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Biden Joins National Black Leaders to Ensure Equal Rights for all Voters

Location: Washington, DC

Biden Joins National Black Leaders to Ensure Equal Rights for all Voters

At an event on Capitol Hill today, U.S. Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr., joined several of the nation's top African American leaders to raise awareness about the effort to renew the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965, the landmark civil rights legislation that has broken down barriers to voting for minorities.

The law has been renewed several times since its initial passage, though some portions of the law are set to expire in August 2007.

Today's event in Washington, sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, is designed to provide a platform for legislators, scholars, activists and members of the community to examine the anticipated expiration of several sections of the VRA, gauge national trends in voting rights violations, and explore possible policy remedies.

At the event, Senator Biden called for the creation of a "new generation of leaders for a new generation of issues."

"The riots in Selma, Alabama, forced Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act back in 1965, and thankfully we have come a long way since signs emblazoned on windows read: ‘coloreds need not apply.' But do not be lulled into a false sense of security: racism - though much more subtle - still exists. Africans Americans can apply for a job alright, but they might not get it because ‘they just wouldn't fit in.' New words, same sin.

"That's why after all of these years, we must remain vigilant - Katrina has taught us that. We must continue to ensure diversity in our democracy and protect the rights of all Americans, irrespective of race, gender and national origin."

Specifically, these portions of the bill are set to expire in August 2007:

• Section 5, which requires states and local jurisdictions with a history of discriminatory voting practices to "preclear" any changes in their election laws to make sure they would not have a racially discriminatory effect.

• Section 203, which requires that states and local jurisdictions provide language assistance in areas with large percentages of minorities with low English proficiency.

• Sections 6, 9, and 13, which permit the U.S. Attorney General to send federal examiners and observers to deter, witness, and report on discriminatory activities at the polls.

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