rights for all American citizens 
are permanent.
  We must ensure public confidence in our electoral system.

[[Page S7988]]

  As I have said on the floor of the Senate before, ``as our country 
plants the seeds of democracy across the world, we have the essential 
obligation to continue to operate as the model.''
  I urge my colleagues to support this reauthorization.
  Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, I rise today in strong support of the 
reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act. Let me first commend everyone 
who has been involved with getting this bill to where it is today, 
including the chairman of the Judiciary Committee here in the Senate, 
Chairman Specter. Chairman Specter has attempted to ensure that 
everyone involved in this process received the opportunity to explore 
the issues about which they had further questions, while still moving 
the bill through expeditiously. Thanks to all these efforts, we will 
see final passage of the Voting Rights Act reauthorization today, 
nearly a year ahead of the expiration of any of the temporary 
provisions.
  I have long been a supporter of the Voting Rights Act. I had the 
opportunity to work with Senators Dole and Kennedy and others in 1982 
to continue the VRA's vital protections, to ensure that all Americans 
truly have the right to vote.
  As I explained during the reauthorization of the VRA in 1982, the 
right to vote is fundamental. Only through voting can we guarantee 
preservation of all our other rights. The right to vote is the very 
cornerstone of democracy and merits the highest protection of law.
  People of all races have been guaranteed the right to vote since 
passage of the 15th amendment in 1870. For far too long, though, this 
was a right only in theory. Many minorities were discriminated against 
in the days before the Voting Rights Act was introduced. Since this Act 
was passed, we have seen the voting proportions of these populations 
increase dramatically. The Voting Rights Act has had very significant 
success in fighting racial discrimination, probably more than anything 
else that Congress has done since the adoption of the Civil War 
amendments.
  Next year, important provisions of the Voting Rights Act will expire. 
The right of every American to have a voice and vote is the essence of 
America's strength and greatness. As was the case in 1982, conditions 
have improved since the original Voting Rights Act was passed. It is 
our duty as the ultimate custodians of the public trust, however, to 
ensure that we never return to a world in which some of our citizens do 
not truly have the right to vote.
  For this reason, I stand with Chairman Specter as an original 
cosponsor of the Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King 
Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2006. Many 
people, including the bill's authors, members of the Judiciary 
Committees in both Houses, and thousands of civil rights activists, 
have worked incredibly hard to see this reauthorization become a 
reality.
  I will repeat what I said on this floor 15 years ago: It is our duty 
to guarantee that all citizens have the same opportunity to participate 
in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice. 
All of us here today recognize that it is our duty, as elected 
representatives of the people, as guardians of democracy, to protect 
the right to vote. I remain confident, as I was in 1982, that the 
Voting Rights Act is a key tool--perhaps the key tool--in eradicating 
any remaining vestiges of racial discrimination.
  I support reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act and encourage my 
colleagues to do the same. As it was in 1965 and in 1982 and for all 
the other extensions along the way, this vote today is among the most 
important civil rights votes on the floor of this body. We have the 
opportunity today to show that we are, indeed, one Nation, under God, 
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Please join me in voting 
aye.
  Mr. DOMENICI. Mr. President, it is without hesitation that I support 
the Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King Voting Rights 
Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2006, which ensures that the 
right of all citizens to vote, including the right to register to vote 
and cast meaningful votes, is preserved and protected as guaranteed by 
the Constitution.
  Reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 may be a foregone 
conclusion; however, I believe that today's debate and vote are of 
great consequence because we are protecting each citizen's right to 
vote and preserving the integrity of our Nation's voting process. 
Passage of this measure is not merely symbolic; it is an essential 
reaffirmation that we the people are securing the blessings of liberty 
to ourselves and our posterity. I firmly believe that the right of 
citizens of the United States to vote should not be denied or abridged 
by the United States or any State on account of race.
  The right to cast a vote is fundamental in our system of government, 
and the importance of each person's voting rights is reflected by the 
fact that they are protected by the 14th, 15th, 19th, 24th, and 26th 
amendments to the Constitution. President Ronald Reagan described the 
right to vote as the crown jewel of American liberties. Like President 
Reagan, I also believe that the right to vote is a great privilege 
worth protecting.
  The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was initially passed in response to 
post-Civil War Reconstruction efforts to disenfranchise Black voters. 
The voting Rights Act of 1965 was amended in 1970, 1975, 1982, and 
1992. It remains one of the most significant pieces of civil rights 
legislation in American history. This legislation amends and 
reauthorizes the Voting Rights Act for an additional 25 years, several 
provisions of which will expire on August 6, 2007, unless Congress acts 
to renew them. Reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act will ensure 
many privileges including bilingual election assistance for certain 
language minority citizens in certain States and subdivisions.
  I cast my vote to ensure that no law abridges the privileges or 
immunities of any citizen of the United States or denies any citizen 
equal protection of the laws.
  Mr. TALENT. Mr. President, I am pleased to speak in support of the 
Voting Rights reauthorization legislation, of which I am a cosponsor. 
Congress enacted the Voting Rights Act in 1965 to protect the voting 
rights of all Americans, and I am pleased that the Congress is 
reauthorizing this important legislation.
  The right to vote is the foundation of our democracy and a 
fundamental right to our citizenry. Before the Voting Rights Act was 
passed, however, a great percentage of American citizens were denied 
that right. The Voting Rights Act rectified that wrong by prohibiting 
the enactment of any election law that would deny or abridge voting 
rights based on race or color and provided the right to challenge 
discriminatory voting practices and procedures.
  This legislation has been extended and amended four times since its 
passage and has resulted in a tremendous growth in the ability of 
minority citizens to fully participate in the American political 
system, both as voters and candidates. At the time the act was first 
adopted, only one-third of all African Americans of voting age were on 
the registration rolls in the specially covered States compared with 
two-thirds of White voters. Now African Americans' voter registration 
rates are approaching parity with that of Whites in many areas, and 
Hispanic voters in jurisdictions added to the list of those specially 
covered by the act in 1975 are not far behind. Enforcement of the act 
has also increased the opportunity of African Americans and Latino 
voters to elect representatives of their choice. Virtually excluded 
from all public offices in the South in 1965, African Americans and 
Hispanic voters are now substantially represented in the State 
legislatures and local governing bodies throughout the region.
  Mr. President, this is a piece of legislation that literally changed 
the landscape of the American political system, and I am extremely 
pleased to cast a vote in favor of its extension.
  Mr. BUNNING. Mr. President, I rise today to express my support for 
the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. I support this 
law and recognize its valuable contributions to our society.
  Since its inception in 1965, the Voting Rights Act has successfully 
helped protect the right to vote for millions of U.S. citizens. This 
right, as outlined in the 14th and 15th amendments to the Constitution, 
is fundamental to our

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Country's foundation. It is the lifeblood of our democracy. The very 
legitimacy of our government is dependent on the access all Americans 
have to the electoral process.
  We must ensure that when citizens choose to go to the polls that they 
do not face obstacles created to disenfranchise them. Every U.S. 
citizen, regardless of race or gender, should have opportunity to cast 
their vote without fear of discrimination.
  This has not always been the case. Our Nation's history can provide 
examples where the person's right to vote has been impeded whether it 
be through literacy tests or poll taxes. This is unacceptable and is a 
powerful reminder of the hardships this Nation has experienced. The 
Voting Rights Act has provided protection to minority communities that 
may fall victim to some of those impediments, or even worse, to threats 
or intimidation during the electoral process.
  I believe the Voting Rights Act was a good idea and necessary in 
1965. I also believe we have come a long way since 1965 and would like 
to recognize the many changes and progress made all across the Country. 
I firmly believe this progress will only continue to grow.
  I come from a State that is committed to civil rights, and I believe 
that our Forefathers said it best that we are one Nation, undivided, 
with liberty and justice for all. I look forward to seeing this 
commitment to justice renewed today as we reauthorize the Voting Rights 
Act of 1965.
  Mr. President, I am confident that the Voting Rights Act will be 
reauthorized today and urge my colleagues to support this important 
piece of legislation.
  Mr. DeWINE. Mr. President, I am proud to be an original cosponsor of 
this very important piece of legislation, the Voting Rights 
Reauthorization Act of 2006.
  As we all know, Congress first passed the Voting Rights Act back in 
1965, when many jurisdictions had numerous laws and regulations aimed 
at denying the right to vote to many of our citizens--in direct 
violation of the 15th amendment to the Constitution. The Voting Rights 
Act made it clear that our society would no longer tolerate such 
abuses. It also made clear that all citizens should have the 
opportunity to exercise this critical right freely and easily, without 
harassment, intimidation, or other barriers to voting. Its passage was 
one of the proudest moments of the civil rights movement.
  The Voting Rights Act has been an extraordinary success, and we can 
see its results in towns, counties, and States across the country, as 
well as in the House of Representatives and in the U.S. Senate. 
Minority voters have had their voices heard and their votes counted, 
and have helped elect a wide range of officials who reflect the 
diversity of our great Nation. Unfortunately, despite the great 
advances we have made as a country, we still have more work to do. Both 
the House and the Senate have investigated this issue thoroughly, and 
after numerous hearings and thousands of pages of evidence being 
accepted into the record, it is clear that we need to reauthorize the 
expiring provisions of the act. More time and effort is needed to 
completely fulfill the promise of the Voting Rights Act and to assure 
every citizen that his or her 15th amendment rights are fully 
available, and this bill will allow us the time we need.
  The House of Representatives has already passed the Voting Rights 
Renewal Act, and I am glad we are going to move it forward today. We 
can then quickly put this critical legislation in front of the 
President, who supports the bill and is waiting to sign it into law. I 
am hopeful that at the end of this 25-year reauthorization, we will all 
be able to agree that no further legislative action is necessary--that 
we have accomplished the critical goal of assuring every American 
citizen the equal right to vote.
  Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, the 15th amendment of the United States 
Constitution provides ``[t]he right of citizens of the United States to 
vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any 
State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. 
The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by 
appropriate legislation.'' In 1965, with the passage of the Voting 
Rights Act, Congress finally began to enforce the Nation's promise 
embodied in the 15th amendment. The Voting Rights Act was designed to 
``foster our transformation to a society that is no longer fixated on 
race,'' to an ``all-inclusive community, where we would be able to 
forget about race and color and see people as people, as human beings, 
just as citizens.'' The mere mention of this act conjures up profound 
images of the civil rights movement, a fight by many courageous men and 
women for equality and justice.
  In 1965, Congress wisely decided to make the most significant 
sections of the bill permanent. The permanent provisions apply to all 
States equally. One section of the original act suspended all ``tests 
or devices'' that States used to disfranchise racial minorities. 
Section 2, which is also permanent, codifies the 15th amendment, 
confirming by statute that no political subdivision may deny or abridge 
voting rights on account of race or color and that all individuals have 
recourse to discriminatory election procedures in Federal court.
  That same Congress passed temporary remedial measures to address 
voting practices and districting in seven Southern States, where 
registration rates for Black voters averaged only 29.3 percent. Section 
5 was crafted to remedy the low voter registration and turnout among 
the minority communities caused by discriminatory registration 
practices and intimidation at the polls. Indeed, the Voting Rights Act 
has succeeded tremendously. Statistician Keith Gaddie reported that the 
registration and turnout rate of Black citizens is higher in covered 
jurisdictions than throughout the rest of the Nation. He additionally 
revealed that registration of Black citizens in Alabama during the 2004 
elections was 72.9 percent of the voting age population; in Georgia, 
64.2 percent; in Louisiana, 71.1 percent; in Mississippi, 76.1 percent; 
in South Carolina, 71.1 percent; and in Virginia, 57.4 percent of the 
voting age population. Voter turnout rates were equally improved. For 
example in 2004 Alabama had a 63.9 percent turnout rate of registered 
Black voters, Georgia had a 54.4 percent turnout rate, Louisiana had a 
62.1 percent turnout rate, Mississippi had a 66.8 percent turnout rate, 
South Carolina had a 59.5 percent turnout rate, and Virginia had a 49.6 
percent turnout rate.
  If we applied registration and turnout data from our most recent 
Presidential elections to the trigger formula for coverage, many 
covered States would no longer require coverage. This is important 
because the Supreme Court requires that any laws that we write must be 
``congruent and proportional'' to the problems we seek to remedy. While 
these provisions were necessary because State practices and the 
prejudices of individuals kept eligible citizens from being able to 
cast a ballot free from the threat of intimidation or harassment, it is 
important that we ensure that the correct jurisdictions are covered in 
order to preserve the constitutionality of the act.
  We held nine hearings, and many individuals from diverse backgrounds 
and different races have both praised and criticized the temporary 
provisions of the VRA set to expire 1 year from now. At each hearing, 
multiple witnesses suggested ways to amend and improve this Act. Yet I 
was the only Senator on the committee prepared to offer substantive 
amendments to improve the act so that it addresses the problems it 
seeks to remedy today.
  I was prepared to offer three amendments. The first would define the 
term ``limited English proficient,'' the second would reauthorize the 
amended provisions for 7 years instead of 25 years, and the third would 
require a photo identification in all Federal elections. Yet I only 
offered one amendment in committee yesterday because it was clearly 
communicated that we should pass the exact bill that the House passed 
regardless of the merits of certain amendments. In fact, even though 
the committee did pass a nonsubstantive amendment to amend the title of 
the bill, Senate leadership brought the House bill H.R. 9 to the floor 
without the title change accepted in committee. Political expediency 
clearly trumped the will of individual Senators.

  There are other amendments that should have received consideration. 
During hearings, some Senators discussed possible amendments that they

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appeared to support with witnesses. Yet I believe that political fear 
and perceived intimidation prevented them from offering any amendments. 
For example, there was discussion based on the testimony of numerous 
witnesses that someone should offer an amendment to create more 
reasonable bailout procedure. States and counties wishing to bail out 
are only permitted to make their case here in Washington rather than at 
a Federal court closer to their home. Another amendment that received 
some support among witnesses would have included more recent data to 
determine coverage of areas with a recent history of discrimination 
rather than relying on data only from the 1964, 1968, and 1972 
elections.
  Even if no amendments offered were accepted, this bill is 
dramatically different from reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act as 
renewed in 1982. This bill rewrites the Voting Rights Act, section 5 to 
include in section (b) that ``[t]he purpose of [section 5] is to 
protect the ability of such citizens to elect their preferred 
candidates of choice.'' Such language has never before been inserted 
into section 5 preclearance requirements where there is no judicial 
review of determinations made by Department of Justice, DOJ employees. 
Additionally, section 5(c) of the bill rewrites the Voting Rights Act 
to require that DOJ refuse to preclear a plan that employs ``any 
discriminatory purpose.'' These are very serious changes that were 
never debated and that witnesses suggested we amend. Those suggestions 
were never even discussed or considered. I am at a loss as to why we 
are inserting new standards for 25 years without knowing the potential 
consequences and clarifying congressional intent in the language of the 
act.
  Some Senators have said that we have carefully considered this bill 
and the effects it will have on our Nation based on the number of 
hearings we had. Yet Member attendance at these hearings was incredibly 
low. At the first two hearings on section 5, only one Senator attended. 
At the third, five Senators attended. Five Senators did not attend any 
of the committee's hearings. Five Senators attended only portions of 
one hearing. This is not meant as criticism because I only attended 
part of two hearings.
  My point is that it is unfortunate that we insisted on doing this on 
an expedited basis when the act does not expire for a year. The 
committee conducted eight hearings in 9 workweeks--and during times 
when it was clear most Senators would be absent. We held four hearings 
during the immigration debate on the floor and held two hearings during 
rollcall votes on the floor. Because of the political nature of this 
bill and the fear of being improperly classified as ``racist,'' the 
bill was crafted and virtually passed before any Senator properly 
understood any of the major changes. For example, the bill that passed 
out of committee included a finding section before any hearings were 
held. No changes to those findings were made.
  Furthermore, it was nearly impossible to prepare for the hearings. 
Our rules require that witnesses submit their testimony 24 hours prior 
to the hearing so Senators can formulate thoughtful questions. Over 
half of the witnesses--21 out of 41--flouted the committee's rules by 
turning in their testimony less than 24 hours before the hearing. 
Indeed, one witness submitted his testimony at 12:03 a.m. the morning 
of a hearing scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Another witness submitted her 
testimony at 10:21 p.m. the night before a 9:30 a.m. hearing. Other 
witnesses submitted their testimony literally hours before the hearing. 
Clearly, the only way Senators could ask thoughtful questions of these 
witnesses was through written questions. And many tried to do so. But 
that process has been unsuccessful. We voted the bill out of committee 
for discussion on the floor before 107 written questions to 10 
witnesses were answered and returned. We did not even have the 
opportunity to submit questions to the witnesses on the panel of the 
final hearing.
  We had plenty of time to do this right--to fully consider the 
testimony and answers submitted by witnesses--and still vote to extend 
the temporary provisions before they expire in the summer of next year. 
We still have time to do this right. Congress has until the summer of 
2007 to consider this bill, and yet we are moving ahead without 
receiving all answers to questions and fully considering the testimony 
of our witnesses. As a result, none of us can realistically say that we 
know the full implications of what we are voting on today. And the 
consequences of our rush, forced by politics, may have unintended 
consequences for our Nation.
  Nonetheless, I am voting for the Voting Rights Act because of its 
unparalleled success in the past at securing the opportunity to vote. I 
urge my colleagues not to forget that we all share the fundamental 
American belief that our society should be color-blind and that 
everyone should be treated equally. There should be no political 
advantage or disadvantage because of the color of a person's skin and 
we should be able to put aside politics to protect and openly discuss 
those values. Most Americans would like to move away from considering 
race when drawing congressional districts. In fact, a Washington Post/
Kaiser poll found that 70 percent of Blacks, 83 percent of Hispanics, 
and 90 percent of Whites said race should not figure into map-drawing.
  While America has a long history of negative race relations, we must 
strive for the dream taught by Martin Luther King--that one day society 
will judge people based on the content of their character and not the 
color of their skin. For this, as Justice O'Connor stated in 1993, is 
the goal toward which our Nation continues to aspire.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Oregon.
  Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President, often when the Senate passes something 
unanimously, it means that the matter is not so important. That is not 
the case today. The Voting Rights Act is about as important as it gets. 
Senators of both political parties deserve great credit for bringing 
this vitally needed legislation to the floor of the Senate today. I 
have come to salute those inside and outside the Senate for their work 
to bring this extraordinarily important issue before the country and 
before the Senate and to make an appeal to Senators and those outside 
the Chamber to work for more.
  In the past three successive elections--2000, 2002, and 2004--there 
were scores of accusations of voter intimidation, rigged voting 
machines, conflicts of interest among elected officials, and other 
serious electoral abuses. Many newspaper articles, State and Federal 
governmental investigations, private studies and scores of lawsuits 
have described in considerable detail the toll that election abuses now 
take on our democracy. As much as it is an accomplishment that the 
Senate will be voting to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act today, that 
law cannot cure many of the problems that we have seen in the last 
three election cycles. But there is a proven system that can reduce 
many of these abuses, and I hope in the days ahead the U.S. Congress 
will take steps to promote it. It is known as vote by mail.
  My State of Oregon adopted this election system back in 1998, with 
nearly 70 percent support of our State's voters. It has been a 
resounding success any way one looks at it, and it has not been seen in 
any way as a kind of partisan tool that advantages one particular party 
or one particular philosophy.
  What I want to do this afternoon is describe briefly how Oregon's 
vote by mail system works and then talk about why the Senate ought to 
be taking steps to promote it nationally as a way to deal with some of 
these problems that have swept across our land over the last three 
election cycles.
  In Oregon the system works in this way. At least 2 weeks before 
election day, election officials mail ballots to all registered voters. 
The voters mark their ballots, seal and sign those ballots, and return 
them by mail or by placing them in a secure drop box. Election 
officials count the votes using optical scanning machines that confirm 
the signature on the return envelope matches the signature of the voter 
on file. Each county also provides optional onsite voting booths for 
individuals who need special accommodations or prefer to vote onsite.
  The bottom line is that vote by mail can address many of the problems 
that plague this country's elections. For example, with vote by mail, 
there is no waiting in line in the polls for hours. All through our 
country over the last election we heard complaints about

