FANNIE LOU HAMER, ROSA PARKS, AND CORETTA SCOTT KING VOTING RIGHTS ACT REAUTHORIZATION AND AMENDMENTS ACT OF 2006 -- (Senate - July 20, 2006)
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Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, I rise in support of the Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King, and Cesar Chavez Voting Rights Reauthorization Act of 2006. We all know that this reauthorizes existing but currently expiring provisions of the Voting Rights Act for 25 more years. I personally believe that when this was instituted in 1965, there should not have been an expiration date and would prefer that in this bill there not be an expiration date. But I am appreciative of the fact that we have bipartisan support to continue this provision, and hopefully at some point we will be able to take off the ending date.
I think about standing in this very important spot in the Senate. Right around the corner from us is a room we call the President's Room that President Lyndon Johnson used in 1965 to sign the original legislation because of its significance. We all know this is the bedrock of our democracy, the right to vote, the right to vote without harassment, intimidation, with correct information, knowing your vote in fact will be counted.
I am proud of the fact that one of the folks who this bill is named after is Rosa Parks, who is from Detroit. We claim her as our own and are so proud of all she has done, along with the others this bill has been named after. But we are very proud that the mother of the civil rights movement is from our own beloved Detroit.
Before 1965 and the bill's passage, we had communities with explicit poll taxes and literacy tests to prevent people of color from voting. We have in fact made great progress on civil rights since the original law. But as many of my colleagues have said, there is much more to be done. Now, unfortunately, we have more subtle and sometimes not so subtle forms of voter intimidation and suppression. Voters too many times are being told of the wrong polling place or flyers and phone calls tell people that the election was moved. I know in my State we have struggled with misinformation going out around elections. Why is it that it is predominantly in our cities where the lines are the longest, the voting machines are the oldest, and, in fact, there are fewer machines? We need to know we are not done with what this bill represents until those things are fixed, until every voting machine works, until there is enough to make sure everyone can vote, until there is a paper backup so we know the votes are being recorded accurately, and until every person or group that attempts to harass anybody in terms of exercising their American right to vote has been stopped.
These practices are a reminder that our laws are only as good as the people who enforce them. That is the commitment we have behind it, to make sure that the principles and ideals of our democracy and of America are upheld.
Passing this bill is a very important step for us. I am pleased this has been placed on the agenda and that we are going to come together overwhelmingly and pass it today. We need to make sure we are willing to take the next steps. We have election reform legislation introduced in the Senate that needs to be passed. For the life of me, I cannot imagine why when I go to the ATM machine, I can get a piece of paper, a receipt that tells me about my transaction, and yet there is resistance to us having a paper backup so we know that in fact the integrity of our vote and the voting process has been maintained. I hope this will be phase one in a series of things we do to make it clear that everyone in America has the right to vote, that we are stronger because of that. We certainly know we are a better country, a stronger country because of the law that was passed in 1965, the Voting Rights Act, and that we will be stronger because of this legislation's passage and that we, in fact, will be at our strongest and our best when we are fully committed to an accurate, full, and open voting process for every person and every community in America.
I urge adoption of the bill and thank the Chair.