Dan Tokaji's Blog
Professor Dan Tokaji
Election reform, the Voting Rights Act, the Help America Vote Act, and related topics -- with special attention to the voting rights of people of color, non-English proficient citizens, and people with disabilities

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Equal Vote
Monday, February 27
VRA Renewal News
The Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Under Law has released this report by the National Commission on the Voting Rights Act. Chaired by Bill Lann Lee, the commission makes the evidentiary case for reauthorization of the provisions of the VRA that expire in August 2007. Foremost among them are Section 5's preclearance requirement and the language assistance requirements contained in Section 203.

The report includes findings from the testimony of more than 100 witnesses, taken during 10 days of hearings. It concludes that "efforts to suppress the minority vote, while not as systematic and pervasive of those in the pre-Act South, are still encountered in every election cycle throughout the country." It makes specific findings regarding voting discrimination against African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and Asian Americans.

In related news, USA Today had this story of voting discrimination against Vietnamese Americans in a small Alabama town. A candidate whose supporters challenged the eligibility of some 3000 voters is quoted as saying "we figured if they couldn't speak good English, they possibly weren't American citizens."

While Section 5 is almost certain to be reauthorized, there's some opposition to the language assistance provisions developing in the House. Fifty-five members of the House of Representatives have sent this letter to House Judiciary Chair James Sensenbrenner, opposing reauthorization of Section 203. They argue that Section 203 encourages "linguistic division" and that it's a waste of taxpayer money to provide and other language assistance to non-English proficient voters. Civil rights groups have released this response from James Tucker of Arizona State University.

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