[[Page S7991]]

people having to wait in line, often for hours and hours on end. It 
doesn't happen with vote by mail. Each voter receives a ballot in the 
mail. They can complete it at home, at work, or wherever is convenient 
for them. And you don't have the problem of people waiting in line for 
hours and hours to exercise their franchise.
  With vote by mail, no one would get the run-around about which 
polling place they are supposed to vote at. The ballots are mailed to 
the citizen's home. If, for some reason, a voter's ballot does not 
arrive 2 weeks before the election as it is supposed to, the voter has 
enough time to correct the problem, get their ballot, and then cast it. 
Americans who face the toughest time getting to the polls, such as 
citizens with disabilities and the elderly, report that they vote more 
often using vote by mail. Women, younger voters, stay-at-home moms also 
report that they vote more often using vote by mail. Once again, it is 
an opportunity on a bipartisan basis to deal with a very serious 
problem that we have seen over the last few election cycles.
  Citizens wouldn't get the run-around at the polling place when they 
show up on election day to vote and are told: ``You really shouldn't be 
here; you ought to be there.'' ``We can't really tell you where you 
ought to be.'' ``We have all these people in line, and we will try to 
help you later.'' All of that is eliminated through vote by mail 
because folks get their ballot at their home.
  Third, with vote by mail there is less risk of voter intimidation. A 
2003 study of voters in my home State showed that the groups that would 
be most vulnerable to coercion now favor vote by mail. Over the last 
few elections, we saw again and again our citizens saying that they 
feared coercion. They were concerned about intimidation in the exercise 
of their franchise.
  We have documentary proof in our home State, a specific study that I 
have cited, that citizens who are most vulnerable to intimidation and 
coercion feel more comfortable voting by mail.
  Next, with vote by mail, malfunctioning voting equipment is a thing 
of the past. Everyone heard the stories in 2004 of citizens who said 
they voted for one candidate only to see the electronic voting machine 
indicate that the voter had cast a ballot for somebody else. 
Irregularities such as this cannot occur in vote by mail. Each voter 
marks the ballot, reviews it, and submits it, the ballot is counted, 
and it becomes a paper record--a paper record that is used in the event 
of a recount.
  I happen to believe that we must have a paper trail for every ballot 
that is cast in our country. It is wrong that there is at present no 
such paper trail. Every time I have a community meeting, people bring 
up: why can this not be done? It is just common sense. My home State 
has led the way to ensure that through our vote-by-mail system there is 
a paper trail.
  With vote by mail, the risk of fraud is minimized. When an Oregon 
county receives a voter's marked ballot, the ballot is then sent to 
elections workers trained in signature verification who compare the 
signature on each ballot against the person's signature on their voter 
registration card. This can be done quickly and easily because each 
voter's registration card has been electronically scanned into the 
system. No ballot is processed or counted until the county is satisfied 
that the signature on the ballot matches the voter's signature on file. 
If someone tries to commit fraud, they can be convicted of a Class C 
felony, spend up to five years in prison, and pay $100,000 in fines.
  Vote by mail can help make the problems of recent elections a thing 
of the past. In doing so, it will make our elections fairer and help 
reinstill a confidence in our democracy, which frankly, has been 
lacking.
  There are a number of other reasons why I think our country ought to 
be doing everything possible to encourage citizens to adopt vote by 
mail. This approach increases election participation. For example, vote 
by mail helps make voter turnout in Oregon considerably higher than the 
average national voter turnout. Oregon experienced a record turnout of 
more than 70 percent in the 2004 Presidential election, compared to 58 
percent nationally.
  Vote by mail, we find, gets more citizens involved in the issues 
because folks get their ballots weeks before the final day when their 
ballot is due, and they have the time to quiz candidates, examine 
issues that are important to them, and do it in a deliberate fashion 
that gives them more time.
  Next, vote by mail has produced huge savings at the local level for 
election costs. Vote by mail reduces those election costs by 
eliminating the need to transport equipment to polling stations and to 
hire and train poll workers. My home State has reduced its election-
related costs by 30 percent since implementing vote by mail. So we have 
the results. We have the results to show the rest of the country why we 
ought to be encouraging across the land vote by mail.
  In a survey taken 5 years after we implemented this system, more than 
8 out of 10 Oregon voters said they preferred voting by mail to 
traditional voting. I am confident that the rest of our country would 
embrace it the very same way.
  What this is all about, and why I have taken time to discuss our 
approach, is that I think it is very much in line with both the spirit 
and the text of the Voting Rights Act. America needs to make sure that 
no eligible voter, based on color, creed or any other reason, would be 
disenfranchised. What we are doing in the Senate today by reauthorizing 
the Voting Rights Act is the right thing. It is clearly a step in the 
right direction for these difficult times. But I do think much more can 
be done to improve the election process. I intend to press at every 
possible opportunity for a way to encourage an approach that has 
empowered people in my home State in a manner that has far exceeded the 
expectations of even the biggest boosters. It has been totally 
nonpartisan.
  In Oregon, we were amused in the beginning of our discussion about 
vote by mail. At the beginning of the discussion, it seemed that a fair 
number of Republicans were for vote by mail, but a number of Democrats 
were skeptical. Then, after I won the Senate special election in 1996--
and Senator Smith and I have laughed about this often over the years--
there was an about face, and it seemed then that Democrats liked vote 
by mail and Republicans were a little cautious. Our State's citizens 
said enough of all this nonsense and overwhelmingly voted, on a 
bipartisan basis, to say this is just plain good government, and this 
is the way we want to go.
  I think the Oregon story can be copied across the country, and I am 
going to do everything I can to encourage it. The Supreme Court 
declared in the Reynolds v. Sims case:

       [i]t has been repeatedly recognized that all qualified 
     voters have a constitutionally protected right to vote . . . 
     and to have their vote counted.

  Promoting vote by mail across our land will help make this 
constitutional right a reality. I encourage my colleagues to look and 
study the approach we have used in our State, an approach that will 
advance the spirit of the Voting Rights Act. Support the Voting Rights 
Act today and work with us to build on its incredible importance in the 
days ahead.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Massachusetts is recognized.
  Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that I be permitted 
to proceed for 10 minutes and, following me, Senator Boxer be permitted 
to proceed for 15 minutes, and following her, Senator Schumer for 5 
minutes.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection? Without objection, it is 
so ordered.
  Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Oregon for his 
discussion of an important way of having accountability in voting. I 
must say that I saw how that works out in Oregon. It works well. It 
works brilliantly, as a matter of fact. People have a lot of time to be 
able to vote. They don't have to struggle with work issues or being 
sick or other things. They have plenty of time to be able to have the 
kind of transparency and accountability that makes the system work. 
There are other States where you are allowed to start voting early--in 
New Mexico and elsewhere.
  It is amazing that in the United States we have this patchwork of the 
way our citizens work in Federal elections. It is different almost 
everywhere. I had the privilege of giving the

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graduation address this year at Kenyan College in Ohio, and there the 
kids at Kenyan College wound up being the last people to vote in 
America in the Presidential race in 2004 in Gambier, at 4:30 in the 
morning. We had to go to court to get permission for them to keep the 
polls open so they could vote at 4:30 in the morning.
  Why did it take until 4:30 in the morning for people to be able to 
vote? They didn't have enough voting machines in America. These people 
were lined up not just there but in all of Ohio and in other parts of 
the country. An honest appraisal requires one to point out that where 
there were Republican secretaries of state, the lines were invariably 
longer in Democratic precincts, sometimes with as many as one machine 
only in the Democratic precinct and several in the Republican precinct; 
so it would take 5 or 10 minutes for someone of the other party to be 
able to vote, and it would take literally hours for the people in the 
longer lines. If that is not a form of intimidation and suppression, I 
don't know what is.
  So I thank the Senator from Oregon for talking about the larger issue 
here. He is absolutely correct. The example of his State is one that 
the rest of the country ought to take serious and think seriously about 
embracing.
  This is part of a larger issue, obviously, Mr. President. All over 
the world, our country has always stood out as the great exporter of 
democratic values. In the years that I have been privileged to serve in 
the Senate, I have had some extraordinary opportunities to see that 
happen in a firsthand way.
  Back in 1986, I was part of a delegation that went to the 
Philippines. We took part in the peaceful revolution that took place at 
the ballot box when the dictator, President Marcos, was kicked out and 
``Cory'' Aquino became President. I will never forget flying in on a 
helicopter to the island of Mindanao and landing where some people have 
literally not seen a helicopter before, and 5,000 people would surround 
it as you swooped out of the sky, to go to a polling place where the 
entire community turned out waiting in the hot sun in long lines to 
have their thumbs stamped in ink and to walk out having exercised their 
right to vote.
  I could not help but think how much more energy and commitment people 
were showing for the privilege of voting in this far-off place than a 
lot of Americans show on too many occasions. The fact is that in South 
Africa we fought for years--we did--through the boycotts and other 
efforts, in order to break the back of apartheid and empower all 
citizens to vote. Most recently, obviously, in Afghanistan and Iraq, 
notwithstanding the disagreement of many of us about the management of 
the war and the evidence and other issues that we have all debated 
here. This has never been debated about the desire for democracy and 
the thrill that everyone in the Senate felt in watching citizens be 
able to exercise those rights.
  In the Ukraine, the world turned to the United States to monitor 
elections and ensure that the right to vote was protected. All of us 
have been proud of what President Carter has done in traveling the 
world to guarantee that fair elections take place. But the truth is, 
all of our attempts to spread freedom around the world will be hollow 
and lose impact over the years in the future if we don't deliver at 
home.
  The fact is that we are having this debate today in the Senate about 
the bedrock right to vote, with the understanding that this is not a 
right that was afforded to everyone in our country automatically or at 
the very beginning. For a long time, a century or more, women were not 
allowed to vote in America. We all know the record with respect to 
African Americans. The fact is that the right to vote in our country 
was earned in blood in many cases and in civic sweat in a whole bunch 
of cases. Courageous citizens literally risked their lives. I remember 
in the course of the campaign 2 years ago, traveling to Alabama--
Montgomery--and visiting the Southern Poverty Law Center, the memorial 
to Martin Luther King, and the fountain. There is a round stone 
fountain with water spilling out over the sides. From the center of the 
fountain there is a compass rose coming back and it marks the full 
circle. At the end of every one of those lines is the name of an 
American with the description, ``killed trying to register to vote,'' 
or ``murdered trying to register.'' Time after time, that entire 
compass rose is filled with people who lost their lives in order to 
exercise a fundamental right in our country.
  None of us will forget the courage of people who marched and faced 
Bull Connor's police dogs and faced the threat of lynchings, some being 
dragged out of their homes in the dark of night to be hung. The fact is 
that we are having this debate today because their work and that effort 
is not over yet. Too many Americans in too many parts of our country 
still face serious obstacles when they are trying to vote in our own 
country.
  By reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act, we are taking an important 
step, but, Mr. President, it is only a step. Nobody should pretend that 
reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act solves the problems of being able 
to vote in our own country. It doesn't. In recent elections, we have 
seen too many times how outcomes change when votes that have been cast 
are not counted or when voters themselves are prevented from voting or 
intimidated from even registering or when they register, as we found in 
a couple of States, their registration forms are put in the wastebasket 
instead of into the computers.
  This has to end. Every eligible voter in the United States ought to 
be able to cast his or her ballot without fear, without intimidation, 
and with the knowledge that their voice will be heard. These are the 
foundations of our democracy, and we have to pay more attention to it.
  For a lot of folks in the Congress, this is a very personal fight. 
Some of our colleagues in the House and Senate were here when this 
fight first took place or they took part in this fight out in the 
streets. Without the courage of someone such as Congressman John Lewis 
who almost lost his life marching across that bridge in Selma, whose 
actions are seared in our minds, who remembers what it was like to 
march to move a nation to a better place, who knows what it meant to 
put his life on the line for voting rights, this is personal.
  For somebody like my colleague, Senator Ted Kennedy, the senior 
Senator from Massachusetts, who was here in the great fight on this 
Senate floor in 1965 when they broke the back of resistance, this is 
personal.
  We wouldn't even have this landmark legislation today if it weren't 
for their efforts to try to make certain that it passed.
  But despite the great strides we have taken since this bill was 
originally enacted, we have a lot of work to do.
  Mr. President, I ask for an additional 5 minutes.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, on this particular component of the bill, 
there is agreement. Republicans and Democrats can agree. I was really 
pleased that every attempt in the House of Representatives to weaken 
the Voting Rights Act was rejected.
  We need to reauthorize these three critical components especially: 
The section 5 preclearance provisions that get the Justice Department 
to oversee an area that has a historical pattern of discrimination that 
they can't change how people vote without clearance. That seems 
reasonable.
  There are bilingual assistance requirements. Why? Because people need 
it and it makes sense. They are American citizens, but they still may 
have difficulties in understanding the ballot, and we ought to provide 
that assistance so they have a fully informed vote. This is supposed to 
be an informed democracy, a democracy based on the real consent of the 
American people.
  And finally, authorization for poll watching. Regrettably, we have 
seen in place after place in America why we need to have poll watching.
  A simple question could be asked: Where would the citizens of Georgia 
be, particularly low-income and minority citizens, if they were 
required to produce a government-issued identification or pay $20 every 
5 years in order to vote? That is what would have happened without 
section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Georgia would have successfully 
imposed what the judge in the case called ``a Jim Crow-era like poll 
tax.'' I don't think anybody here

[[Page S7993]]

wants to go back and flirt with the possibility of returning to a time 
when States charged people money to exercise their right to vote. That 
is not our America.
  This morning, President Bush addressed the 97th Annual Convention of 
the NAACP after a 5-year absence. I am pleased that the President, as 
we all are, ended his boycott of the NAACP and announced his intention 
to sign the Voting Rights Act into law.
  But we need to complete the job. There are too many stories all 
across this country of people who say they registered duly, they 
reported to vote, and they were made to stand in one line or another 
line and get an excuse why, when they get to the end of the line, they 
can't vote. So they take out a provisional ballot, and then there are 
fights over provisional ballots.
  There are ways for us to avoid that. Some States allow same-day 
registration. In some parts of America, you can just walk up the day of 
an election, register, and vote, as long as you can prove your 
residence.
  We have this incredible patchwork of laws and rules, and in the 
process, it is even more confusing for Americans. We need to fully fund 
the Help America Vote Act so that we have the machines in place, so 
that people are informed, so that there is no one in America who waits 
an undue amount of time in order to be able to cast a vote.
  We have to pass the Count Every Vote Act that Senator Clinton, 
Senator Boxer, and I have introduced which ensures exactly what the 
Senator from Oregon was talking about: that every voter in America has 
a verifiable paper trail for their vote. How can we have a system where 
you can touch a screen and even after you touch the name of one 
candidate on the screen, the other candidate's name comes up, and if 
you are not attentive to what you have done and you just go in, touch 
the screen, push ``select,'' you voted for someone else and didn't 
intend to? How can we have a system like that?
  How can we have a system where the voting machines are proprietary to 
a private business so that the public sector has no way of verifying 
what the computer code is and whether or not it is accountable and 
fair? Just accounting for it.
  Congress has to ensure that every vote cast in America is counted, 
that every precinct in America has a fair distribution of voting 
machines, that voter suppression and intimidation are un-American and 
must cease.
  We had examples in the last election of people who were sent 
notices--obviously fake, but they were sent them and they confused them 
enough. They were told that if you have an outstanding parking ticket, 
you can't vote. They were told: Democrats vote on Wednesday and 
Republicans vote on Tuesday and various different things.
  It is important for us to guarantee that in the United States of 
America, this right that was fought for so hard through so much of the 
difficult history of our country, we finally make real the full measure 
of that right.
  I yield the floor. I thank the Chair and I thank my colleague for her 
forbearance.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from California is recognized.
  Mrs. BOXER. Mr. President, before Senator Kerry leaves the floor, I 
want to thank him. The issues he raised absolutely have to be a part of 
this debate. I will address them after he leaves. The reason I stood up 
and objected to the Ohio count is because I knew firsthand from the 
people of Ohio who came and talked with me through Stephanie Tubbs 
Jones that they were waiting in lines for 6, 7 hours. That is not the 
right to vote. I think Senator Kerry's remarks and the remarks of the 
Senator from Oregon are very important.
  So let a message go out from this Senate floor today that we are not 
stopping our efforts to make sure people can vote with the very 
important passage of this very important legislation. I am very pleased 
to follow him in this debate.
  I rise to cast my vote in support of a very historic bill named after 
three amazing women whom I truly admire--Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, 
and Coretta Scott King. These three legendary women were part of the 
heart and soul of the civil rights movement in this country, and those 
women helped move the conscience of this Nation in the 1960s and, 
frankly, inspired me to serve in public service.
  In 1950, I was a little girl and I was in Florida with my mother. I 
went on a bus. It was a crowded time of day. A woman came on the bus. 
Her hands were filled with packages. To me she looked really old. I 
guess she was my age. I jumped up because I was taught to do that. I 
jumped up and I said: Please, please, take my seat. My mother kind of 
pulled at my sleeve, and the woman put her head down and she walked to 
the back of the bus.
  I was perplexed by this. I said to my mother: Why was she rude to me? 
Why didn't she say thank you and take the seat?
  My mother explained to me the laws in those days that sent African 
Americans to the back of the bus. I at 10 years old was astounded, 
shocked, angry. My mother said to me: Why don't we just stand up. And 
that is what we did. We walked to the back, and we stood.
  That was an America that is no more, but that is an America we cannot 
forget. That was an overt law to hurt people, to make America ``we and 
them.'' That is why the law we are passing today is so important--
because it says that we all recognize that even though that America is 
no more, we have more work to do.
  And then came the sixties. Of course, we know it was Rosa Parks who 
changed the world with that one act of defiance of hers, where she just 
went on that bus and she wasn't going to the back.
  When I met her, when President Clinton invited her to the White House 
and I went there, I stood in awe because it said to me how one person 
can make a difference in this, the greatest nation in the world. We get 
so frustrated sometimes; we feel we can't make a difference. Here is 
one woman saying, No, I won't do that; that's wrong; I'm one of God's 
children. And that act of defiance changed our country. I am so happy 
this bill is named after her and Fannie Lou Hamer who helped organize 
Freedom Summer in 1965 which helped lead to passage of this landmark 
bill we will vote on today. She had a very simple phrase that she used: 
``Nobody's free until everybody's free.'' ``Nobody's free until 
everybody's free.'' That reminds us of the work that we certainly have 
to do today.
  So Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King, who worked 
with her great husband during the civil rights movement in the sixties 
and carried on his work after his horrific assassination, working for 
justice, worked for equality not only in this country but around the 
world.
  In the late eighties, she worked tirelessly to help bring an end to 
apartheid in South Africa. I often quote Martin Luther King, almost in 
every speech I give, because he is one of my heroes. One of the lines 
he said, which isn't really one that gets quoted all the time, is that 
``Our lives begin to end when we stop talking about things that 
matter.'' ``Our lives begin to end when we stop talking about things 
that matter.'' That touched me and reached me.
  I think his words, of course, reached every American, regardless of 
political party. Don't stop talking about things that matter, even 
though it might be easier to do so, even though it might be easier when 
you are at a friend's house and somebody says something that is bigoted 
toward somebody else. It is sometimes easier for us to make believe we 
didn't hear it. No, that matters, you matter, your view matters, your 
values matter. Speak up.
  That is what we are doing, and I am proud to be in the Senate today 
because we are doing something good today. It is a privilege and an 
honor to vote for this reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act.
  I had a number of people visit me from my State yesterday--old and 
young, children, grandmothers, great grandmothers, granddads, lawyers, 
workers, doctors. They just jammed into my conference room and they 
said: Senator Boxer, we know you are with us. We know you have been on 
this bill. We know where you are. We have listened to you all these 
years. We wanted to come here and say thank you.

  I said: You don't need to thank me. What you need to do is join with 
me so that after this vote, we truly get equal voting rights in this 
country.

