STATEMENT BY SENATOR KENNEDY ON VOTING RIGHTS ACT REAUTHORIZATION
(AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY BEFORE THE SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE)
Today, the Committee considers one of the most important issues that will come before Congress in the coming decade -- the extension of the Voting Rights Act. I'm gratified by the strong bipartisan House and Senate support for the bill recently introduced to see that the ballot is not denied to any citizen because of race, national origin or limited proficiency in English.
In 1965, after eight days of testimony in the Senate Judiciary Committee, and many more days of debate on the floor, we were able to enact this landmark civil rights law, and its effect has been enormous. When President Johnson signed the bill in the President's Room of the Capitol, none of us imagined it would still be needed in the twenty-first century.
Unfortunately, it's clear from the House record and other sources that many Americans still face barriers because of their race, their ethnic background, or their language minority status. Congress must decide whether those barriers make renewal of the Act's expiring provisions necessary now, and if so, in what form.
Part of that assessment is understanding the relevant legal framework, and I commend Chairman for calling this hearing to discuss both the expiring provisions of the Act, and the legal issues affecting their renewal.
Although part of today's discussion may seem technical, it goes to the heart of protecting voting rights and to ensuring that any bill we pass in this area gets it right.
I look forward to the testimony of our witnesses on these important issues.