Voting Rights Bill Clears Senate, Awaits Conference Consideration

Article excerpt

"The right to vote is the most sacred franchise in our democracy," NAACP President and CEO Kweisi Mfume said in May 2001, urging voters to lobby for the Equal Protection of Voting Rights Act. The 15th and 19th amendments guarantee citizens the right to vote. Yet, in order to secure the vote, Congress had to pass a voting rights law in 1957, in which the U. S. Commission on Civil Rights was created; a voting rights law in 1960; the Civil Rights Act of 1964; and the 1965 Voting Rights Act (readopted in 1970, 1975 and 1982).

In spite of these legislative guarantees, thousands of African Americans were denied the ballot in Election 2000. Voters were unfairly purged from voting lists, voting machines were broken and some French- and Spanish-speaking citizens weren't adequately accommodated.

To remedy these problems, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) introduced the Equal Protection of Voting Rights Act of 2001. The bi-partisan reform legislation included provisions for the accuracy of voter registration records and the ease of accessibility for all voters.

"We have been fighting countless schemes that have the intent or effect of keeping us outside the franchise. We saw it with poll taxes, literacy tests, at large elections, gerrymandering and ballot security schemes. Now we see it with discriminatory election machinery and standards," Rep. Conyers said.

After a fight in the House of Representatives, Conyers' bill didn't make it out of committee. …