[[Page S7994]]

  That was touched on by Senator Kerry, and it was touched on by 
Senator Wyden. The right to vote--without it we are nothing. Without 
it, we are not standing up for the principles upon which this Nation 
was founded: a government of, by, and for the people.
  How do you have a government of, by, and for the people, if the 
people turn away from the voting booth? I hear every excuse in the 
world: Oh, you are all the same. What is the difference. I can't make a 
difference. It is just false. It is just an excuse.
  Show me two candidates running against each other at a local level, 
at a State level, at a Federal level, and I will show you the 
differences. If you pay attention, you will find out the differences, 
and you will cast your vote for the candidate that most represents you. 
You are not going to agree with them 100 percent of the time. That is 
another issue: Oh, I used to agree with him, but he did three things, 
and I don't agree with him anymore. Look at the totality. Look at the 
totality of the voting record. Look at the totality of the opposition 
and make a decision. Don't just walk away. Don't pull the covers over 
your head with excuses: They are all alike. I can't make a difference. 
What is one vote?
  We all know the election of John Kennedy was decided by a couple of 
votes per precinct. It could have been one vote per precinct. That is 
how close that election was.
  In the voting booth, we are all equal. In the voting booth, we are 
all equal. Your vote and my vote, whether you are 18 years old or you 
are my age and a Senator, we are all equal in the voting booth. We have 
one vote. We should cherish it. The CEO of a giant company who earns 
multimillions of dollars a year is equal to a minimum wage worker. And 
if that minimum wage worker thinks it is time he got a raise or she got 
a raise after almost 10 years of not getting a raise, he or she ought 
to vote, and vote for the candidate who supports your right to join the 
middle class.
  Every citizen of this country who is eligible to vote should be 
guaranteed that their vote is counted and that their vote matters. That 
is why it is so important that we maintain the protections of this 
historic Voting Rights Act, such as requiring certain localities with a 
history of discrimination to get approval from the Federal Government 
before they make changes to voting procedures. Why is this important? 
It is important because it is a check and balance on an area that has 
in the past not shown--not shown--the willingness to fight for every 
voter. And, requiring certain jurisdictions to provide language 
assistance to voters with limited English proficiency, and authorizing 
the Federal Government to send election monitors to jurisdictions where 
there is a history of attempts to intimidate minority voters at the 
polls, we just want to make sure these elections are fair, wherever 
they are held.
  The Federal Government must work hard to guarantee that the 
inequities we have seen in the past never resurface again. And won't 
that be the day, when we have a system that we believe we can be proud 
of again.
  I am proud to stand here today with an opportunity to cast a vote to 
reauthorize provisions of the Voting Rights Act. But today didn't come 
without struggle. Why did my people have to come all the way from 
California, spend their hard-earned dollars to get on a plane? I will 
tell you why: Because this was a hard bill to get before this body. 
People objected. People complained. It was a hard bill to get before 
the House. But many people worked hard, and House Members listened to 
the people, and Senators listened to the people.
  I want to thank my friends at the NAACP who were finally able to 
convince enough that, yes, this was something we had to do. We have to 
be honest. There were attempts to weaken this bill, but we succeeded in 
not allowing that to happen.
  In my closing moments, I want to say that our work does not stop 
today, as Senator Kerry said and as Senator Wyden said. For example, 
several of us have introduced the Count Every Vote Act, a comprehensive 
voting reform bill that will ensure that every American indeed can 
vote, and every vote is counted.
  Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones, who lived through a harrowing 
experience during the last election, with her constituents being given 
the runaround and standing in line for 6 and 7 hours. Is that the right 
to vote, standing in line for 6 and 7 hours, people who have to work, 
people who had health problems, people who couldn't stand up, people 
whose legs were weakening beneath them? Is that the right to vote? I 
say it is not the right to vote. I say it is harassment.
  Senators Clinton, Kerry, Lautenberg, Mikulski, and I have introduced 
the Count Every Vote Act, and I want to highlight the two key 
provisions that are in this bill. The first is the bill would require 
electronic voting machines provide a paper record which will allow 
voters to verify their votes, and it will serve as a record if a manual 
recount is needed. We go to a restaurant, we get a receipt. We go to 
the store, we get a receipt. We save it in case there is a problem. 
When we vote, we should get a receipt. We should look at it, we should 
check it, just as we add up the bill from the restaurant. We should 
give it back and then it is stored. In case there is a problem, we have 
a paper trail.
  The second provision: We say election day should be a Federal 
holiday. We all give speeches. We stand up and we stand behind the red, 
white, and blue. What a great, free country this is, and indeed it is. 
Why shouldn't we make election day a holiday so that we can celebrate 
on every election day our freedoms, our history, our rights, our 
protections as citizens to choose our own leaders?
  Let me say, we cannot even get to page 1 in terms of moving this bill 
forward. There is resistance to this bill. There are those in this body 
who don't want a paper trail. They don't want to make it easier to 
vote, and let's call it what it is. That resistance exists, and that is 
wrong. So I call on the leadership of this body: Let's do something 
more for people. Let's not have another situation where a Senator has 
to go over and protest a vote count because people said they had to 
stand in line for hours.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator's time has expired.
  Mrs. BOXER. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent for 1 additional 
minute.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mrs. BOXER. Then we have the people of Washington, DC. They are not 
represented with a vote. That is wrong. Over 500,000 people live in 
this great city, the heart and soul of our democracy. Eighty percent 
are voting age. They can't cast their ballots in national elections for 
congressional representatives. They don't have Senators or 
Representatives here. That is why I have joined Senator Joe Lieberman 
on his bill that calls for full voting rights for DC residents.
  So, again, I say what a privilege and honor it is for me to be here, 
to stand here, thinking back to my days as a child when African 
Americans had to go to the back of the bus in some parts of the South, 
feeling the pain of that myself for those who had to live in that way. 
So this bill is a fitting tribute to Rosa Parks and Fannie Lou Hamer 
and Coretta Scott King.
  I thank the Presiding Officer for his indulgence. This is a starting 
place for a lot of us, and we are going to make sure that, in fact, the 
right to vote is a reality for every single one of our citizens.
  Mr. President, I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from New York is recognized for 5 
minutes.
  Mr. SCHUMER. Mr. President, I salute my colleague on her wonderful 
and heart-felt words.
  Mr. President, this is a hallowed moment on the floor of this Senate. 
We don't have too many of these hallowed moments these days, but 
passing, working for, voting for the renewal of the Voting Rights Act 
is just one of those. I rise in proud and full-hearted support of H.R. 
9, which is a bicameral and bipartisan bill, thank God, to reauthorize 
the Voting Rights Act.
  The bottom line, Mr. President, is this: Without the right to vote in 
a democracy, people have no power. And while I do believe that race and 
racism have been a poison that has afflicted America for a long time, 
and there are many ways to solve that, probably the best is the full 
and unrequited power to vote. For so long, that power was denied to 
people of color: Blacks, Hispanics, and others. Now it is not being.

[[Page S7995]]

  I can tell by my own history, even here in the Congress, the progress 
we have made. When I got to the Congress in 1980, there were only 17 
African Americans in the House. Today, there are 42. That is very close 
to the percentage of African Americans in American society. That shows 
you the progress we have made. Without the Voting Rights Act, it 
clearly would not have happened.
  However, we sit in the Senate, and only last year did we again have 
an African American come to the Senate. There is only one. So while we 
see the progress in the House of Representatives, we also look in the 
Senate and see how much longer we have to go.
  I am glad that final passage is now imminent, as leaders from both 
parties are supporting this bill. Let me say this act has been hailed 
as the single most effective piece of civil rights legislation we have 
ever passed. The reason is it does not just simply guarantee the right 
to vote in name, but it ensures the effective exercise of that 
fundamental right.
  Today, when we see the Governor of Georgia and the legislators of 
Georgia impeding the right to vote, we know that we need a strong and 
full-throated Voting Rights Act. And, thank God, the attempts to dilute 
it--mainly, I am sorry to say--coming from the other body, did not 
succeed.
  Our Founding Fathers said it best when they penned these words in the 
Declaration of Independence: Government derives its just powers from 
the consent of the governed. Simply put, in our Nation there can be no 
consent without unfettered access to the voting booth. A renewed and 
reenergized Voting Rights Act is exactly the right formula to ensuring 
equality in the political process for all Americans.
  In 1965, when President Johnson signed the bill into law, there were 
only 300 minorities elected to State, local, or Federal office. North, 
South, East, and West, people of color were not represented. Today, 
four decades later, in large part because of this Voting Rights Act, 
10,000 minorities serve as elected officials.
  I have seen the Voting Rights Act have an effect on my city. New York 
is one of the most diverse cities in the country. And in our city, the 
Voting Rights Act has been extremely effective in ensuring that all our 
citizens are able to participate equally in the political process. 
However, many of the act's successes in New York--we think we are a 
modern country and, of course, a modern city--but they have only come 
since the last time we renewed its provisions. The first and only 
African-American mayor of New York wasn't elected until May of 1989. 
The first and only African American wasn't elected to statewide office 
until 1994. In 2002, the first and only Asian American was elected to 
the city council. Finally, just last year, a mayoral candidate became 
the first and only Latino to win his party's nomination.
  So while these strides are important, they are too few and too recent 
to declare that the promise of the Voting Rights Act has been realized. 
The bottom line is that the Voting Rights Act has worked to remove 
barriers from countless men and women from all backgrounds to 
participate in the political process, to run for office, to enter and 
thrive in the political process, but there is still a lot of work to 
do. We cannot and thankfully will not let the act expire.
  Mr. President, I look forward to casting my vote in favor of H.R. 9 
later today, and urge all of my colleagues to do so. I am hopeful that 
we can have a unanimous vote on the floor of this Senate.
  Mr. President, I yield the remainder of my time.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Coleman). The Senator from New Jersey is 
recognized.
  Mr. MENENDEZ. Mr. President, I rise as an original cosponsor and 
strong supporter of the Voting Rights Act reauthorization.
  One of the most fundamental of American values is the right to cast a 
meaningful vote in a free and fair election. As the Supreme Court 
stated in 1964, ``Other rights, even the most basic, are illusory if 
the right to vote is undermined.''
  However, just over 40 years ago, in many parts of the American South, 
it was almost impossible for people of color to even register to vote.
  People were turned away from the courthouse when they attempted to 
register, while others were jailed. We sometimes talk romantically 
about the Civil Rights era, as if it were 200 or even 100 years ago. 
But the flagrant injustices that we see captured in black and white 
video reels were during a time not too long ago.
  On March 7, 1965, about 600 people attempted to peacefully march from 
Selma, AL, to Montgomery, the State capital, to dramatize to the world 
their desire to register to vote. And the world watched in horror as 
these peaceful demonstrators, including my good friend and former 
colleague, Representative John Lewis, were beaten bloody. That day 
marked a sad, sad chapter in the history of our Nation.
  For some, the tragedy in Selma is simply a footnote in a speech or a 
timely anecdote during Black History Month. But we must not lose sight 
of what those brave Americans were fighting for. And we must never 
forget the price they--and others--paid for their successes: 
Americans--Black, White, young, old, northern and southern--shed blood 
and, in some cases, gave the ultimate sacrifice so all Americans could 
enjoy the basic right to vote.
  Five months after what is now known as ``Bloody Sunday,'' the Voting 
Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law. It granted all American 
citizens the right to vote in any Federal, State, or local election and 
in doing so ensured that they had access to the American political 
process and a voice in determining their future.
  The passage of the Voting Rights Act helped expand and open our 
democracy to let in millions of our citizens.
  The Voting Rights Act has empowered thousands of communities to elect 
candidates of their choice and has ensured that a full spectrum of 
voices is heard in our national dialogue.
  In stark contrast to the days prior to the Voting Rights Act, today 
it is the Voting Rights Act that ensures that the elections of people 
like Senators Barack Obama, Dan Inouye, Mel Martinez, Daniel Akaka, and 
Ken Salazar are no longer electoral anomalies, but reflections of the 
will of the communities and States they represent.
  Today, there are 81 Members of Congress of African American, 
Hispanic, Asian, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and Native American 
descent, and thousands of minorities in elected offices around the 
country.
  If it were not for the Voting Rights Act and its provisions, I very 
well may not be standing before you today.
  In the 21st century, at a time when we are working to bring democracy 
to both Iraq and Afghanistan, we must ensure that democracy is 
protected here at home in every circumstance. One citizen unfairly 
discouraged from voting is one too many. When people are denied the 
right to vote, they are denied a say in their Government, they are 
denied a say in the laws they are required to obey, and they are denied 
a say in the policies their tax dollars support.
  It has been said that those who fail to understand history are doomed 
to repeat it. That is why the annual walk that Congressman Lewis leads 
across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in commemoration of the anniversary of 
the voting rights march is so vitally important.
  I was fortunate to visit Selma with him and the Faith and Politics 
Institute. Nothing brings one closer to a sense of what those young men 
and women experienced--the hatred and bigotry--than standing on and 
walking across the Pettus Bridge with Representative Lewis and learning 
what happened that day over 41 years ago.
  As I listened to John Lewis and the other heroes of the movement, I 
was reminded how average citizens committed to an ideal can effect 
change. I was reminded through this pilgrimage that the journey is 
still not finished and that our goal must be social justice--not simply 
social service. I was also touched by those who suffered so much having 
so much love in their heart. It is a lesson still timely for us today 
and tomorrow.
  The need for the Voting Rights Act has not gone away. In my State of 
New Jersey, a consent decree was reached after violations of the Voting 
Rights Act by the Republican National Committee and the New Jersey 
Republican

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State Committee that deterred minorities from voting occurred during 
the 1981 gubernatorial election. This just illustrates voting rights 
violations can happen anywhere and at anytime, and are unfortunately a 
part of the historic fabric of our election process. Such violations 
were so widespread in the 2000 elections that Congress enacted the Help 
America Vote Act. If anything, need to strengthen and update the Voting 
Rights Act is demonstrated in new ways every year.
  The Voting Rights Act has been effective in eliminating barriers to 
the ballot box. Yet, several key provisions of the act regarding 
preclearance, observers, and language assistance are scheduled to 
expire in 2007. H.R. 9 will reauthorize these important and temporary 
provisions for an additional 25 years. Personally, I support making 
these provisions permanent.
  H.R. 9 is the product of a thoughtful, thorough, bipartisan, and 
bicameral effort that carefully weighed the competing concerns and 
considerations that have been a part of the Voting Rights Act debate 
since its original passage. As my colleagues well know, the act has 
been extended on four other occasions, very possibly making it the most 
carefully reviewed civil rights measure in our Nation's long history.
  This legislation we have before us today would renew the Voting 
Rights Act's temporary provisions for 25 years; restore the ability of 
the Attorney General, under section 5 of the act, to block 
implementation of voting changes motivated by a discriminatory purpose; 
clarify that section 5 is intended to protect the ability of minority 
citizens to elect their candidates of choice; and authorize recovery of 
expert witness fees in lawsuits brought to enforce the Voting Rights 
Act.
  The right to vote is so fundamental to our citizenship, so vital, 
that we as Members of Congress must make every effort to ensure that 
this right is a reality across the length and breadth of this great 
Nation. The Voting Rights Act ensures that all American citizens have 
access to both the ballot box and the American political process, and a 
voice in determining their future. That is why the Voting Rights Act 
remains so desperately needed and why Congress must reauthorize the 
special provisions that are set to expire.
  In addressing a joint session of Congress on the very legislation we 
are debating today, President Lyndon Baines Johnson said:

       In our time we have come to live with the moments of great 
     crisis. Our lives have been marked with debate about great 
     issues--issues of war and peace, issues of prosperity and 
     depression.
       But rarely in any time does an issue lay bare the secret 
     heart of America itself. Rarely are we met with a challenge, 
     not to our growth or abundance, or our welfare or our 
     security, but rather to the values, and the purposes, and the 
     meaning of our beloved nation.

  We must heed President Johnson's admonition and take inventory of our 
Nation's values, purposes and meaning. Some members of the House 
recently argued that the Voting Rights Act is somehow outdated, has 
outlived its intended usefulness, and that it unfairly punishes those 
covered jurisdictions for past actions and sins. I have nothing but 
respect and esteem for that body, and look fondly upon my years of 
service in that Chamber; but, I wholeheartedly disagree with some of my 
former colleagues.
  In enacting the original Voting Rights Act and its four 
reauthorizations, past Congresses have declared to the world that 
America stands for freedom and democracy. But our rhetoric of equality 
and freedom must be ratified by an authentic pursuit of true freedom, 
true equality, and true democratic ideals. If we are to be a beacon of 
democracy and freedom to Baghdad, Beirut and Beijing--then we must 
first be a beacon of freedom and democracy to Bloomfield, Buffalo, and 
Birmingham.
  Over 40 years ago, Senators stood on the floor of this Chamber to 
right a monumental wrong inflicted upon millions of Americans. Inspired 
by the quiet strength and principled courage of John Lewis and others 
like him, this body acted out of courage, conviction, and conscience.
  I don't know what senators will say 40 years from now. But, if 
nothing else, it is my prayer that they will say this Senate kept faith 
with the highest ideals and promises of this great Nation. And that 
Senators from all corners of America, and of all political stripes, 
stood up in defense of democracy and freedom here at home.
  I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to strongly support 
this legislation and in doing so protect the voting rights of all 
Americans.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Florida.
  Mr. NELSON of Florida. Mr. President, in the years before the Voting 
Rights Act was signed into law by President Johnson, discrimination and 
brutal force were used to deny African Americans the right to vote as 
guaranteed by the 15th amendment.
  There are stories of local election officials requiring Black 
residents to pass arbitrary tests, like correctly guessing the number 
of bubbles that a bar of soap would produce, before being allowed to 
register to vote. And, of course, there were the more insidious forms 
of intimidation, which is a very sad chapter in the history of this 
country, with African Americans being lynched and murdered for 
attempting to vote or registering others to vote.
  In the 41 years since the enactment of the Voting Rights Act, America 
has inched closer to its promise of an inclusive society, where 
everyone, regardless of race, regardless of religion, regardless of 
economic class or regardless of gender, has an equal opportunity to 
succeed. We are not there yet.
  Sadly, I can point to modern day attempts to deny the right to vote 
to citizens in my own State. During the 2004 election, the Florida 
Department of Law Enforcement created a list of 48,000 convicted 
felons. This list was then sent to the 67 supervisors of election in 
Florida, who were given the instructions to strike those 48,000 
convicted felons from the rolls. The public was denied meaningful 
access to the lists to verify its accuracy because of a law passed by 
the legislature in the previous few years.
  CNN challenged the constitutionality of the law under the Florida 
Constitution. This Senator participated in that challenge by filing 
what is called an amicus curiae brief, or a friend of the court brief. 
A courageous Florida circuit judge declared the law unconstitutional.
  When the Miami Herald got their hands on the list of 48,000 names of 
convicted felons, guess what they found. First of all, they found the 
list was overwhelmingly minority; second, they found that the list was 
overwhelmingly minority African American; and third, they found about 
3,000 legitimate registered voters on that list who were not convicted 
felons.
  If not for that lawsuit 3,000 legitimate registered voters with names 
that were similar to the names of convicted felons would have gone to 
the polls on Election Day in November of 2004 and been told they were 
not a registered voter and they could not vote.
  It is 41 years since the Voting Rights Act. This just happened 2 
years ago. We're getting closer to the ideal, we're just not there yet.
  Reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act is going to move us further down 
the road and, most importantly, it will ensure that we never turn back.
  Today, as I cast a vote in favor of reauthorizing the Voting Rights 
Act, I hope and pray that 25 years from now, at the end of the 
authorization of this act, our country will have progressed so that we 
do not have to continue this particular debate.
  I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mrs. LINCOLN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mrs. LINCOLN. Mr. President, I join my colleagues today to speak in 
support of reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act of 1965. No act has done 
more to change the course of our Nation's history than this. I am 
pleased to see both sides of the aisle set aside their differences to 
ensure its passage today.
  I first offer my thanks to Senators Leahy and Specter for their work 
in getting this legislation to the Senate. I also thank Senators Reid 
and Frist for their efforts in bringing all sides together to renew 
this historic law.

[[Page S7997]]

  This act protects and preserves our democracy by ensuring that every 
citizen is given the same opportunity to participate in the political 
process. The strength of our democracy, as well as its existence, 
depends on the fact that the Government is created to perform, to 
exist, and to excel only when those who are governed participate in it. 
Without this assurance, this opportunity to participate in that 
political process, our democracy could not exist. Without the right to 
participate freely in elections, a citizen's ability to effect change 
in his or her community is highly limited.
  We are given, each of us, many God-given gifts, but our 
responsibility with those gifts is to give of those gifts to those 
around us, to our community and to our country, to our fellow man. 
Without being able to participate in this community, we are not able to 
fully give back.
  I think it is important to remember what we are voting for today. Men 
and women not much older than I am made great sacrifices to be able to 
perform that most basic right of free men and free women--the right to 
vote. It is easy to take for granted. We often do. But we cannot forget 
that this document represents the pain and hope of millions of 
Americans. It represents their efforts and their prayers.
  The things that we do without giving them much thought, were not so 
for many of our fellow Americans. When we go to eat lunch, we sit 
wherever we would like. When we go to the movies, we sit wherever we 
would like as well. When we ride the bus, we sit wherever we like, and 
when we get to the polls, we take our ballot and we cast it without 
thinking about it.
  It is easy for us to forget that it has not always been so. By way of 
example, the mother of one of my staff members became deeply involved 
in voter registration as a young college student in the early 1960s. 
She was determined to secure the right to vote for herself and for her 
community. It was a life-or-death decision. She and her fellow students 
were told if they tried to encourage African Americans in the community 
to register, that they would be killed. They had every reason to take 
that threat seriously, but it didn't matter to them. They knew that 
this right, the right to vote, was worth the cost, and they continue to 
encourage people to register and to vote. By the grace of God, no one 
was killed, but we know that others around the Nation were not so 
lucky.
  These are the stories we must remember. We must ensure that no future 
generation of Americans will ever have to endure second-class 
citizenship again. As elected officials, we are charged with 
representing and protecting the interests of our States and our 
districts. It is of utmost importance that we are elected by a fair 
representation of our constituents.
  The Voting Rights Act has played an enormous role in making sure that 
happens. Since becoming law in 1965, the number of African Americans 
and other minority voters who are registered and able to vote has 
increased dramatically. As an example, my home State of Arkansas saw an 
increase of more than 33,000 African-American registrants immediately 
after the act was passed. Extending the provisions of this legislation 
will ensure that we continue to build on the gains we have made since 
it first passed.
  We have men and women spread across the globe, fighting for democracy 
and freedom. They are fighting for the right of citizens to hold free 
elections in which all, regardless of race, gender or creed, can 
participate. In many cases, this cannot be achieved without violence, 
unfortunately. Truth be told, we are not so far removed from our own 
violent past.
  But by the mercy of God, we today will extend the blessings of 
liberty to all Americans with the recording of a vote and the swipe of 
a pen. That is a miracle that we dare not forget. Because of what we do 
tomorrow, the men and women who marched and stood still and sat down 
and stood up and rejoiced and cried and ultimately overcame, can be 
proud, proud that their legacy will be carried on.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. DODD. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  The majority leader is recognized.
  Mr. FRIST. Mr. President, briefly, I want to propound a unanimous 
consent request which has been agreed to by the leadership on the other 
side. And then people will know the scheduling for today and tonight.
  Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the vote on the pending 
bill, H.R. 9, occur at 4:30 today, with Senator Reid recognized from 4 
to 4:15 and Senator Frist in control of the time from 4:15 to 4:30; 
provided further that the remaining time be under the control of the 
minority.
  I ask unanimous consent that following the vote on passage of H.R. 9, 
the Voting Rights Act, the Senate proceed to the immediate 
consideration of Calendar No. 379, H.R. 4472. I further ask consent 
that the Hatch amendment at the desk be agreed to, and there then be 2 
hours of debate equally divided between the leaders or their designees, 
and that following the use or yielding back of time, the bill, as 
amended, be read a third time, and the bill be temporarily set aside 
with the vote on passage occurring after consideration of the judges in 
executive session. I further ask unanimous consent that following 
passage of the bill, the title amendment be agreed to; provided further 
that following the debate on H.R. 4472, the Senate proceed to executive 
session for consideration of the following executive calendar numbers 
en bloc, under the designated times: Calendar No. 762, Neil Gorsuch, 5 
minutes each for Senators Specter, Leahy, Allard, and Salazar; Calendar 
No. 763, Bobby Shepherd, 5 minutes each for Senators Specter and Leahy, 
and 10 minutes each for Senators Pryor and Lincoln; Calendar No. 765, 
Daniel Jordan III, 5 minutes each for Senators Specter, Leahy, Cochran, 
and Lott; Calendar No. 766, Gustavo Gelpi, 5 minutes each for Senators 
Specter and Leahy.
  I further ask unanimous consent that following the use or yielding 
back of the debate times above, the Senate proceed to a vote on passage 
of H.R. 4472, to be followed by consecutive votes on the confirmation 
of the above-listed nominations in the order specified, without 
intervening action or debate, and that following those votes, the 
President be immediately notified of the Senate's action, and the 
Senate then resume legislative session.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?
  Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. FRIST. Mr. President, again, very briefly, what that means is 
that we will be voting at approximately 4:30. We will then move to the 
John Walsh child predator bill, have debate on that, and have debate on 
the judges, and then we will have stacked rollcall votes beginning at 
approximately 7:15 or 7:30 tonight.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Connecticut is recognized.
  Mr. DODD. Mr. President, it is with a great sense of pride and 
privilege that I rise today in strong, strong support of H.R. 9, the 
Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Act 
Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2006.
  In my view, of all the values which underpin a democracy, none--
none--is more essential than the right of a citizen to participate in 
the election of those who will govern and represent them.
  Voting is the participatory voice of our form of democracy. It is 
imperative, in my view, that we reaffirm this fundamental principle by 
expeditiously reauthorizing this fundamental voting rights legislation. 
It is for this reason that I will vote in favor of the Voting Rights 
Act extension. America must overcome its legacy of discrimination in 
voting.
  Let me, first of all, applaud our colleagues, if I may, the leaders 
of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Specter, Senator Leahy, and Senator 
Kennedy for their extraordinary efforts to develop a truly bipartisan 
piece of legislation that has been brought to the floor here today. I 
feel very strongly about the need to reauthorize this law, and I 
commend our colleagues for the leadership they have shown in marking up 
a bill that I gather passed unanimously out of the Judiciary Committee 
and is before us today.

