House Rejects Amendments, Extends Voting Rights Act; Both Sides Oppose Conservative Measures

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The House yesterday extended the 1965 Voting Rights Act for 25 years, defeating several amendments deemed harmful to the bill by Republican and Democrat leaders.

One amendment wanted to change the way some states and counties obtain clearance from federal authorities before altering electoral practices. Another sought to increase the responsibilities of the Justice Department by annually reviewing and notifying jurisdictions eligible to be removed from the clearance requirement.

The amendments were introduced by Georgia Republican Reps. Charlie Norwood and Lynn Westmoreland, respectively.

"A 25-year veteran of the Justice Department voting division testified that the Westmoreland amendment would require three times the staff currently there to do the work .. and there is no money allocated to this amendment," said Rep. John Conyers Jr., Michigan Democrat.

Two other amendments one introduced by Rep. Steve King, Iowa Republican, to eliminate state requirements to print ballots in a foreign language if those not proficient in English make up at least 7.5 percent of the electorate, and the other introduced by Rep. Louie Gohmert, Texas Republican, to limit the act's reauthorization to nine years also were rejected.

Republican leaders, fearing the passage of the amendments would weaken the bill, tried unsuccessfully to keep them from coming to the House floor.

The Bush administration also opposed amending the bill, which was renewed on a 390-33 vote, saying it supported "the legislative intent of [the Voting Rights Act] to overturn the Supreme Court's 2003 decision in Georgia v. …