STATEMENT BY SENATOR EDWARD M. KENNEDY ON DELAY IN VOTING RIGHTS ACT VOTE
Today, Senator Edward M. Kennedy released the following statement on the delay in the Voting Rights Act vote:
"Yesterday's decision by the House leadership to delay a vote on reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act shouldn't affect our work on the bill in the Senate. The House Judiciary Committee approved the bill nearly unanimously in committee, and it is time for the Senate Judiciary Committee to act as well. Chairman Specter has said that we will act on the bill next week, so that the full Senate will have an opportunity to consider it after the July 4th recess.
The House delay was caused by last-minute concerns over the bilingual ballot provisions in Section 203 of the current Act, which enables all American citizens to participate fully in our democracy even if they have not yet mastered the English language.
It's difficult to believe that House Republicans want to start penalizing Puerto Ricans, Native Americans, and Alaskan natives at the ballot box.
We shouldn't penalize naturalized citizens who've come to this country to pursue opportunity and live the promise of democracy, and they're no less worthy than any other citizen to exercise their right to vote. Naturalized Americans understand the importance of learning English, and all of them have done so on a basic level as part of the citizenship process.
Understanding voting instructions and the often complex language of ballot provisions requires more than a basic grasp of English. It's wrong to punish American citizens by denying them full voting rights until they master the English language. If we're sincere about the melting pot, there's no better way to achieve it than through the ballot box, and Section 203 helps make it possible. "