[[Page S7998]]

  It was about 40 years ago when I was sitting up in these Galleries, 
watching the U.S. Senate as it engaged in an impassioned debate among 
our predecessors in this Chamber about whether to extend to all 
Americans equal rights at the polling place. I was a college student at 
the time. I listened to one U.S. Senator say:

       Freedom and the right to vote are indivisible.

  That U.S. Senator was my father, Thomas Dodd of Connecticut, speaking 
about the Voting Rights Act in that year. As I watched my father and 
his colleagues engage in a very heated debate, I was proud of how many 
Members of this body, on both sides of the aisle, worked to end 
discriminatory voting practices, Republicans and Democrats alike coming 
together.
  It was following this debate, in 1965, that Congress took up and 
passed the Voting Rights Act--the first being the Civil Rights Act--as 
a response to the pervasive and explicit evidence of disenfranchisement 
of African-American and other voters in several States in our country.
  The Voting Rights Act was designed, of course, as we all know, to 
protect and preserve the voting rights of all Americans. Since 1965, 
this act has been the cornerstone of voting rights in our country, and 
its success is a tribute to those who have labored to create it.
  I would be remiss if I did not pay tribute to those that this act is 
named for: Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King. Many 
may recall, it was Fannie Lou Hamer who once commented that she was 
``sick and tired of being sick and tired.'' In 1962, Mrs. Hamer, the 
youngest of 19 children, daughter of sharecroppers, and granddaughter 
of slaves, attended a voting registration drive held by the Student 
Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. There she learned that African 
Americans indeed had the constitutional right to vote.
  She was the first to volunteer for a dangerous mission to the 
Indianola, MS, courthouse to register to vote. Courageously, she 
declared:

       [T]he only thing they could do to me was to kill me, and it 
     seemed like they'd been trying to do that a little bit at a 
     time ever since I could remember.

  When Mrs. Hamer reached the courthouse, she and her companions were 
beaten and jailed. But she was not deterred. She went on to travel the 
country to encourage others to vote and later founded the Mississippi 
Freedom Democratic Party to challenge the all-white Mississippi 
delegation at the Democratic Convention--not in the 19th century, not 
in the early part of the 20th century--but in 1964.
  The Voting Rights Act was signed into law a year later. In my view, 
if Mrs. Hamer had not risked her life and limb in order to register to 
vote, the plight of minority voters shut out of their own democracy may 
have continued, unfortunately.
  Rosa Parks was another pioneer of the civil rights movement. As a 
seamstress in Montgomery, AL, she famously challenged the Jim Crow laws 
of segregation in 1955. Mrs. Parks once recalled that as a young child:

       I'd see the bus pass every day. . . . But to me, that was a 
     way of life; we had no choice but to accept what was the 
     custom. The bus was among the first ways I realized there was 
     a black world and a white world.

  Her historic refusal to give up her bus seat to a white passenger led 
to her arrest, and sparked a citywide boycott of the bus system, which 
triggered two Supreme Court decisions outlawing segregation on city 
buses. In my view, her silent protest launched the modernday civil 
rights movement. And we owe her a great deal of debt for her courage.
  In describing this incident, Mrs. Parks later recalled:

       People always say that I didn't give up my seat because I 
     was tired, but that isn't true. I was not tired physically, 
     or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working 
     day. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.

  For more than four decades, Mrs. Parks dedicated herself to the fight 
for racial equality. I strongly believe that if Mrs. Parks had not 
refused to give up her seat and had gone to the back of the bus that 
day we would not be here today considering this historic legislation.
  Let me mention the third individual for whom this act is being named 
today.
  Coretta Scott King, of course, the wife of Dr. Martin Luther King, 
joined her husband and thousands of others to march from Selma to 
Montgomery, AL, on Sunday, March 7, 1965. That march, of course, 
galvanized the core political will behind the civil rights movement and 
served as a catalyst for the Voting Rights Act.
  These three women worked for a better life and an inclusive society 
for not only themselves and their children, but also for future 
generations of Americans.
  They selflessly and nonviolently challenged the laws and customs they 
believed were wrong. And they were right. Their ability to speak 
``truth to power'' became their legacy. All three are iconic in the 
fight for the right to vote and a better life for all Americans.
  Let me go on to point out here--I will not go into the specific 
sections of this bill. I know others have talked about that, why these 
sections are necessary to be continued for another 25 years. Let me, if 
I can, address some of the concerns that were raised in the other body 
in objections to the Voting Rights Act, if I may--those who question 
why divisions of a 41-year-old law deserve to be reauthorized. And 
while I agree, progress has certainly been made--and we are all 
grateful for that--we still have many obstacles to overcome in the 
conduct of our elections.
  Progress cannot be left to just serendipity. It must be guided by the 
rule of law. A little more than 5 years ago, we had an election in this 
country that forced us to confront the harsh reality that millions of 
Americans continue to be systematically denied their constitutional 
right to vote.
  Every citizen deserves, of course, to have his or her vote counted as 
well. There are legal barriers, administrative irregularities, and 
access impediments to the right to vote which adversely and 
disproportionately impact voters according to their color, economic 
class, age, gender, disability, language, party, and precinct. That is 
wrong. It is unacceptable. It is un-American. And it needs to be 
changed.
  It was unacceptable in 1965, and it is reprehensible in the year 
2006. Congress must now reauthorize the expiring portions of the Voting 
Rights Act to continue to protect and preserve the voting rights of all 
Americans.
  I have been closely following the reauthorization process in both 
Chambers. I was apprehensive when House Republicans attempted to amend 
the Voting Rights Act to undermine some of its very key provisions--
essentially weakening this very important and fundamental law. They 
tried to repeal the current formula of section 5 in order to exempt 
States with historically discriminatory voting practices from continued 
coverage. They wanted to expedite the ``bailout'' process overriding 
the sensible framework for jurisdictions to demonstrate that they 
should not be subject to continuing section 5 coverage. They wanted to 
require us to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act in only 10 short years. 
Finally, in what I think is the most alarming attempt to weaken this 
vital law, House Republicans wanted to strike section 203 which ensures 
that all American citizens, regardless of language ability, are able to 
participate on a fair and equal basis in elections.

  I believe all Americans who are voting should learn to speak the 
English language. It should be our goal that all American citizens who 
vote should be able to understand an English language ballot. That is 
something we are wrestling with all the time. But we also recognize 
there are many here who are in the process of transition. Many of our 
citizens speak only one language as they are learning English. That 
makes them no less deserving, if they are citizens, of the basic rights 
and liberties which all Americans should expect and are entitled to. 
Section 203 must be retained or its unique ability to remove barriers 
to this fundamental right to vote and to help promote meaningful 
participation among all segments of our society will be in jeopardy.
  I am grateful that the civil rights groups, the Leadership Conference 
on Civil Rights, the NAACP, the National Council of La Raza, the AFL-
CIO and others, have worked so closely with Democratic Members of the 
House of Representatives to prevail over this adversity and were able 
to defeat every single one of these amendments.

[[Page S7999]]

  Central to the foundation of our democratic form of government is, of 
course, the right to vote. The Voting Rights Act today facilitates and 
ensures that right. In a representative democracy, voting is the best 
avenue, of course, by which voters can gain access and influence 
lawmakers in Federal, State, and local governments. Voting gives the 
people a voice. We must protect their ability to be heard and to speak.
  Yesterday, I had the great privilege of meeting with 40 
representatives from the Connecticut chapter of the NAACP about this 
important reauthorization.
  Their message was clear: the critical protections offered by the 
Voting Rights Act must be extended. We are not on the Floor today to 
reauthorize the right to vote. That right is guaranteed by the 
Constitution of the United States. Instead, we are here to provide 
tools to enforce that right for all Americans.
  While it is critical that the Senate act to reauthorize these 
expiring sections of the Voting Rights Act today, it is important to 
recognize that this action alone will not secure the franchise for all 
Americans. Much more is needed to be done to ensure that every eligible 
American voter has an equal opportunity to vote and have their vote 
counted.
  In addition to the obstacles that the Voting Rights Act is designed 
to address, too many Americans still face impediments to voting. The 
Presidential elections of 2000 and 2004 are replete with examples of 
such obstacles, including: too few polling places or too few voting 
machines to serve the turnout; eligible voters' names not on the 
registration list; errors in the registration lists; malfunctioning 
machines and machines that produce no audit trail; eligible voters 
turned away at the polls; disabled voters unable to cast a secret 
ballot; voters unable to correct mistakes on ballots or even receive a 
new ballot if their ballot was spoiled, to name only a few.
  Congress addressed some of these impediments in the landmark 
legislation enacted following the debacle of the presidential election 
in 2002 in the Help America Vote Act, or HAVA, which I was pleased to 
author in the Senate. That legislation established Federal minimum 
requirements that all States must have in place by the Federal 
elections this year. Those requirements include allowing any voter who 
is challenged at the polls to cast a provisional ballot, which is set 
aside and counted after eligibility, is confirmed. States must also 
meet new Federal minimum standards for voting systems, including 
providing second-chance voting, ensuring disability access, and 
providing for a permanent paper record for auditing purposes. And 
States must implement a statewide, computerized registration list to 
serve as the official registration list for Federal elections.
  Congress has not fully funded HAVA. The States are $724 million short 
in the promised Federal funds for requirements grants and an additional 
$74 million short in disability access grants. It is my intent to offer 
an amendment to the Treasury-Transportation-HUD Appropriations bill for 
fiscal year 2007 to fully fund the requirement grants to States under 
HAVA, when that bill comes to the Senate floor for debate. But even the 
HAVA minimum requirements are only a first step to addressing the 
continuing impediments faced by voters across this Nation.
  To address additional election administration deficiencies, I 
introduced legislation in January of last year, S. 17, the Voting 
Opportunity and Technology Enhancement Rights Act of 2005, or the VOTER 
Act. The Voting Opportunity and Technology Enhancement Rights Act of 
2005, or the VOTER Act, builds on the reforms begun by HAVA, and adds 
to those reforms, by including the following: providing every eligible 
American, regardless of where they live in the world or where they find 
themselves on election day, the right to cast a National Federal Write-
In Absentee Ballot in Federal elections: requiring States to 
provide for election day registration; requiring States to provide a 
minimum required number of voting systems and poll workers for each 
polling place on election day and during early voting; requiring States 
to count a provisional ballot for Federal office cast within the State 
by an otherwise eligible voter, notwithstanding the polling place in 
which the ballot is cast; requiring that all States provide voters a 
voter-verified ballot with a choice of at least 4 formats for recording 
their verification: a paper record; an audio record; a pictorial 
record; and an electronic record or other means which is fully 
accessible to the disabled, including the blind and visually impaired; 
requiring States to provide public notice of any registration list 
purges not later than 45 days before a Federal election; allowing 
voters to attest to their citizenship and age on voter registration 
forms; and providing additional Federal funds to States to implement 
these new requirements.

  Once Congress has completed its action on the Voting Rights Act, it 
is imperative that the Senate turn its attention to these further 
election administration reforms. As the ranking member of the Senate 
Committee on Rules and Administration, which has jurisdiction over 
election reform issues, I look forward to that debate and the action of 
the Senate to ensure that every eligible American voter has an equal 
opportunity to cast a ballot and have that ballot counted, regardless 
of color or class, gender or age, disability or native language, party 
or precinct, or the resources of the community in which they live.
  I am very grateful to the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and 
the NAACP. They were such strong supporters of the Help America Vote 
Act. That bill passed the Senate by a vote of 92 to 2 after a lengthy 
debate. We authorized close to $4 billion to the States to allow them 
to improve voting systems.
  It is not a perfect bill, but it is a major step forward. In the 
coming weeks, when we will have appropriations matters before us, and 
as I said, I will be offering amendments to fully fund the HAVA bill 
and other such changes as I have offered in separate legislation to 
strengthen that particular effort. But it was important on this bill 
that we not complicate this important piece of legislation with 
modifications to the HAVA bill or additional ideas to improve voting 
access in this country. But we need to continue to work at it. It is 
unfortunate that in our country in too many of our elections the right 
to vote and have your vote counted depends upon the economic 
circumstances of the county in which you reside. That must change when 
it comes to Federal elections. My hope is we made a major step forward 
with the HAVA bill, and we continue to work at this on a bipartisan 
basis.
  As was said many years ago by Thomas Paine, the right to vote is the 
right upon which all other rights depend. If we don't get this one 
right, then all the other rights we depend upon as American citizens 
are in jeopardy. The Voting Rights Act speaks to that claim more than 
two centuries ago, that the right to vote is the right upon which all 
other rights depend. What a great message that would be to the American 
public that we still understand this Nation has yet to achieve the 
perfection that its Founders designed, but each generation strives to 
make it a more perfect union. Passage of this bill today will be a step 
in that direction.
  I urge my colleagues to join me in achieving a unanimous vote to 
reauthorize the expiring provisions of the Voting Rights Act for 
another 25 years. In 1965, a bipartisan coalition of Senators came 
together to pass this historic bill for the first time. Today, passage 
of this act is vital to bring about the day for America envisioned by 
those for which it is named. Coretta Scott King, Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa 
Parks, and countless others worked tirelessly to guarantee the ability 
of all Americans to exercise their right to vote. Mr. President, we 
honor their work today by passing this important legislation. Thank 
you. I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Maryland.
  Mr. SARBANES. Mr. President, I commend the very able Senator from 
Connecticut, not only for the very eloquent statement he made but for 
the leadership which he has shown with respect to this critically 
important issue of the right to vote. The Senator from Connecticut has 
framed and crafted and brought to the floor of the Senate in recent 
years extremely important legislation designed to assure all Americans 
their right to the ballot,

[[Page S8000]]

thereby strengthening the very fundamentals of our democracy. I would 
be remiss if I did not take advantage of this opportunity to express 
the gratitude we all feel to him for his leadership in this area.
  Mr. DODD. I thank my colleague from Maryland for those kind words.
  Mr. SARBANES. The legislation we have before us is as significant as 
any this Congress will consider. The Voting Rights Act was first signed 
into law on August 6, 1965, by President Lyndon Baines Johnson. The 
fundamental importance of this law cannot be overstated. It is no 
exaggeration to say that it both changed the nature of American society 
and changed the course of American history. More than a quarter of a 
century before the Voting Rights Act was passed, the great scholar 
Gunnar Myrdal had written in his landmark study ``An American 
Dilemma,'' his study of race in this country, that ``the American Negro 
problem,'' as it was then known, was by no means a problem only for 
African Americans. Rather, he wrote, it is a problem ``in the heart of 
the American.''
  Myrdal set out what he called the American creed, the abiding 
principles on which this Nation is founded. The American creed, he 
said, ``is the cement in the structure of this great and disparate 
nation . . . encompassing our ideals of the essential dignity of the 
individual human being, of the fundamental equality of all men [and 
women], and of certain inalienable rights to freedom, justice, and a 
fair opportunity.'' These ideals are ``written into the Declaration of 
Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and 
into the constitutions of the several states.''

  Regrettably for much of our history, our Nation failed to live up to 
its most cherished principles. Our great challenge, as one observer has 
put it, has always been ``to live up to the ideals of the American 
Creed or face a deterioration of the values and visions that unite and 
make it great.''
  Myrdal's study was, in effect, the 20th century equivalent of Thomas 
Jefferson's ``fire bell in the night.'' Yet more than a generation 
passed between the publication of Myrdal's study and the passage of the 
Voting Rights Act. As we debate this legislation and recall the 
tremendous sacrifices of Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and Coretta 
Scott King, after whom the legislation is named, I also call to my 
colleagues' attention the riveting autobiography of our House colleague 
Congressman John Lewis who for 20 years has represented Georgia's ninth 
district with such great distinction.
  On March 7, 1965, John Lewis was in Selma, AL, his home State, 
preparing with hundreds of others to march from Selma to Montgomery to 
assert the right to vote which at that time was granted or denied 
solely at the discretion of the State governments. ``Many of the men 
and women gathered on that ballfield,'' remembers Congressman Lewis, 
``had come straight from church. They were still wearing their summer 
outfits. Some of the women had on high heels.'' Some 600 marchers set 
out, two abreast. All were prepared, quite literally, to die for the 
right to vote. And in the police assault that followed, many of them, 
including Congressman Lewis, nearly did.
  President Johnson's response the following Saturday was very clear. 
He said:

       The events of last Sunday cannot and will not be repeated, 
     but the demonstrations in Selma have a much larger meaning. 
     They are a protest against a deep and very unjust flaw in 
     American democracy itself.
       Ninety-five years ago our Constitution was amended to 
     require that no American be denied the right to vote because 
     of race or color. Almost a century later, many Americans are 
     kept from voting simply because they are Negroes.
       Therefore, this Monday I will send to the Congress a 
     request for legislation to carry out the amendment of the 
     Constitution.

  In signing the Voting Rights Act, President Johnson said:

       The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by 
     man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible 
     walls which imprison men because they are different from 
     other men.

