Voting Rights Act Renewed for 25 Years by President; Bush Vows to 'Vigorously Enforce' the Law

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President Bush yesterday signed a 25-year extension of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and vowed to "vigorously enforce" the law, which outlawed racist voting practices in the South and cleared the way for millions of black Americans to vote.

At a packed ceremony on the White House South Lawn attended by members of Congress, civil rights leaders and family members of deceased civil rights leaders, the president said the landmark legislation had broken the "segregationist lock on the ballot box."

"Today, we renew a bill that helped bring a community on the margins into the life of American democracy. My administration will vigorously enforce the provisions of this law, and we will defend it in court," Mr. Bush said. "The right of ordinary men and women to determine their own political future lies at the heart of the American experiment."

The extension of the law bears the names of three women who were active in the early civil rights movement: Fannie Lou Hamer, who was jailed in Mississippi in 1962 for trying to register to vote; Rosa Parks, who was arrested in Montgomery, Ala., in 1955 for refusing to give up her seat on a bus; and Coretta Scott King, the late wife of Martin Luther King.

Mr. Bush said he was signing the bill "in honor of their memory and their contribution to the cause of freedom."

But Mr. Bush has not always been a fan of the Voting Rights Act. When he was governor of Texas, he opposed a section of the law that said Texas and other states still practiced voting discrimination. …