  Indeed, the act marked a decisive turning point in the long and 
arduous road we know as the civil rights movement. Since its enactment, 
the Voting Rights Act has been extended and amended four times to 
address problems of bigotry and discrimination that may take subtler 
forms than those confronting the Selma marchers in 1965, but that are 
no less insidious in undermining the constitutional principles by which 
we aspire to live. As our able colleague, the distinguished Senator 
from Vermont, Mr. Leahy, the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, 
has noted, in reauthorizing and extending the act, we are, in fact, 
revitalizing it. We do so not only to honor the courageous men and 
women who, such as Congressman Lewis and Fannie Lou Hamer and Rosa 
Parks and Coretta Scott King and so many others, risked and in some 
cases sacrificed their lives to uphold American principles, but to 
build a stronger foundation for the Nation we will leave to our 
children and grandchildren.
  The committee brought this bill to the Senate floor having 
constructed a compelling record that shows we have made progress but 
that entrenched discriminatory practices--some obvious and some 
hidden--remain. In uniting to support H.R. 9 and enacting this 
legislation, we will be acting in a spirit true to our better selves, 
to our Nation, and to the generations yet to come.
  Mr. LEVIN. Mr. President, I strongly and enthusiastically support the 
Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Act 
Reauthorization of 2006, S. 2703. The right to vote is the foundation 
of our democracy, and the Voting Rights Act provides the legal basis to 
protect this right. Ensuring that all citizens can vote and that every 
vote counts is surely one of our highest national priorities, and the 
passage of time has not diminished the need for such protections. 
Hearings held in the Senate and in the House in 2005 and 2006 revealed 
a new generation of tactics, including at-large elections, annexations, 
last-minute poll place changes, and redistricting, which have had a 
discriminatory impact on voters, especially racial and ethnic minority 
American voters.
  The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was enacted to insure that no Federal, 
State, or local government may in any way impede people from 
registering to vote or voting because of their race or ethnicity. Most 
provisions in the Voting Rights Act, and specifically the portions that 
guarantee that no one may be denied the right to vote because of his or 
her race or color, are permanent. There are, however, three 
enforcement-related provisions of the act that will expire in August 
2007. The first is section 5, which requires certain jurisdictions to 
obtain approval or ``preclearance'' from the U.S. Department of Justice 
or the U.S. District Court in Washington, DC, before they can make any 
changes to voting practices or procedures. The second provision that 
will expire is 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 to English 
proficient. The third are those provisions in sections 6 to 9 which 
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. The 
legislation before the Senate today reauthorizes the portions of the 
Voting Rights Act that will expire next year and will allow the Federal 
Government to address new challenges.
  Today we are mindful of the fact that nearly 41 years ago, thousands 
of individuals risked their lives and some died in the challenge of 
systems that prevented millions of Americans from exercising their 
right to vote. For a hundred years after the Civil War, millions of 
African Americans were denied this fundamental right, despite the 15th 
amendment to the Constitution that prohibited the denial of the right 
to vote on the basis of race. Poll taxes, literacy tests, and 
grandfather c1auses--as well as violence--were used to deny African-
American citizens the right to vote in many Southern States. During the 
1960s, to secure this most basic right, the cost was high: church 
burnings, bombings, shootings, and beatings. It required the ultimate 
sacrifice of ordinary Americans: James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and 
Michael Schwerner, who simply sought to register voters in Mississippi; 
Jimmie Lee Jackson, whose death precipitated the famous march from 
Selma to Montgomery; Viola Liuzzo, a White Detroit

[[Page S8001]]

homemaker and mother of five who was killed by a Ku Klux Klansmen's 
bullet after she participated in the Selma to Montgomery march; and the 
four little Black girls killed in the Birmingham church bombing--Denise 
McNair, Carole Robertson, Addie Mae Collins, and Cynthia Wesley; Medgar 
Evers, who had organized voter registration in Mississippi for the 
NAACP and was gunned down in his driveway; the horrible beatings of 
John Lewis and of Fannie Lou Hamer and Aaron Henry of Mississippi. Like 
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rosa Parks, their names are forever 
etched in this Nation's history.
  The impact of these tragic revelations and the subsequent enactment 
of the Voting Rights Act is stark. In Alabama, Black voter registration 
increased from 0.4 percent in 1940 to 23 percent in 1964 and more than 
doubled from 1954 to 1968, to 56.7 percent. Mississippi's Black voter 
registration went from 6.7 percent in 1964 to 54.4 percent in 1968. And 
the increase was reflected in many other cities and States nationwide.
  Let us do what we must do. Our democracy depends on protecting the 
right of every American citizen to vote in every election. Let us 
resoundingly reauthorize the Voting Rights Act.
  Ms. MIKULSKI. Mr. President, I rise today to give my strong support 
of the Voting Rights Reauthorization Act. I am a proud cosponsor of 
this important and needed legislation.
  In 2006, there are still places in America where voters are 
intimidated and turned away from the polls. Americans are being denied 
the most basic and fundamental right as an American the right to vote. 
That is why this bill is needed more than ever.
  I am proud to be here to speak as the Senator from Maryland. From the 
dark days of slavery to the civil rights movement, Marylanders have led 
the way to end discrimination. The brilliant Frederick Douglass, who 
was the voice of the voiceless in the struggle against slavery; the 
courageous Harriet Tubman, who delivered 300 slaves to freedom on her 
Underground Railroad; and the great Thurgood Marshall, from arguing 
Brown v. Board of Education to serving as a Supreme Court Justice--all 
were Marylanders.
  Not just Marylanders but civil rights leaders and activists from all 
over this country fought hard to get the right to vote. Over 600 people 
marched from Selma to Montgomery they were stopped, beaten, but not 
defeated. These brave men and women continued to march, continued to 
fight until they got the right to vote.
  They had to challenge the establishment and to say ``now'' when 
others told them to ``wait.'' Holding dear to their hearts the words of 
Frederick Douglass:

       If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who 
     profess to favor freedom, yet deprecate agitation are men who 
     don't want crops without plowing the ground. They want rain 
     without thunder and lightning. The struggle may be a moral 
     one, or it may be a physical one, but it must be a struggle. 
     Power concedes nothing without demand. It never did, and it 
     never will.

  Their fight, their struggle resulted in the Voting Rights Act being 
passed. This legislation guarantees one of the most important civil 
rights that every citizen may vote. It is the very foundation of our 
democracy. It has eliminated discriminatory practices such as poll 
taxes and literacy tests. It has made it possible for African Americans 
to vote and hold elective office.
  We have come a long way since the original Voting Rights Act was 
passed in 1965. Yet we have a long way to go. As recent as 2004, we 
have seen voters disenfranchised, broken election machines, and 
problems with people casting their ballots on election day. We saw this 
in the 2000 Presidential elections, too.
  In 2000, we all learned that many ballots, many peoples' votes, were 
thrown out, lost, misplaced or miscounted. We saw election officials 
who did not know the rules and some who appeared to ignore the rules. 
And where did much of this happen? In minority neighborhoods, in 
cities, economically distressed areas across the Nation. I ask myself, 
is this just a coincidence? Those communities don't think so. It is 
critical that we let them know we take their concerns seriously.
  This legislation recognizes that election reform is still needed. 
Voters are scared to come forward and cast their vote in some parts of 
this country. There are places where voters are not getting assistance 
at the polls whether it is language access or access to accurate 
information. This is unacceptable. It is un-American.
  Reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act will help guarantee the right to 
vote for all Americans. The bill does four important things. First, it 
requires States with a history of racial discrimination to have their 
voting laws precleared by the Department of Justice. This extra layer 
of oversight is still necessary to protect minority voters. Second, it 
prohibits all States from imposing any requirements that would deny a 
U.S. citizen the right to vote based on race, color, or language 
ability. Third, it requires language assistance at the polls if a U.S. 
citizen has difficulty speaking or reading English. Finally, it 
authorizes the Federal Government to send Federal election monitors to 
minority voter districts to prevent voter intimidation.
  This is not a Republican or a Democratic issue. Ensuring that every 
registered voter who wants to vote can vote is not a partisan issue. It 
is what America stands for.
  We must stand up for what America stands for: opportunity, equality, 
and empowerment. We must make sure there is no discrimination of any 
kind, anywhere in America whether it is the old-fashioned kind or the 
new-fashioned kind. I urge my colleagues to support reauthorizing the 
Voting Rights Act today.
  Mr. AKAKA. Mr. President, I rise today in strong support of the 
Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Act 
Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2006, VRA. The right to vote is 
the cornerstone of our democracy, and it is central that every American 
have the right to vote. I am a proud original cosponsor of this bill, 
and I hope that the reauthorization of the VRA will continue to protect 
our country's democratic promise.
  The VRA is one of the most significant pieces of civil rights 
legislation to ever become law. The act reaffirms the 15th amendment of 
the Constitution, which promised that the ``right of citizens of the 
United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United 
States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition 
of servitude.'' In 1965, Congress recognized that this promise remained 
unfulfilled, and that barriers such as literacy tests and poll taxes 
prevented many American citizens from exercising their right to vote. 
The VRA has addressed these problems by prohibiting discrimination and 
providing language assistance to those who needed it.
  As an Asian American, this bill is of personal importance to me. I 
know of many Asian Americans who have experienced difficulty in the 
polls over the years, particularly due to language barriers. According 
to the 2000 Census, 77 percent of Asian Americans speak a language 
other than English in their homes. Asian Americans who came as refugees 
are the most likely to face language barriers. For example, 67 percent 
of Vietnamese Americans over 18 are limited English proficient. They 
follow the news closely, but often by accessing newspapers and other 
media in their native languages. Section 5 of the VRA will help provide 
Asian Americans with equal access to the polls, ensuring that they are 
able to participate in the political process and empowering them to 
make a difference in their communities.
  Over the years, our country has come a long way. But unfortunately, 
barriers to equal political participation remain. Some minority voters 
still face obstacles to making their political voice heard. There is 
evidence of attempts to mute the strength of minority voters via unfair 
redistricting. Further, the lack of bilingual ballots prevents some 
voters from even casting their vote. This type of ongoing 
discrimination proves why we still need the VRA.
  Over the years, Congress has reauthorized the VRA four times. The 
bill before us today would reauthorize three key enforcement provisions 
of the VRA which would otherwise expire in 2007: Section 5, which 
requires jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to obtain 
Federal clearance before introducing new voting practices or 
procedures; Section 203, which requires communities with large 
populations of

[[Page S8002]]

non-English speakers to provide language assistance; and Section 8, 
which authorizes the Attorney General to appoint Federal election 
observers to ensure that minority citizens will have full access to the 
ballot box.
  There is no question that all of these provisions are important and 
necessary, and I commend the members of the Judiciary Committee for 
their strong bipartisan work on this issue. I hope my colleagues will 
join me in supporting this critical piece of legislation, and I look 
forward to the President signing it into law.
  Mr. REED. Mr. President, as a cosponsor of the Senate bill, I am 
pleased the Senate is considering the Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and 
Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Reauthorization and Amendments Act, 
H.R. 9.
  The Voting Rights Act was signed into law 41 years ago as a direct 
reaction to the vicious attacks against civil rights demonstrators 
crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, AL. After these attacks, 
President Johnson was able to end a long deadlock with certain Members 
of Congress attempting to weaken the legislation. The act passed in 
August 1965 and successfully prohibited measures that localities had 
developed to disenfranchise racial and ethnic minorities, such as 
literacy tests, ``grandfather clauses,'' character assessments, poll 
taxes, and intimidation techniques, often violent. It was also drafted 
to prevent the racial gerrymandering, at-large election systems, 
staggered terms, and runoff requirements certain jurisdictions were 
using to dilute the effect of the minority vote.
  Since then, sections 2 and 4 of the law, prohibiting the use of tests 
and devices intended to dissuade minority voting, have made obvious 
attempts to disenfranchise minorities a thing of the past. By requiring 
district court or attorney general determination of whether a proposed 
election change would abridge voting rights, section 5 has deterred 
measures frequently used before 1965 to weaken minority votes.
  Thanks to the original law and the reauthorizations that followed, an 
increasing number of African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans 
have been voting, decreasing the gap between white and minority 
turnout. Minorities report fewer attempts to curtail their rights and 
minority districts have allowed a greater number of African Americans, 
Asian Americans, and Hispanic Americans to be elected to office. The 
Voting Rights Act, then, has been successful in helping to carry out 
the promise of the 15th amendment.
  Since 1965, Congress has responded to continuing or new evidence of 
disenfranchisement and vote dilution through the Voting Rights Act 
reauthorization process. And this reauthorization is no different.
  The nonpartisan Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights, which President 
John F. Kennedy created to promote voting equality, established a 
commission to conduct an investigation into vote discrimination in 
preparation for this most recent reauthorization proposal. The 
conclusions of the Commission, echoed in the many congressional 
hearings held on the law, was that, while the Voting Rights Act has 
successfully eliminated systematic efforts to disenfranchise voters, 
restrictions to ballot access and weakening of the minority vote are 
still occurring. In fact, the Commission reported that attempts to 
repress the minority vote, ``are still encountered in every election 
cycle across the country,'' citing deterrents against English-language 
minorities, unduly burdensome requirements for registration and voting, 
and election laws that result in vote dilution. Unfortunately, the 41 
years this law has been in effect have not yet overcome centuries of 
discriminatory practice.
  Since the last reauthorization, the Supreme Court, in Reno v. Bossier 
Parish II and Georgia v. Ashcroft, has also curtailed the intent of 
section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, deciding that the act does not 
prohibit redistricting with the purpose or effect of weakening minority 
votes. Many of the changes in the bill before us were drafted as a 
direct response to these cases. This act not only renews the expiring 
provisions, it restores the original intent of section 5 by prohibiting 
the approval of any proposed election law change having the effect of 
diluting a minority voting population.
  As my courageous colleague, John Lewis, has said, ``The sad truth is 
discrimination still exists. We must not go back to the dark past.''
  This reauthorization will provide the tools we need to honor our 
constitutional commitment to allow all of our citizens to vote. It 
reinvigorates the guarantee that is the foundation of our democracy the 
right to vote and it is a pledge not to return to a time when, as 
Martin Luther King said, ``The denial of this sacred right [was] a 
tragic betrayal of the highest mandates of our democratic tradition.''
  I am honored to support this bill and would like to thank my 
colleagues, Senators Specter and Leahy, for their work and leadership 
in bringing it to the floor.
  Mr. KOHL. Mr. President, today the Senate will debate and consider 
the Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2006. We 
can all agree that the Voting Rights Act was one of the most 
significant civil rights laws ever enacted in this country. Yesterday, 
the Judiciary Committee unanimously supported this bill, and today we 
hope the full Senate will pass it as soon as possible.
  This landmark law reversed nearly 100 years of African-American 
disenfranchisement. It took years for Congress to devise a law that 
could not be circumvented or ignored through lengthy litigation or 
creative interpretation. After numerous failures, a stronger remedy 
free of litigation was needed to break the 95-year-old obstacle to 
Black voter participation.
  The Voting Rights Act of 1965 provided the solution. That law was and 
remains unique by enforcing the law before a new State voting statute 
goes into effect rather than fighting it out after the fact for years 
in court. The section 5 ``pre-clearance'' procedure--along with the 
banning of literacy texts, poll taxes, and the like--finally worked. 
Soon, African-American voters did not face an unequal burden to simply 
exercise their constitutional right to vote.
  Yet our work was far from over in 1965. Arguably, the great successes 
of the act we speak of today would not have been realized had Congress 
not amended and extended the act in 1970, 1975, 1982 and 1992. 
Important improvements were made to the Act during that time, including 
the addition of bilingual voter assistance in certain jurisdictions 
with a substantial number of non-native English speakers. Accordingly, 
our bill includes amendments which address recent Supreme Court 
decisions that have made enforcement of some parts of the act unclear.
  As we all know, key provisions of the Voting Rights Act are set to 
expire next year. We have made enormous gains for voting rights since 
1965, but we should not assume that the vigorous protections of the act 
have outlived their use. To the contrary, extending the act for another 
25 years will ensure that these hard-fought rights will remain in 
place.
  Evidence supports this sentiment when one considers that the 
Department of Justice deemed 626 proposed election law changes 
discriminatory since the last extension of the act in 1982. Past 
experience teaches us that we cannot rely upon the courts alone to 
protect the constitutional right to vote. Quite simply, the Voting 
Rights Act, and specifically section 5, has worked. The record 
demonstrates that it continues to be needed to enforce the guarantees 
of the 14th and 15th Amendments.
  We commend Chairman Specter for holding this series of hearings on 
the Voting Rights Act. Furthermore, we note the House passed its 
reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act last week without amendment, 
and I trust we can and will do the same here in the Senate. Most of us 
believe the record demonstrates that the act should remain in force, 
and I strongly urge my colleagues to support is extension.
  MS. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was 
written to prevent both direct and indirect assaults on the right to 
vote. It outlawed the poll taxes and literacy tests and established a 
system of Federal marshals to help African Americans in the South vote. 
It also required covered jurisdictions to get Federal preapproval 
before changing their election laws or any other voting procedure.
  These changes have made our political system more representative and

[[Page S8003]]

more just. The Voting Rights Act protects basic constitutional rights. 
Millions of African Americans have been added to the voting rolls since 
the act was passed. In 1965, there were only 300 African American 
elected officials in our country. Today, there are more than 9,100 
African Americans who serve in elected public offices and nearly 6,000 
Latino elected officials.
  There are those who say that, while this act may have once been 
needed, it is no longer required today. I understand their argument but 
do not agree with it. I do believe, however, that their argument is 
entitled to an answer.
  My answer is this: Renewing expiring provisions of the Voting Rights 
Act will ensure that the battle for fairness in our political system is 
carried on with the full force of law behind it. We certainly still 
need these protections today. While many of the more obvious and 
widespread abuses have been eliminated, isolated cases of voting 
discrimination and intimidation remain. They may be subtle, but they 
are nonetheless unfair and intolerable, and they extend to not only 
African Americans but to others as well. A recent court case described 
nearly two decades of voting rights abuses against Native Americans in 
South Dakota. We have heard about people videotaping the license plates 
of Mexican Americans as they went to vote in Dona Ana County, NM, in 
2004. As recently as 2001, local officials in Kilmichael, MS, canceled 
elections out of fear that an African-American mayor might be elected. 
The Voting Rights Act allowed the Justice Department to intervene, 
ensuring that the right to vote was protected, and 2 years late 
Kilmichael elected its first African-American mayor.
  Mr. President, history tells us that the justification for the 
continuance of this law is compellingf. It also tells us that full and 
fair enforcement of this law is essential, too. That is why I cast my 
vote for justice. That is why I cast my vote for the Fannie Lou Hamer, 
Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Reauthorization Act.
  Mr. LIEBERMAN. Mr. President, I rise today to speak in support of the 
vital need to reauthorize key provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 
1965, among the most significant pieces of civil rights legislation 
Congress has ever passed.
  As we are approaching the 41st anniversary of the act, perhaps it is 
important to remember the words of President Lyndon Johnson who signed 
this bill into law on August 6, 1965, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 
looked on.
  Johnson's words spoke to all Americans--then and now--about the 
importance of the right to vote. He said:

       The central fact of American civilization--one so hard for 
     others to understand--is that freedom and justice and the 
     dignity of man are not just words to us. We believe in them.
       . . . Every family across this great, entire, searching 
     land will live stronger in liberty, will live more splendid 
     in expectation, and will be prouder to be American because of 
     the Act you have passed and that I will sign today.

  Now is the time to renew that pledge for freedom by reauthorizing the 
Voting Rights Act, and I am proud to cosponsor this legislation.
  I thank Chairman Specter and Ranking Member Leahy for their efforts 
to report this legislation out of their committee with unanimous 
support yesterday. I hope the full Senate will show the same level of 
support when the bill is voted on this afternoon.
  The importance of renewing this act was driven home to me yesterday 
when, like many of my colleagues, I met with a delegation from my 
State's chapter of the NAACP--here for the annual NAACP meeting and to 
visit with their congressional delegation.
  The meeting was not only a wonderful opportunity to see about 40 old 
friends, it was a demonstration of the fundamental constitutional 
principle that powers our Republic--the right to petition the 
government about the issues that matter most.
  Of course, it strikes me that 40 years ago, while Senators on the 
floor of this very Chamber debated the original Voting Rights Act, some 
of those constituents' own parents and grandparents could not even cast 
a vote without fear for their own lives. And that was for one reason--
because they were Black. Those were tragic times for America.
  I remember my own trip to Mississippi in 1963, as a senior in college 
when I joined with friends on a trip to Mississippi to draw attention 
to the cause of enfranchising African-American voters. Our goal, like 
others who made similar journeys, was to support the fight of the young 
heroes of the civil rights movement--Black men and women who. sat at 
lunch counters, who refused to move to the back of the buses, who 
peacefully but powerfully demanded the most basic rights every American 
deserves--including the right to cast a vote.
  I like to believe our trip to Mississippi was a small step in the 
march toward equality that Dr. King and other civil rights leaders, 
like Representative John Lewis from Georgia, who sat at those lunch 
counters, pressed upon the American conscience in those heavy days.
  But my meeting with the Connecticut chapter of the NAACP reminded me 
the march toward equal rights is not over.
  In my meeting, one woman asked, ``Why does Congress even have to 
extend the Voting Rights Act? Why is the law not permanent?''
  I explained that Congress passes legislation that automatically 
expires because it is important to assess whether a law is working as 
intended, whether it needs changing to address new concerns, or whether 
it is needed at all.
  Thanks to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, every American now has the 
opportunity to vote and any American can come to Washington to meet 
with his or her Senators, and I am grateful so many people do. Across 
the country, the number of African-American elected officials has 
increased from just 300 in 1964 to more than 9,000 today, including 43 
Members of Congress.
  But with some regret, we must conclude that the Voting Rights Act is 
as necessary today as it has ever been. For as long as the law 
continues to be violated, we still need that law.
  Since 1982, when the act was last extended, there have been more than 
1,000 complaints of violations of the Voting Rights Act all across the 
country. Just last month, the Supreme Court struck down parts of the 
redistricting plan in Texas because the court ruled that the plan 
disenfranchised large numbers of Hispanic voters.
  As long as there are efforts to dilute the votes of some or to make 
it more difficult for any of our fellow citizens to vote, we need the 
Voting Rights Act and the provisions that are set to expire next year.
  I urge my colleagues to pass this legislation today because the march 
toward equality must continue. But I look forward to the day when it is 
no longer needed because we have achieved the ideal where each and 
every vote cast in this great democracy of ours has the same voice and 
carries the same weight and that everyone who wants to vote can do so 
with ease and without fear of discrimination.
  I urge my colleagues to pass this legislation today because the civil 
rights march must continue because we cannot confuse progress with 
victory.
  As Martin Luther King said on the front steps of the Lincoln 
Memorial, a speech I heard in person, we can never be satisfied until 
every citizen can vote and every citizen has something to vote for.
  And when that day comes, when we have achieved full voting rights and 
civil rights for all Americans, Dr. King can look down from Heaven, his 
mission finally fulfilled, and call out:
  ``Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, they are free at 
last.''
  Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, I would like to spend just a few minutes 
talking about why I support this Voting Rights Act reauthorization.
  The Supreme Court has said voting rights are so important because 
they are ``preservative of all rights'' (Yick Wo v. Hopkins (1886)). I 
couldn't agree more, and that is why the Voting Rights Act was and is 
so centrally important to our country.
  Martin Luther King, Jr., called President Johnson's support of the 
Voting Rights Act ``a shining moment in the conscience of man.'' That 
moment must continue.
  The act began a true transformation of our country. In 1964, there 
were only 300 African Americans in public office, including just three 
in Congress. There were exceptionally few anywhere in the South. Today, 
there are more than 9,100 Black elected officials, including

[[Page S8004]]

43 Members of Congress, the largest number ever.
  The act helped open the way for the 6,000 Latino public officials 
elected and appointed nationwide, including 263 at the State or Federal 
level, 27 of whom serve in Congress.
  One of the leaders of the civil rights movement, Congressman John 
Lewis, has characterized the impact of the Voting Rights Act this way: 
``It not only transformed Southern politics, it transformed the 
nation.'' I couldn't agree more.
  But we shouldn't just rest on the successes of the recent past. We 
must remain vigilant. For hundreds of years, our country struggled with 
slavery and the fact that nothing more than a person's skin color could 
determine his or her prospects in life. Even after we enacted the 15th 
amendment, our country struggled with Jim Crow laws and persistent 
discrimination.
  We have now had the Voting Rights Act for 40 years, which may seem 
like a long time, but compared against our long and shameful history of 
race discrimination, 40 years seems pretty short.
  Thankfully, we have come a long way since signs emblazoned windows 
read: ``colored need not apply'' and ``Whites only.'' But let's not be 
lulled into a false sense of security: racism--though much more 
subtle--still exists. African Americans can apply for a job all right 
but they might not get it because ``they're not the right type,'' or 
``they just wouldn't fit in.'' New words for old sins.
  Our recent history still finds sophisticated discrimination occurring 
when it comes to voting; and we must be especially vigilant here 
because voting is such a cornerstone of our democracy. We must continue 
to ensure diversity in our democracy and protect the rights of all 
Americans irrespective of race, gender, or national origin.
  That is why I strongly support this reauthorization of the Voting 
Rights Act and am a cosponsor.
  Authorizing the Voting Rights Act will be one of the most important 
things we can do this year, and I look forward to helping in any way 
that I can.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Delaware.
  Mr. CARPER. Mr. President, I grew up in Danville, VA. The town of 
Danville, a town of about 30,000 people right on the North Carolina 
border, was famous for three things when I was growing up there. It was 
the home of the Dan River cotton mills, it was famous for being the 
world's biggest tobacco market, and it was famous for being the last 
capital of the Confederacy. I remember as a child riding back and forth 
to Danville, VA from our home outside of town and riding in the front 
of the bus, knowing that other people of color would ride in the back 
of the bus. I remember visiting downtown and going to restaurants, 
knowing if you were white you could eat there, and if you were not 
white, you could not. I remember seeing the water fountains, whites 
only, colored only.
  I remember going to the Rialto theater with my sister, watching three 
movies on a Saturday afternoon for 25 cents. If you were white, you got 
to sit on the first floor. If you were not, you sat up in the balcony. 
I remember going to catch the bus across the street from my house and 
going about 10 miles on a bus to high school and knowing that the kids 
of color, about 100 yards further away from us, would get on their bus 
and head out to go to their school, driving by mine and going another 
10 miles to their own school.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the order that was agreed to by 
unanimous consent, the Democratic leader has the floor at 4 o'clock.
  Mr. REID. Will the Senator from Delaware indicate how much more time 
he needs?
  Mr. CARPER. If I could have 3 minutes.
  Mr. REID. I yield the Senator 3 minutes.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Delaware.
  Mr. CARPER. In addition to not being able to drink water at fountains 
with us, eat in the same restaurants, go to movies, ride on the bus or 
go to school with the rest of us, the other thing that folks of color 
couldn't do in my hometown was vote. They couldn't vote because they 
didn't pay a poll tax. They couldn't vote because they weren't smart 
enough allegedly to pass the test they had to take in order to become 
voters.
  I came here in 1965, barely out of high school, 18 years old. I went 
to the Rayburn Building and happened to walk into a hearing in 1965 by 
the House Judiciary Committee on this legislation, the Voting Rights 
Act of 1965. The enactment of that legislation did more to change 
things in my town of Danville, VA, and a lot of towns in this country, 
especially in the South, than any one thing I can think of.
  Yesterday, as several of us in the Senate rolled out something we 
called the Restoring the American Dream Initiative, we started off by 
trying to make sure that everybody who wanted to go to college had the 
ability to get to college. If we are going to be successful as a nation 
in the 21st century, we need a world class workforce. We can't have 
that unless we have well-educated, college-educated people. In order to 
have those kinds of opportunities, before we ever get to college we 
have to make sure kids have a decent chance to go to good elementary, 
middle, and high schools. And in order for anybody to have the American 
dream, it is important to have a chance to get a decent job, have a 
chance to be a home owner, raise a family, work hard, and live in a 
community and practice your faith.
  The one best way to ensure that people of all walks of life have 
those opportunities is to make sure that they have the opportunity 
every November, or whenever, to go into the voting booth, be registered 
to vote, and exercise their constitutional right. By the passage of 
this legislation today, we reaffirm our commitment to that sacred 
right.
  As one who came here 41 years ago, when my very first experience in 
the Capitol as an 18-year-old teenager was the debate on this 
legislation, to be back here today as a Member of the Senate, something 
I never thought possible, is an uplifting experience for me. I hope it 
serves as an inspiration to young men and women of whatever race or 
background they might be. I thank the leader.
  I yield back my time.
  Mr. REID. Mr. President, how much time did the Senator from Delaware 
use?
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Three minutes.
  Mr. REID. Mr. President, I yield to the Senator from Vermont, Mr. 
Leahy.
  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, earlier this afternoon when I was not on 
the Senate floor, a few Republican Senators gave statements that 
reflected their individual views of what the legislation we are 
considering today will do to address the Supreme Court's interpretation 
of legislative intent in the Georgia v. Ashcroft and Reno v. Bossier 
Parish cases. While I am not fully informed of their positions, I 
certainly disagree with what I heard.
  In the Senate Judiciary Committee we received extensive testimony 
about these two provisions over the course of several hearings that 
informed our Committee vote yesterday. I ask unanimous consent to have 
printed in the Record a full explanation of the testimony we received 
that informed our vote yesterday and my understanding of the purpose 
and scope of these two provisions as an original and lead sponsor.
  There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in 
the Record, as follows:

                        Georgia v. Ashcroft Fix

       The first of these provisions is commonly referred to as 
     the ``Georgia vs. Ashcroft fix.''
       In the Judiciary Committee we received evidence that the 
     Voting Rights Act had been significantly weakened by the 
     Supreme Court's decision in Georgia v. Ashcroft because it 
     narrowed the protections afforded by Section 5. Prior to the 
     Ashcroft decision, an objection would be raised by the 
     Department of Justice if the voting change made the position 
     of minority voters worse off in terms of their ability to 
     elect candidates of their choice. In Ashcroft, the Supreme 
     Court replaced the clear and administrable ``ability to 
     elect'' standard with an unworkable ``totality of the 
     circumstances'' standard that appears to permit the trading 
     away of districts in which minority voters have the 
     opportunity to elect candidates of their choice for districts 
     in which minority voters may (or may not) have an 
     ``influence'' over who is elected.
       It is my understanding that the bill we are considering 
     here today clarifies congressional intent after the Georgia 
     v. Ashcroft

[[Page S8005]]

     decision by re-establishing that Section 5 requires that 
     there be no retrogression of minority voters' ability to 
     elect the candidate of their choice--the standard described 
     in Beer v. United States that governed Section 5 preclearance 
     decisions prior to the Supreme Court's decision in Ashcroft.
       The drafters of this legislation concluded that ``ability 
     to elect'' was the proper standard because it preserves the 
     gains made in minority voting power and provides a more 
     manageable standard to guide covered jurisdictions, the 
     Department of Justice, and the federal courts as they review 
     voting changes pursuant to Section 5.
       The bill we are considering today re-establishes the 
     ``ability to elect'' standard because the ``totality of the 
     circumstances'' test articulated in the Ashcroft decision 
     undermines Section 5's ability to protect against 
     discrimination and maintain the progress made in minority 
     political participation, and it creates an amorphous standard 
     that will be difficult for covered jurisdictions to follow 
     and for the Justice Department to administer.
       We in Congress who are supporting this bill determined that 
     we must address this standard for the same reasons as the 
     dissent in Ashcroft noted, that is because the ``totality of 
     the circumstances'' test adopted by the Supreme Court 
     majority ``unmoors Sec. 5 from any practical and 
     administrable conception of minority influence'' by 
     abandoning the ``anchoring reference to electing a candidate 
     of choice'' that had previously guided Section 5 
     preclearance.
       In the Judiciary Committee we received extensive testimony 
     about the harm that the Ashcroft decision has had on the 
     power of Section 5 to protect minority voters. Political 
     science professor Theodore Arrington, who has served as an 
     expert witness in over 30 voting rights cases, testified at 
     the Committee's hearings that the Ashcroft case created an 
     ``unworkable standard'' because there is ``no way to know how 
     to comply with the Court's mandate.'' The legislation we are 
     considering today would add needed clarity.
       The difficulty of measuring minority ``influence'' was 
     well-illustrated by the results in Georgia v. Ashcroft 
     itself, as was pointed out in the Committee by Professor 
     Pamela Karlan. The Supreme Court noted that most of the 
     districts in which African-Americans make up more than 20% of 
     the electorate are majority-Democrat, which the Court 
     concluded ``make it more likely as a matter of fact that 
     African-American voters will constitute an effective voting 
     bloc, even if they cannot always elect the candidate of their 
     choice.'' However, in the three districts where African-
     American voters supposedly retained an ``influence'' on their 
     elected representatives, the elected white representatives 
     switched from the Democratic to the Republican party in the 
     two-week period between their election and the inauguration, 
     which resulted in the Democrats losing control of the Georgia 
     State Senate. This result undermined the Supreme Court's view 
     that representatives elected in a minority ``influence 
     district'' would listen and respond to their sizable minority 
     constituents despite not being these voters' preferred 
     candidates.
       The aftermath of Georgia's elections supports the 
     dissenting justices' views that it is impossible for a court 
     to measure minority influence, and thus a state should not be 
     granted preclearance for redistricting plans that trade away 
     districts in which minority voters have the ability to elect 
     their preferred candidates for ones in which they might have 
     the ability to influence candidates elected by others. As 
     Ashcroft itself demonstrated, the appearance of influence 
     might far exceed the reality.
       The impact of ``influence districts'' is particularly 
     ephemeral where the existence of racially polarized voting 
     means that elected officials do not need minority voters to 
     retain their seats. As Laughlin McDonald, Director of ACLU's 
     Voting Rights Project, testified, racially polarized voting 
     means that African-Americans may have little or no influence 
     in majority white districts. In the 1970s and 1980s, only 
     about 1% of majority white districts in the South elected an 
     African-American to a state legislature. As late as 1988, no 
     African-American had been elected from a majority white 
     district in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, or 
     South Carolina. The ACLU's Voting Rights Project Report 
     described the pervasiveness of racial bloc voting in covered 
     jurisdictions. For example, in Smith v. Beasley, decided in 
     1992, a three-judge court found that ``[i]n South Carolina, 
     voting has been, and still is, polarized by race. This voting 
     pattern is general throughout the state.'' Ten years later, 
     in 2002, another three-judge court made a similar finding: 
     ``Voting in South Carolina continues to be racially polarized 
     to a very high degree in all regions of the state and in both 
     primary and general elections.'' As recently as 2004, the 
     Fourth Circuit affirmed the findings of a South Carolina 
     district court that ``voting in Charleston County Council 
     elections is severely and characteristically polarized along 
     racial lines.''
       After Ashcroft, states can redistrict in ways that diminish 
     minority voters' political power. As Professor Nathaniel 
     Persily testified, the ``danger that Ashcroft seemed to 
     invite and that this legislation intends to fix is the 
     possibility that under the cloak of `influence districts' a 
     jurisdiction might dilute the minority vote by splitting 
     large minority communities among several districts in which 
     they really have no influence at all.'' Professor Persily 
     explained that under the Ashcroft precedent, the Department 
     of Justice could preclear a state redistricting plan that 
     split a 60% minority district into two 30% minority 
     influence districts, even though such a plan would 
     severely diminish minority voters' ability to elect their 
     preferred candidates. Moreover, combined with the Supreme 
     Court's holding in Bossier II, a state legislature could 
     enact these kinds of voting changes for the express 
     purpose of discriminating against minority voters, and yet 
     they nonetheless might be precleared under Section 5.
       The VRARA restores Section 5 to its original intended 
     meaning so that it prohibits voting changes that undermine 
     racial minorities' ability to elect candidates of their 
     choice. The VRARA provides that ``[t]he purpose of subsection 
     (b) of this section is to protect the ability of such 
     [minority] citizens to elect their preferred candidates of 
     choice.'' This change to Section 5 makes clear that Congress 
     rejects the Supreme Court's Ashcroft decision and 
     reestablishes that a covered state's redistricting plan 
     cannot eliminate ``ability to elect'' districts and replace 
     them with ``influence districts.''
       The amendment to Section 5 does not, however, freeze into 
     place the current minority voter percentages in any given 
     district. As stated by the dissenters in Georgia v. Ashcroft, 
     as well as by Professor Arrington and Professor Persily at 
     the Committee hearings, reducing the number of minorities in 
     a district is perfectly consistent with the pre-Ashcroft 
     understanding of Section 5 as long as other factors 
     demonstrate that minorities retain their ability to elect 
     their preferred candidates. The amendment is intended to make 
     clear that the addition of districts in which minorities 
     might have an influence on the political process cannot 
     compensate for the elimination of districts in which 
     minorities have the ability to elect a preferred candidate. 
     But there is no ``magic number'' that every district must 
     maintain to satisfy the ``ability to elect'' standard; the 
     percentages will vary depending on such variables as the 
     extent of racially polarized voting and white crossover 
     voting, registration rates, citizenship variables, and the 
     degree of voter turnout. As both Professor Arrington and 
     Professor Persily stated in their testimony, all of these 
     considerations should come into play, making the ``ability to 
     elect'' standard one that turns on the context of the 
     districts at issue, as was the case under the Beer standard.
       The ``ability to elect'' standard does not lock in 
     districts that meet any particular threshold. Determinations 
     about whether a district provides the minority community the 
     ability to elect must be made on a case-by-case basis. 
     Indeed, prior to Georgia v. Ashcroft, the Department of 
     Justice utilized case-by-case analysis to determine whether a 
     voting change impacted the minority community's ``ability to 
     elect.'' Specifically, DOJ performed an intensely 
     jurisdiction-specific review of election results, demographic 
     data, maps and other information in order to compare the 
     minority community's ability to elect under benchmark and 
     proposed plans. Other information considered by DOJ, outlined 
     in the Procedures for the Administration of Section 5 of the 
     Voting Rights Act,'' 28 C.F.R., Part 51, include the extent 
     to which a reasonable and legitimate justification for the 
     change exists, the extent to which the jurisdiction followed 
     objective guidelines and fair and conventional procedures in 
     adopting the change, the extent to which the jurisdiction 
     afforded members of racial and language minority groups an 
     opportunity to participate in the decision to make the 
     change, and the extent to which the jurisdiction took the 
     concerns of members of racial and language minority groups 
     into account in making the change. This analysis allows 
     jurisdictions a degree of flexibility in the adoption of 
     their voting changes.
       In sum, to avoid violating Section 5's non-retrogression 
     standard, a covered state's redistricting must ensure that it 
     has not diminished minority voters' ability to elect their 
     candidates of choice. The ``ability to elect'' standard that 
     is being reestablished through the VRARA prevents all types 
     of retrogressive changes, whether they come from the 
     dispersion of a minority community among too many districts 
     (cracking) or the overconcentration of minorities among too 
     few (packing).

                              Bossier Fix

       The second of these provisions is usually referred to as 
     the ``Bossier Fix.''
       We have acted in this reauthorization to restore the VRA's 
     original standing and effectiveness. After hearing extensive 
     testimony and carefully reviewing the record created in the 
     Senate and in the House of Representatives, we concluded that 
     the Supreme Court's holding in a case called Reno v. Bossier 
     Parish (``Bossier II''), went against both the original 
     intent of Congress and established Department of Justice and 
     judicial precedent. Section 5 of the VRA requires that all 
     changes in covered jurisdictions ``not have the purpose and . 
     . . not have the effect of denying or abridging the right to 
     vote on account of race or color.'' Accordingly, the process 
     for preclearing changes consists of two prongs. First, it 
     consists of an inquiry as to the purpose of the change in 
     question. Then, it requires a separate examination into the 
     effect of the change. A plan may not receive preclearance 
     without satisfying requirements under both prongs. 
     Traditionally, the purpose prong has been a common basis for 
     Department of Justice objections to plans submitted by 
     covered jurisdictions. However, since ``Bossier II'' the 
     scope

[[Page S8006]]

     and effectiveness of the purpose prong has been dramatically 
     limited.
       That is why we are amending the VRA to make clear that a 
     covered jurisdiction does not have to disprove the existence 
     of any Section 2 violation to obtain Section 5 preclearance. 
     Rather, contrary to the suggestions of a handful of my 
     colleagues who wish to undermine what we accomplish today, 
     this bill amends the VRA to make clear that it prohibits all 
     voting changes enacted with a discriminatory purpose.

                       The Holding in Bossier II

       The controversy in Bossier II arose when the school board 
     (``the Board'') of Bossier Parish, Louisiana sought to redraw 
     the districts that elected its members. At the time of the 
     1990s redistricting, African-Americans made up approximately 
     20% of the parish's population. They did not, however, 
     comprise a majority in any of the twelve school board 
     districts in the parish. In 1992, the Board adopted a new 
     redistricting plan that did not create any new majority-
     African-American districts, rejecting an alternate plan that 
     would have created two majority-African-American districts.
       In January of the following year, the Board submitted its 
     redistricting plan for preclearance to the Department of 
     Justice; upon objection by the Attorney General, the Board 
     filed suit for a declaratory judgment in the federal district 
     court to obtain preclearance. At trial, the Attorney General 
     argued that the plan should not be approved under Section 5 
     for two reasons. First, the plan diluted the voting strength 
     of African-American voters, in violation of a separate 
     provision of the VRA, Section 2. Second, the plan was enacted 
     with a discriminatory purpose.
       At trial, DOJ presented extensive evidence that the plan 
     was, in fact, enacted with a discriminatory motive. The 
     Board's refusal to draw a single African-American majority 
     district stood in stark contrast to its own admission that 
     creation of a majority-African-American district was clearly 
     feasible, and in contrast to expert testimony that African-
     Americans would only be able to elect their chosen candidate 
     in such a district. Moreover, the manner in which the 
     districts were drawn suggested--in the Board cartographer's 
     own opinion--that traditionally African-American populations 
     were purposefully divided into adjoining white districts, a 
     process known as ``fracturing.'' Most alarming, however, was 
     testimony suggesting that certain Board members were openly 
     hostile to African-American representation or African-
     American-majority districts.
       In spite of this evidence, the trial court precleared the 
     plan. The case twice reached the Supreme Court on separate 
     appeals. The first time, the Court agreed with the trial 
     court that a voting change cannot be denied preclearance 
     under Section 5 solely because the change violated Section 2. 
     The second time--Bossier II--the Court addressed a more 
     contentious question: whether Section 5 prohibited all voting 
     changes enacted with a discriminatory purpose. The Court 
     answered this question in the negative, holding that Section 
     5 does not bar electoral changes enacted with a 
     discriminatory purpose if those changes were designed only to 
     maintain, and not worsen, the current electoral strength of a 
     protected minority group.
       Bossier II was premised on the holding in an earlier 
     Section 5 case, Beer v. United States. In Beer, the Supreme 
     Court interpreted the effects prong to prohibit only those 
     changes that had a ``retrogressive'' impact on the voting 
     strength of minorities in a covered jurisdiction. The 
     question of retrogression--whether or not a proposed plan 
     decreased voting strength as compared to the previous plan--
     thus became the critical measure of success or failure under 
     the effects prong. In Bossier II, Justice Scalia argued that 
     since ``purpose'' and ``effect'' both modify the same object 
     in the text of the statute--``denying or abridging the right 
     to vote on account of race or color''--they must prohibit the 
     same activity. If Beer held that the effects prong only 
     prohibited ``retrogression,'' the Court's majority reasoned 
     that Section 5 would only prohibit retrogressive intent. The 
     end result of this argument was aptly summarized by Debo 
     Adegbile, who testified: ``Since [Bossier II], non-
     retrogressive voting changes motivated by racial animus, no 
     matter how clearly demonstrated . . . are insulated from 
     Section 5 objection under the purpose prong.'' Justice 
     Souter, dissenting from the majority opinion, came to the 
     same conclusion: ``Now executive and judicial officers of the 
     United States will be forced to preclear illegal and 
     unconstitutional voting schemes patently intended to 
     perpetuate discrimination.''

            Problems With the Purpose Prong Under Bossier II

       The holding in Bossier II is at odds with congressional 
     intent and established judicial and Department of Justice 
     precedent. It effectively eviscerates the purpose prong of 
     Section 5 and compromises the overall ability of Section 5 to 
     combat innovative discriminatory practices, which it was 
     originally designed to prohibit. Committee reports from the 
     89th Congress uniformly suggest that the Senate and House of 
     Representatives designed Section 5 as a broad protection 
     against increasingly innovative discriminatory practices. 
     This is reflected in the fact that the language of the 
     provision closely parallels that of the 15th Amendment, which 
     prohibits intentional discrimination. This is not a 
     coincidence; members of both the Senate Judiciary Committee 
     and the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee 
     explicitly cited the VRA as a bill primarily intended to 
     enforce the 15th Amendment.
       In 1966, when the Supreme Court heard the first 
     constitutional challenge to the VRA, it reaffirmed the broad 
     scope envisioned by Congress. In South Carolina v. 
     Katzenbach, the Court explained that the VRA was designed 
     ``to rid the country of racial discrimination in voting,'' 
     and described Section 5 as ``the heart of the Act.'' Six 
     years later, in Perkins v. Matthews, the Court stated that 
     there was ``little question'' that Congress intended Section 
     5 to ensure that covered jurisdictions ``not institute new 
     laws with respect to voting that might have a racially 
     discriminatory purpose or effect.'' In 1975, far from 
     repudiating earlier Committee reports or the statements in 
     Katzenbach and Perkins, this Committee further emphasized a 
     broad role for Section 5, one that went beyond the mere 
     preservation of minority voting strength.
       The purpose prong established by Bossier II is far narrower 
     than Congress intended. While the retrogression standard 
     defines prohibited effects, the same standard limits the 
     purpose prong to the point of insignificance. After Bossier 
     II, the only occasion in which the purpose prong would be the 
     sole basis for a Department of Justice objection would be 
     when the covered jurisdiction intended to decrease minority 
     voting strength, but somehow failed in this effort.
       More incongruously, however, as conceived by Bossier II, 
     the purpose prong would actually reward those covered 
     jurisdictions with the most extensive histories of minority 
     vote dilution; this is what Professor Anita Earls described 
     in hearings before the Judiciary Committee as the 
     ``discrimination dividend.'' Where a jurisdiction has 
     traditionally structured its election methods and voting 
     practices so that minority voters have no voting strength, 
     and no ability to elect candidates of their choice to begin 
     with, it is impossible for new voting practices to be 
     retrogressive. When no retrogression is possible, it is also 
     impossible to prove retrogressive intent. The Bossier II 
     interpretation of the purpose prong would freeze voter 
     discrimination at existing levels, to the benefit of the most 
     discriminatory of jurisdictions.
       I find no evidence to suggest that the 94th Congress 
     enacted Section 5 with such a limited--and indeed, 
     paradoxical--scope in mind. To the contrary, Section 5 was 
     designed to target precisely those areas with the most 
     entrenched histories of discrimination. The Supreme Court 
     long recognized this. I agree with the findings of the 
     House Committee on the Judiciary, which concluded that the 
     purpose prong was designed to prevent all voting changes 
     with a discriminatory intent. We reported VRARA and will 
     pass it today to restore the original understanding of 
     that provision.
       In addition to contravening congressional intent, Bossier 
     II is also in conflict with more than three decades of 
     judicial and Department of Justice precedent. Prior to 
     Bossier II, the Department of Justice interpreted the purpose 
     prong of Section 5 to block all changes enacted with a 
     discriminatory intent, regardless of retrogressive effect. 
     This was not a limited practice. Prior to Bossier II, a large 
     percentage of all Department objections were based on 
     discriminatory purpose alone.
       The Supreme Court reached the same conclusion, consistently 
     construing Section 5 as barring implementation of electoral 
     changes if and when they were adopted with a discriminatory 
     purpose. In City of Richmond v. United States, for example, 
     the Court held that a proposed annexation had no 
     discriminatory effect under Section 5. However, the Court 
     nevertheless remanded the case to the District Court to 
     determine if the change was adopted for a discriminatory 
     purpose. As the Court stated in City of Richmond: ``An 
     official action, whether an annexation or otherwise, taken 
     for the purpose of discriminating against Negroes on account 
     of their race has no legitimacy at all under our Constitution 
     or under the statute.'' Likewise, in City of Pleasant Grove 
     v. United States, a covered jurisdiction was denied 
     preclearance for a proposed annexation, even though 
     retrogressive effect was impossible, because of clear 
     evidence that the annexation was enacted with a racially 
     discriminatory purpose. The Court explained that ``[t]o hold 
     otherwise would make appellant's extraordinary success in 
     resisting integration thus far a shield for further 
     resistance.'' Even in Beer, the purported foundation for 
     Bossier II, the Court provided that changes that actually 
     improved the voting strength of minorities could still be 
     denied preclearance if they were intentionally 
     discriminatory. The District Court for the District of 
     Columbia--the body charged with exclusive jurisdiction over 
     Section 5 suits--also consistently held (before Bossier II) 
     that Section 5 prohibits changes enacted with a 
     discriminatory intent.
       For thirty-five years, Congress reviewed and renewed the 
     Voting Rights Act and amended Section 2 in response to 
     another Supreme Court precedent, Mobile v. Bolden, but 
     Congress did not change or raise any objection to the 
     judicial or Justice Department interpretations of the Section 
     5 purpose prong. Instead, Congress reauthorized Section 5 
     unamended on three separate occasions. Until Bossier II, all 
     three branches of government--the courts, the executive, and 
     the legislature--appeared to be in agreement that the purpose 
     prong prohibited all

[[Page S8007]]

     changes enacted with a discriminatory intent.

          Bossier II Undermines the Effectiveness of Section 5

       Bossier II has had a striking impact on the Section 5 
     purpose prong, minimizing the number of purpose-based 
     objections and undermining the overall ability of Section 5 
     to block discriminatory electoral practices in covered 
     jurisdictions. The record of preclearance objections after 
     Bossier II suggests that the purpose prong under Bossier 
     II has become inconsequential and has no meaning apart 
     from retrogressive effect. After Bossier II, there was a 
     steep drop in the number of Department of Justice 
     objections based on purpose alone. In the 1980s, 25% of 
     DOJ objections--83 objections in total--were based on 
     intent alone; in the 1990s, this number increased to 43%, 
     with 151 objections solely based on discriminatory intent. 
     In the five years following Bossier II, only two out of a 
     total of forty-three objections (4%) have been interposed 
     because of retrogressive intent, the only purpose 
     prohibited by Bossier II. In the words of one House 
     Judiciary Committee witness, Mark Posner, the purpose 
     prong ``has effectively been read almost entirely out of 
     Section 5.''
       According to Mr. Posner's testimony, the impact of Bossier 
     II on Section 5 enforcement is evident from the recent 
     history of decennial redistricting. After the 1980 Census, 
     the Department of Justice objected to 7% of redistricting 
     plans filed by covered jurisdictions; this rate increased to 
     8% after the 1990 Census. In contrast, DOJ objected to only 
     1% of redistricting plans filed after the 2000 Census. There 
     is strong evidence that the drop is significantly 
     attributable to the absence of purpose-based objections.
       The inability of Section 5 to block changes enacted with a 
     discriminatory intent is highly troubling. At its core, the 
     Voting Rights Act was designed to fight discrimination in 
     American politics; the VRA is a vehicle to enforce the 14th 
     and 15th Amendments, which themselves prohibit intentional 
     discrimination in various settings. Section 5 was the 
     centerpiece of this effort, effectively shifting the burden 
     of fighting racial discrimination from the victims to the 
     state. Allowing expressly discriminatory plans to attain 
     preclearance solely because the voting strength of a minority 
     group is too weak to be further worsened undermines the 
     original impetus of the VRA in general, and Section 5 in 
     particular. Furthermore, it shifts the burden of fighting 
     voting discrimination back to its victims.

                  Restoring Section 5 Purpose Inquiry

       For the reasons I have described, we find it necessary to 
     amend Section 5 to restore the purpose prong to its original 
     scope, enabling the Attorney General and the District Court 
     of the District of Columbia to object to any voting changes 
     enacted with a discriminatory intent. The VRARA accomplishes 
     this by adding subsections (b) and (c) to Section 5, which 
     state that, ``(b) Any voting qualification or prerequisite to 
     voting, or standard, practice, or procedure with respect to 
     voting that has the purpose of or will have the effect of 
     diminishing the ability of any citizens of the United States 
     on account of race or color, or in contravention of the 
     guarantees set forth in section 4(f)(2), to elect their 
     preferred candidates of choice denies or abridges the right 
     to vote within the meaning of subsection (a) of this 
     section,'' and ``(c) The term ``purpose'' in subsections (a) 
     and (b) of this section shall include any discriminatory 
     purpose.''
       These sections reject the holding in Bossier II and clarify 
     Congress' original intent that Section 5 prohibit all voting 
     changes enacted with a discriminatory purpose. This would 
     also realign the purpose prong with constitutional standards, 
     allowing Section 5 to prohibit intentional discrimination 
     that would otherwise be unconstitutional under the 15th 
     Amendment. I reject any reading of Section 5 that would allow 
     explicitly discriminatory voting changes to be precleared, 
     solely because the voting strength of the minority group in 
     question cannot be further diminished. I believe that the 
     VRARA remedies this problem and restores the purpose prong of 
     Section 5 to prevent purposeful discrimination.
  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, as the Senate stands poised to conclude 
this debate and reauthorize the Voting Rights Act, we recall the words 
of Martin Luther King, Jr., in his famous ``I have a Dream'' speech, 
where he noted: ``When the architects of our republic wrote the 
magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of 
Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every 
American was to fall heir.'' The Voting Rights Act is one of the most 
important methods of enforcing this promise and upholding the 
Constitution's guarantee of equal rights and equal protection of the 
law. We owe it those who struggled so long and hard to transform the 
landscape and make America a place of political inclusion to 
reauthorize this important Act. We all enjoy these protections and take 
them for granted. No Senator would ever be denied the right to vote, 
but the same cannot be said about millions of others. We act so that 
all Americans can enjoy America's bounty, its blessings and its 
promise.
  On May 2, our congressional leadership stood together on the steps of 
the Capitol--an historic announcement in an era of intense 
partisanship. We came together in recognition that there are few things 
as critical to our Nation, and to American citizenship, as voting. In 
sharp contrast to the tremendous resistance and bitter politics which 
met the initial enactment of the Voting Rights Act, our efforts this 
year have overcome objections through discussions, the hearing process 
and by developing an overwhelming record of justification for extension 
of the expiring provisions. Last week, the House of Representatives, 
after a month of delay, passed H.R. 9 by a vote of 390-33, rejecting 
all efforts to reduce the sweep and effect of the Voting Rights Act. 
Yesterday in the Senate Judiciary Committee, we did the same after 
almost as long a delay in considering the companion Senate bill. We 
acted unanimously to report the Senate bill. Now it is up to the full 
Senate to complete our work.
  As Congressman John Lewis said, ``When historians pick up their pens 
and write about this period, let it be said that those of us in the 
Congress in 2006, we did the right thing. And our forefathers and our 
foremothers would be very proud of us. Let us pass a clean bill without 
any amendments.'' I am encouraged that we are so close to accomplishing 
this today.
  The path that my good friend John Lewis has taken from Selma, AL, to 
Congress, from ``Bloody Sunday'' in 1965 on the Edmund Pettis Bridge to 
leading the fight in 2006 to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act, is a 
lesson to us all. The events of Bloody Sunday, were caught on 
television cameras, and those powerful images laid bare for all 
Americans the violence encountered by many African Americans trying to 
exercise their civil rights. It was a crucial turning point in securing 
the right to vote. A few days after the violence of Bloody Sunday, 
President Lyndon Johnson outlined the proposed Voting Rights Act of 
1965, before a joint session of Congress. Later that year, Congress 
passed it so that the Constitution's guarantees of equal access to the 
electoral process, regardless of race, would not be undermined by 
discriminatory practices.

  Like the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment, the right to vote 
is foundational because it secures the effective exercise of all other 
rights. As people are able to register, vote, and elect candidates of 
their choice, their interests and rights get attention. The very 
legitimacy of our democratic Government is dependent on the access all 
Americans have to the electoral process.
  Today we are poised to reaffirm a cornerstone of our civil rights 
laws. As we do, we recall the great historic struggle for civil rights 
led by American heroes of vision and strength, such as Fannie Lou 
Hamer, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King, who passed away just months 
ago. We honor their legacy by reaffirming our commitment to protect the 
right to vote for all Americans.
  The pervasive discriminatory tactics that led to the original Voting 
Rights Act were deeply rooted. As a Nation, this effort to ensure equal 
protection dates back more than 135 years to the ratification of the 
15th Amendment in 1870, the last of the post-Civil War Reconstruction 
amendments. It took the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 for 
people of all races in many parts of our country to begin the effective 
exercise of rights granted 95 years earlier by the 15th Amendment. 
Despite the additional gains we have made in enabling racial minorities 
to participate in the political life of the Nation, the work of the 
Voting Rights Act is not yet done.
  In fact, in the recent LULAC decision, the Supreme Court--finding 
that 100,000 Latino Americans were illegally disenfranchised in Texas--
affirmed that racial discrimination against our Nation's minorities 
persists today. It proves that the protections of the Voting Rights Act 
are still needed. We have this year undertaken an extensive process of 
congressional fact-finding. What it establishes is that we are right to 
extend the protections of the Voting Rights Act.
  In the Senate Judiciary Committee, we held nine hearings on the 
Voting Rights Act. We received thousands of pages of testimony, 
reports, articles,

[[Page S8008]]

letters, statistics, and other relevant material from a wide variety of 
sources to inform our consideration. The evidence gathered, together 
with the record developed in a dozen hearings in the House provide us 
with an adequate basis for Congress to determine that the protections 
of the Voting Rights Act are still needed both to maintain the gains 
already achieved and to continue to enforce the guarantees of equality 
enshrined in the 14th and 15th Amendments.
  Much of the testimony we received focused on the continuing need for 
Sections 5 and 203 of the Voting Rights Act as essential safeguards to 
the rights and interests of Americans of all races and our language 
minorities.
  The record we have assembled and consider justifies the renewal of 
Section 5. This section requires certain jurisdictions with a history 
of discrimination to ``pre-clear'' all voting changes with either the 
Justice Department or the U.S. District Court for the District of 
Columbia. In doing so, Section 5 combats the practice of those 
jurisdictions of shifting from one invalidated discriminatory tactic to 
another, which had undermined earlier efforts to enforce the 15th 
Amendment. After ``enduring nearly a century of systematic resistance 
to the Fifteenth Amendment,'' Congress found, it was imperative to 
``shift the advantage of time and inertia from the perpetrators of the 
evil to its victims.''
  Section 5 continues to be a tremendous tool for protecting minority 
voting rights and a necessary one. For example, in 1992, the Attorney 
General used Section 5 to stop Wrightsville, GA, from relocating its 
polling place from the county courthouse to a private all-white club 
with a history of refusing membership to black applicants and a then-
current practice of hosting functions to which blacks were not welcome. 
Even more recently, in 2001, Kilmichael, Mississippi's white mayor and 
all-white Board of Aldermen abruptly cancelled an election after Census 
data revealed that African Americans had become the majority in the 
town and an unprecedented number of African-American candidates were 
running for office. The Justice Department objected under Section 5. 
Only after the Justice Department forced Kilmichael to hold an election 
in 2003 did it elect its first African-American mayor, along with three 
African-American aldermen.
  These are just a couple of examples that are representative of the 
barriers to political participation that all too many American citizens 
still face today, in 2006. In addition to finding extensive evidence 
that covered jurisdictions have continued to engage in discriminatory 
tactics, we also found that the Section 5 preclearance requirement has 
served a vital prophylactic purpose in protecting against 
discriminatory voting practices before they go into place and securing 
the gains made in minority political participation.
  The record also supports renewal of Sections 203 and 4(f)(4), which 
require bilingual voting assistance for certain language minority 
groups, to ensure that all Americans are able to exercise their 
fundamental right as citizens to vote. According to the most recent 
information from the Census, more than 70 percent of citizens who use 
language assistance are native born, including Native Americans, Alaska 
natives and Puerto Ricans. Many of those who benefit from Sections 203 
and 4(f)(4) suffer from inadequate educational opportunities to learn 
English.
  These Americans are trying to vote but many of them are struggling 
with the English language due to disparities in education and the 
incremental process of learning. We can and we must reauthorize these 
provisions to make sure there is no literacy test at the polling place. 
We endured a time in our Nation's history when such tests 
disenfranchised many voters. Renewing the expiring language provisions 
will help enable all Americans to participate fully in our Nation's 
democracy.
  The record also supports the need to amend the VRA to restore its 
original purpose in response to two Supreme Court decisions that have 
limited its effectiveness. The bill remedies the Supreme Court's 
holding in Reno v. Bossier Parish, by making clear that a voting rule 
change motivated by any discriminatory purpose violates Section 5. 
Under the holding in Reno v. Bossier Parish, certain voting rule 
changes passed with the intent to discriminate against minorities could 
pass Section 5 muster. Because such an interpretation is inconsistent 
with congressional intent and the purpose of the Voting Rights Act to 
eliminate discriminatory tactics that undermine the guarantees of the 
15th Amendment, our bill fixes this inconsistency by clarifying that a 
voting rule change motivated by any discriminatory purpose also cannot 
be pre-cleared.
  The bill also remedies the Supreme Court's holding in Georgia v. 
Ashcroft. In this case, the Supreme Court provided an unclear and 
unworkable test for assessing a jurisdiction's challenge to denial of 
Section 5 pre-clearance. Congressional intent was to protect the 
ability of a minority community to elect a candidate of its choice. 
This legislation clarifies our congressional intent by setting forth 
defined factors to restore the original understanding of the Voting 
Rights Act to protect the minority community's ability to elect their 
preferred candidates of choice.
  It has often been said that those who cannot remember the past are 
condemned to repeat it. We must make certain that the significant gains 
in voting rights over the past four decades do not suffer the same fate 
as the voting rights provided during Reconstruction. After the Civil 
War, the Reconstruction Act promised that the guarantees of the 15th 
Amendment would be realized. Between 1870 and 1900, 22 African-
Americans served in the United States Congress. In 1868, Louisiana 
elected an African-American Lieutenant Governor, Oscar Dunn, and 87 
African Americans held seats in the South Carolina legislature. 
However, these Reconstruction-era gains in African-American voting and 
representation proved to be short-lived. Following the end of 
Reconstruction, the rights of African-Americans to vote and to hold 
office were virtually eliminated in many areas through discriminatory 
legal barriers, intimidation, and violence. The changes were swift, 
systematic and severe. By 1896, Representative George White of North 
Carolina was the only African American remaining in the U.S. Congress, 
and it would take 72 years after Representative White left Congress for 
African-American voters in the South to elect another candidate of 
their choice to Congress.
  In Mississippi, the percentage of African-American voting-age men 
registered to vote fell from over 90 percent during the Reconstruction 
period to less than 6 percent in 1892. Between 1896 and 1900, the 
number of African-American voters in Louisiana was reduced from 130,000 
to a mere 5,000. Unlike the short-lived gains made by African-American 
voters during Reconstruction, their exclusion from the ballot box was 
persistent. Only 3 percent of voting-age African-American men and women 
in the South were registered to vote in 1940, only 1 percent in 
Mississippi. These numbers provide a lesson we cannot not ignore.

  The passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 was a turning point. We 
have made progress toward a more inclusive democracy since then but I 
fear that if we fail to reauthorize the expiring provisions of the 
Voting Rights Act, we are likely to backslide. In his testimony before 
the Senate Judiciary Committee, civil rights lawyer Robert McDuff 
warned:

       No place more than Mississippi has been torn by slavery, by 
     the lost promise of emancipation after the Reconstruction 
     period, by the resurgence of racist power in the latter part 
     of the 19th century and most of the 20th, and by the legacy 
     of poverty and racial separation that still exists. While 
     people's behavior and people's hearts can change over time, 
     vigilance is required to ensure that laws and structures 
     remain in place to prevent us as a society from turning back 
     to the worst impulses of the past. Occasional flashes of 
     those impulses illustrate the need for that vigilance. 
     Important changes have come to pass in Mississippi in the 
     last 40 years--changes due in large part to the mechanisms of 
     the Voting Rights Act, particularly the preclearance 
     provision of Section 5. But, like the gains that were washed 
     away after the nation abandoned the goals of Reconstruction 
     in 1876, the progress of the last 40 years is not assured for 
     the future.

  When we have such legal protections that are proven effective when 
enforced, we should not abandon them prematurely simply in the hope 
equality will come. Reauthorizing and restoring the Voting Rights Act 
is the right thing to do, not only for those who came before--the brave 
people who

[[Page S8009]]

fought for equality--but also for those who come after us, our children 
and our grandchildren. No one's right to vote should be abridged, 
suppressed or denied in the United States of America.
  The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is one of the most important laws 
Congress has ever passed. It helped to usher the country out of a 
history of discrimination into the greater inclusion of more Americans 
in the decisions about our Nation's future. Our democracy and our 
Nation are better and richer for it. We cannot relent in our fight for 
the fundamental civil rights of all Americans. Congress has 
reauthorized and revitalized the Act four times pursuant to its 
constitutional powers. This is no time for backsliding, this is the 
time to move forward together.
  As the Senate completes consideration of this important legislation--
the culmination of many months of legislative activity to reauthorize 
the Voting Rights Act--I welcome the President's statement of support 
today. It was a long time in coming, and the long way round, but he got 
there. The President is right to have spoken of racial discrimination 
as a wound not fully healed. We all want our revitalization of the 
Voting Rights Act we consider today to help in that healing process and 
in guaranteeing the fundamental right to vote.
  I was reminded today of when the President spoke dramatically last 
September from New Orleans' Jackson Square and pledged to confront 
poverty with bold action. I look forward to that bold action. He spoke 
then of helping our people overcome what he called ``deep, persistent 
poverty,'' ``poverty with roots in a history of racial discrimination, 
which cut off generations from the opportunity of America.'' I agree 
with him. We must, as the President said that night, ``rise above the 
legacy of inequality.'' That is a shameful legacy that still exists and 
still needs to be overcome. The President is right that ``the wounds'' 
of racial discrimination need to be fully healed.
  In my judgment, based on the record before this Senate, the 
reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act is needed to ensure that 
healing.
  We heard so often during the civil rights movement ``we shall 
overcome.'' But it is not just a case of we shall overcome, it is ``we 
must overcome.''
  I also welcome the support of others who have come recently to this 
cause and struggle. I welcome our Senate bill cosponsors who joined us 
after the companion House bill had already won 390 votes and even those 
who joined after the Senate bill was successfully voted out of our 
Committee, 18-0. It is never too late to join a good cause, and 
protecting the fundamental right to vote and have Americans' votes 
count is just such a cause.
  Someone who was not late to the struggle but who has been at its 
forefront since his election to the Senate in 1962 is the senior 
Senator from Massachusetts. He worked to pass the original landmark 
Voting Rights Act in 1965. On this issue he is the Senate's leader. It 
has been an honor to work beside him in this important effort. And work 
he did. To assemble the record required work. He came to our hearings, 
helped organize them, helped assemble the witnesses, and when Senators 
from the majority were unavailable, he and I proceeded with the 
permission of our chairman to chair those hearings. We would not be 
passing this bill without the overwhelming support that it will have if 
it had not been for Senator Kennedy.
  Of course, we also honor the senior Senator from Hawaii who likewise 
voted for the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and each of its 
reauthorizations. His leadership in these matters is greatly 
appreciated by this Senator and, I believe, by the Senate.
  I also thank the Democratic leader for his help. Senator Reid stayed 
focused on making sure this essential legislative objective was 
achieved. He worked with us and the Republican leader throughout. He is 
a lead sponsor of the legislation and was a key participant at our 
bicameral announcement on the steps of the Capitol on May 2.
  Throughout the process of developing the bill, developing the 
legislative record and considering the bill, he has never failed to go 
the extra mile to ensure the success of this effort.
  I thank our Chairman and lead Senate sponsor. As I pushed and cajoled 
and urged action he heard me out. Together with the other active 
members of the Judiciary Committee, we worked to assemble the necessary 
record and consider it so that our bill is on a solid factual, legal 
and constitutional foundation. I thank each of our cosponsors and, in 
particular, those who joined us early on, those on the Judiciary 
Committee, and the Republican leader.
  There are too many others who deserve thanks. They include Senator 
Salazar for his contributions throughout and for his thoughtful 
initiative to broaden those for whom this bill is named by including 
Cesar Chavez. I look forward to working with him to make that a 
reality. To all who have supported this effort I say thank you and know 
that your real thanks will be in the fulfillment of the promise of 
equality for all Americans in the years ahead.
  I wholeheartedly thank the members of the civil rights community.
  Led by Wade Henderson and Nancy Zirkin at the Leadership Conference 
on Civil Rights and by Bruce Gordon and Hilary Shelton of the NAACP and 
by lawyers like Ted Shaw and Leslie Proll and all the voting rights 
attorneys who have made the cause of equal justice their lives' work, 
they have been indispensable to this effort and relentless in their 
commitment to what is best about America.
  I thank my own staff, led by Bruce Cohen, backed by a wonderful staff 
of Kristine Lucius, Jeremy Paris, Kathryn Neal, Leila George-Wheeler, 
Margaret Edmonds, and our legal clerks Robynn Sturm, Arline Duffy and 
Peter Jewett.
  I express my appreciation and admiration for all they do to make 
Congress and America measure up to the promise of our Constitution and 
the vision that Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King and 
Cesar Chavez had for America.
  As I said earlier today, all 100 Senators have no problem voting. 
They can walk into a voting booth in their home State, and nobody is 
going to say no. We have to make sure that everybody else is treated 
the same as we 100 Senators are. This is for us, this is for our 
children, and on a personal level, this is also for our grandchildren.
  I yield the floor.
  Mr. FEINGOLD. Mr. President, Section 5 of the bill, which deals with 
Georgia v. Ashcroft and the Bossier II case, is extremely important. As 
ranking member of the Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the 
Constitution, Civil Rights, and Property Rights, I concur with the 
discussion of this provision by the Senator from Vermont.
  Mr. REID. Mr. President, how much time remains?
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Six-and-a-half minutes.
  Mr. REID. Does the Senator from Massachusetts need time?
  Mr. KENNEDY. Just 2 minutes.
  Mr. REID. Mr. President, I yield 2 minutes to the Senator from 
Massachusetts.
  Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I thank our leader, Senator Reid, for his 
constancy in support of this legislative effort and for his 
encouragement to all of us on the Judiciary Committee. I thank my 
friend from Vermont for his kind words.
  Earlier today, there have been comments by my friend--and he is my 
friend--in the Judiciary Committee, Senator Cornyn, and also with 
regard to particular provisions in section 5, and later there were 
comments from Senator Cornyn and Senator Kyl about an amendment offered 
by Congressman Norwood over in the House of Representatives. I think it 
is important that the Record reflect the results of the extensive 
hearings that we had on these different issues because it is extensive, 
exhaustive, and it is presented by the floor managers, Senators Specter 
and Leahy.
  Senator Cornyn suggested in his remarks that he wishes we had taken 
more time to debate fully some of the issues raised by the 
reauthorization. In particular, he said he wished more time had been 
taken to consider the trigger formula for section 5. As an initial 
matter, the Senate began its consideration of renewing the Voting 
Rights Act with the very substantial record that had been assembled by 
the House, which contained over 10,000 pages that were the result of by 
over 8 months of House Judiciary Committee hearings.
  From our very first Senate hearing, Chairman Specter stressed the 
need to

[[Page S8010]]

build a strong record in anticipation of challenges to the act's 
constitutionality. That's exactly what we did. We heard from legal 
scholars and voting rights practitioners. We held 9 hearings, heard 
from 41 witnesses, and received well over ten thousand pages of 
documentary evidence. That evidence showed, unequivocally that 
discrimination, including intentional discrimination, persists in the 
covered jurisdictions, and that the trigger is effective in identifying 
jurisdictions for section 5 coverage. Senator Cornyn joined a unanimous 
committee in voting for the committee bill, which retains the act's 
trigger formula.
  Senator Cornyn also held up a map of the United States depicting 
jurisdictions that would be covered if the amendment offered last week 
in the House by Representative Norwood had been adopted, which would 
base coverage on voter registration and turnout during the last three 
Presidential elections. Representative Norwood had a full airing of his 
proposal and many rose in opposition, including Chairman Sensenbrenner. 
The opponents of the amendment overwhelmingly carried the day.
  Senator Cornyn said that the Norwood trigger would not appear to gut 
section 5. However, under The Norwood formula, the State of Louisiana 
essentially wouldn't be covered. Yet, there is substantial evidence in 
our record of ongoing and recent voting discrimination in Louisiana. 
Yet the so-called updated trigger formula would exclude this sort of 
jurisdiction from coverage.
  Finally, Senator Cornyn and Senator Kyl discussed the provision of 
the bill known as the Georgia v. Ashcroft fix, which clarifies the 
retrogression standard in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision in 
Georgia v. Ashcroft. The bill restores section 5's ``ability-to-elect 
standard,'' which was set forth in the Beer case. Under the Beer 
standard, ``ability-to-elect'' districts include majority-minority 
districts where minority voters demonstrate an ability to elect the 
candidates of their choice. Contrary to the suggestions of Senator 
Cornyn and Senator Kyl on the floor, while the standard rejects the 
notion that ``ability-to-elect'' districts can be traded for 
``influence'' districts, it also recognizes that minority voters may be 
able to elect candidates of their choice with reliable crossover 
support and, thus, does not mandate the creation and maintenance of 
majority-minority districts in all circumstances. The test is fact-
specific, and turns on the particular circumstances of each case. As 
both Senator Cornyn and Senator Kyl noted, the Voting Rights Act is not 
about electing candidates of particular parties. It's about enabling 
minority voters to participate effectively and equally in the political 
process.
  I thank the Senator and yield back whatever time remains.
  Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, I seek recognition to elaborate upon 
views expressed earlier today by several of my colleagues. Senators 
McConnell, Hatch, Kyl, and Cornyn engaged in a colloquy regarding the 
meaning of section 5 of the Voting Rights Act reauthorization bill 
presently before this body. I wish to express my agreement with those 
comments and add a few thoughts of my own.
  Section 5 of the proposed bill overturns two Supreme Court cases: 
Reno v. Bossier Parish, or Bossier Parish II, and Georgia v. Ashcroft. 
The goal of the bill is to protect districts that contain a majority of 
minority voters. We are well aware of efforts in the past to 
disenfranchise minority voters. As a consequence, this language 
prohibits legislators from acting purposely, with the intention of 
harming minority voters, to ``unpack'' majority-minority districts and 
to disperse those minority voters to other districts.
  First, the bill overturns Bossier Parish II by prohibiting voting 
changes enacted with ``any discriminatory purpose.'' This language bans 
a government official from discriminating against minority voters. If a 
government official could create a district that would benefit 
minorities, but purposely chooses not to do so because it will be 
majority-minority then that government official will have violated this 
bill.
  Although this is an important requirement, I have heard concerns that 
the Justice Department may abuse the new language designed to overturn 
Bossier Parish II and require States to maximize the number of 
majority-minority districts--or to create so-called coalition or 
influence districts. In cases such as Miller v. Johnson, 515 U.S. 900, 
921, 1995; Bush v. Vera, 517 U.S. 952, 1996; and Hunt v. Cromartie, 526 
U.S. 541, 1999, however, the Supreme Court has held that the Justice 
Department's one time policy of requiring States to maximize majority-
minority districts violated the Constitution. I want to make it clear 
that this bill does not allow such behavior, much less require it.
  As I understand it, the new language we are adding allows the Justice 
Department to stop purposeful, unconstitutional behavior. It does not 
grant the Justice Department license to violate the Constitution. It 
does not authorize the Justice Department to define for itself what is 
a ``discriminatory purpose.'' And it does not give the Justice 
Department a blank check to require States to maximize influence or 
coalition districts.
  Second, the bill overturns Georgia v. Ashcroft by protecting the 
ability of minorities to ``elect their preferred candidates of 
choice.'' Some commentators have read Georgia v. Ashcroft as allowing 
States to break up naturally occurring majority-minority districts to 
create other districts where minorities have less voting power but 
still exercise important influence in elections. The bill's new 
language protects districts in which minority citizens select their 
``preferred candidate of choice'' with their own voting power. In 
short, it provides additional protection for naturally occurring 
majority-minority districts. The bill does not demand that such 
districts be disbanded to create influence districts.
  I hope this language is now clear. I also thank my colleagues--
Senators McConnell, Hatch, Kyl, and Cornyn--for their lucid 
explanations earlier.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Democratic leader is recognized.
  Mr. REID. There is a definitive set of books written about this time 
period by Taylor Branch. When I read the first volume, I went over to 
the office of Congressman John Lewis because his name was mentioned in 
that book so often that a number years ago when the book was published, 
I talked to John Lewis about his valiant efforts to allow us to be in 
the place we are today. I mention that because after having read the 
third volume of Taylor Branch's book, ``At Canaan's Edge,'' which I 
completed a week ago, I was stunned by many references to Senator Ted 
Kennedy.
  One full page talks about a time that Senator Kennedy made his first 
trip to Mississippi. His brother had been assassinated. He went with 
Dr. King to Mississippi for the first time. There were 150 pounds of 
nails, an inch and three-quarters long, dumped in the pathway, three 
police cars with nails in their tires and were unable to continue. 
There were threats made on Senator Kennedy's life. I was so stunned by 
reading that that I called Senator Kennedy and read that to him and 
asked if this brought back memories of his first trip to Mississippi.
  I mention John Lewis and Senator Kennedy because they are only two of 
the many who made significant sacrifices to get us to the point where 
we are today. On March 15, 1965, Lyndon Johnson came to the Capitol to 
address a joint session of Congress. He spoke to a House, a Senate, and 
a nation that had been rocked by recent violence, especially in Selma, 
AL. President Johnson's purpose that night was to spur Congress to 
finally move forward on the Voting Rights Act, the legislation whose 
authorization we are going to vote on today. That Congress, in 1965, 
like this Congress in 2006, was slow to pass voting rights legislation. 
So President Johnson came to the Hill to remind everybody what was at 
stake. Here is what he said:

       This time, on this issue, there must be no delay, no 
     hesitation, and no compromise with our purpose. We cannot and 
     we must not refuse to protect the right of every American to 
     vote in every election that he may desire to participate in. 
     And we ought not, and we cannot, and we must not wait another 
     8 months before we get a bill. We have already waited a 
     hundred years or more, and the time for waiting is gone.

  Mr. President, once again, in our country, at this time, the time for 
waiting is gone. The Senate cannot and we must not go another day 
without sending the Voting Rights Act to the

[[Page S8011]]

President. We have already waited too long. I, like many others, 
expected this legislation to be passed months ago. I remember months 
ago standing on the Capitol steps with Senator Frist, House leaders, 
chairmen and ranking members of the Judiciary Committees from both 
bodies, and civil rights leaders, to announce the bipartisan-bicameral 
introduction of this bill. It seemed that this act would move forward 
in swift bipartisan fashion. But it has not.
  How long must we wait? How wrong that perception proved to be. In the 
House, consideration was delayed for weeks and weeks. It was only 
recently passed over the objections of conservative opponents. In the 
Senate, we saw similar delay. In fact, as recently as last week, the 
majority leader was not sure he would even bring this bill to the floor 
before the August recess.
  In the House, consideration was delayed for weeks. It recently passed 
over the objections of conservative opponents.
  Thankfully, he listened to Democrats. Thankfully, everyone listened 
to what we had to say, including our distinguished majority leader. 
Obviously, from last Friday to today, he had a change of heart and 
brought this bill before the Senate.
  The Voting Rights Act is too important to fall by the wayside like so 
many other issues that have fallen by the wayside, I am sorry to say, 
in this Republican Senate. Remember, the Voting Rights Act isn't just 
another bill. It is paramount to the preservation of our democracy, 
literally. As we have seen in recent elections, we remain a nation far 
from perfect. The fact is, we still have a lot of work to do, but in 
the last 40 years, thanks to the Voting Rights Act, we have come a long 
way.
  Before this Voting Rights Act became law, African-Americans who tried 
to register to vote were subject to beatings, literacy tests, poll 
taxes, and death.
  Before the Voting Rights Act, over 90 percent of eligible African-
American voters in Mississippi didn't and couldn't register to vote, 
not because they didn't want to, they simply were unable to, they were 
not permitted to.
  Before the Voting Rights Act, it would have been unheard of to have 
43 African-American Members of Congress as we have today.
  In the Senate, we cast a lot of votes, but not all of them are for 
causes for which Americans just a few decades ago were willing to risk 
their lives. It is a sad fact of American history that blood was 
spilled and violence erupted before the Nation opened its eyes to 
justice and the need to guarantee in law everyone's right to vote.
  It is important that all of us remember the sacrifice of those 
Americans, and to make sure we do, after this bill becomes law, I will 
seek to add the name of John Lewis to this bill. I already talked about 
his being one of my personal heroes. I understand Senators Leahy and 
Salazar are doing something similar with Cesar Chavez. I support that. 
Heroic actions of men such as John Lewis and Cesar Chavez are shining 
examples of the heroic actions of so many during the fight for equal 
rights.
  Congressman Lewis is a civil rights icon. He has given his entire 
life to the causes of justice and liberty. As I have said, he was a key 
organizer of so many things, not the least of which was the 1963 march 
in Washington. I was here. I saw it. He was in Selma when the billy 
clubs, police dogs, and fire hoses were used on that bloody Sunday, and 
he had his body beaten on many occasions. But he hasn't given up the 
fight, even to this day.
  Similarly, during his life, Cesar Chavez was a champion of the 
American principles of justice, equality, and freedom. He fearlessly 
fought to right the wrongs literally of those injustices inflicted on 
American farm workers and brought national attention to the causes of 
labor and injustice.
  America is a better place because of John Lewis and Cesar Chavez. By 
placing their names on this landmark legislation, we can be sure 
Americans will always remember the sacrifices made in the name of 
equality.
  I began by quoting Lyndon Johnson's speech in 1965. There is another 
excerpt from that speech which I will read, and it is as follows:

       In our time we have come to live with moments of great 
     crisis. Our lives have been marked with debate about great 
     issues; issues of war and peace, issues of prosperity and 
     depression. But rarely in any time does an issue lay bear the 
     secret heart of America itself. Rarely are we met with a 
     challenge, not to our growth or abundance, our welfare or our 
     security, but rather to the values and the purposes and the 
     meaning of our beloved Nation.

  This same challenge--a challenge to the values and the purposes and 
the meaning of our Nation--is now before the Senate. In just a few 
minutes, we are going to pass overwhelmingly the Voting Rights Act of 
2006. It is a challenge which this body has met. We have done it 
purposefully and rightfully, and history books will indicate that we 
have made a significant step forward. There is more to do, but this is 
a big step forward.
  I yield the floor.
  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, have the yeas and nays been ordered?
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Chafee). They have not.
  Mr. LEAHY. I ask for the yeas and nays.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there a sufficient second?
  There appears to be a sufficient second.
  The yeas and nays were ordered.
  Mr. REID. Mr. President, the majority leader should be here 
momentarily. I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, if the Senator will withhold.
  Mr. REID. I withhold, of course.
  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I want to make sure--I was not trying to 
force it to a vote. I know the distinguished Republican leader will 
speak next, but many of us spent a lot of time on this, and we want to 
make sure it will be--as one of the managers of the bill--we want to 
make absolutely sure there will be a rollcall vote.
  If nobody is seeking recognition, I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. FRIST. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be dispensed with.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. FRIST. Mr. President, 41 years--that is how long it has been 
since the Voting Rights Act was first enacted in 1965, and we have come 
a long way in those 41 years. That much was made clear to me on a 
recent visit to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN, just 
about 3 weeks ago with President Bush and Dr. Ben Hooks, a renowned 
civil rights leader, a former executive director of the NAACP for 14 or 
15 years a personal friend of myself and my distinguished colleague 
from Tennessee who is with me on the floor, Lamar Alexander.
  Together we visited the site of the assassination of Martin Luther 
King, Jr., at the Lorraine Motel, which over the past several decades 
has developed into a wonderful, inspiring civil rights museum. As we 
walked through that museum with Dr. Hooks, in his voice could one 
capture that sensitivity, that inspiration, some sadness as we walked 
through, and he recounted the events surrounding that time, but history 
came alive.
  It was an ugly moment in our collective history and certainly not 
America's finest hour, but the museum reinforced the impressions I had. 
It strikes your conscience. It reminds you of the lessons learned, 
lessons I saw once again on a pilgrimage I took with Congressman John 
Lewis and about 10 of our colleagues a little over 2 years ago when we 
visited the civil rights sites in Tennessee and Alabama, and together 
we crossed Selma's Edmund Pettus Bridge where, over four decades ago 
now, Congressman Lewis led those peaceful marchers in the name of 
voting rights for all.
  What struck me most during that pilgrimage a couple of years ago and 
then 3 weeks ago during that museum visit with Dr. Hooks is how we as a 
nation pushed through that time, as we persevered to correct injustice, 
just as we have at other points in American history. It reminded me of 
our ability to change; that when our laws become destructive to our 
unalienable rights, such as liberty and pursuit of happiness, it is the 
right of the people to alter or abolish them. And it reminded me of the 
importance, the absolute necessity of ensuring the permanence of

[[Page S8012]]

the changes we made, the permanence of correction to injustice.
  So I am very pleased that in just a few minutes, we will act as a 
body to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act. We owe it to the memories of 
those who fought before us--and we owe it to our future, a future when 
equality is a reality in our hearts and minds and not just the law--to 
reauthorize the Voting Rights Act.
  I hope my colleagues will join me in voting for this critical 
legislation because in the 41 years since it became law, we have seen 
tremendous progress, and now it is time to ensure that the progress 
continues, that we protect the civil liberties of each and every 
American.
  Mr. President, I yield back all our time.
  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, is there still time available on this side?
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. All time has expired.
  Mr. LEAHY. The yeas and nays have been ordered.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The question is on the third reading of the 
bill.
  The bill (H.R. 9) was ordered to a third reading and was read the 
third time.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The bill having been read the third time, the 
question is, Shall the bill pass? On this question, the yeas and nays 
have been ordered. The clerk will call the roll.
  The assistant legislative clerk called the roll.
  Mr. McCONNELL. The following Senators were necessarily absent: the 
Senator from Idaho (Mr. Crapo) and the Senator from Wyoming (Mr. Enzi).
  Further, if present and voting, the Senator from Idaho (Mr. Crapo) 
would have voted ``yea.''
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Cornyn). Are there any other Senators in 
the Chamber desiring to vote?
  The result was announced--yeas 98, nays 0, as follows:

                      [Rollcall Vote No. 212 Leg.]

                                YEAS--98

     Akaka
     Alexander
     Allard
     Allen
     Baucus
     Bayh
     Bennett
     Biden
     Bingaman
     Bond
     Boxer
     Brownback
     Bunning
     Burns
     Burr
     Byrd
     Cantwell
     Carper
     Chafee
     Chambliss
     Clinton
     Coburn
     Cochran
     Coleman
     Collins
     Conrad
     Cornyn
     Craig
     Dayton
     DeMint
     DeWine
     Dodd
     Dole
     Domenici
     Dorgan
     Durbin
     Ensign
     Feingold
     Feinstein
     Frist
     Graham
     Grassley
     Gregg
     Hagel
     Harkin
     Hatch
     Hutchison
     Inhofe
     Inouye
     Isakson
     Jeffords
     Johnson
     Kennedy
     Kerry
     Kohl
     Kyl
     Landrieu
     Lautenberg
     Leahy
     Levin
     Lieberman
     Lincoln
     Lott
     Lugar
     Martinez
     McCain
     McConnell
     Menendez
     Mikulski
     Murkowski
     Murray
     Nelson (FL)
     Nelson (NE)
     Obama
     Pryor
     Reed
     Reid
     Roberts
     Rockefeller
     Salazar
     Santorum
     Sarbanes
     Schumer
     Sessions
     Shelby
     Smith
     Snowe
     Specter
     Stabenow
     Stevens
     Sununu
     Talent
     Thomas
     Thune
     Vitter
     Voinovich
     Warner
     Wyden

                             NOT VOTING--2

     Crapo
     Enzi
       
  The bill (H.R. 9) was passed.
  Mr. FRIST. I move to reconsider the vote.
  Mr. REID. I move to lay that motion on the table.
  The motion to lay on the table was agreed to.

                          ____________________