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Public Statements

Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2006

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, I would like to spend just a few minutes talking about why I support this Voting Rights Act reauthorization.

The Supreme Court has said voting rights are so important because they are ``preservative of all rights'' (Yick Wo v. Hopkins (1886)). I couldn't agree more, and that is why the Voting Rights Act was and is so centrally important to our country.

Martin Luther King, Jr., called President Johnson's support of the Voting Rights Act ``a shining moment in the conscience of man.'' That moment must continue.

The act began a true transformation of our country. In 1964, there were only 300 African Americans in public office, including just three in Congress. There were exceptionally few anywhere in the South. Today, there are more than 9,100 Black elected officials, including 43 Members of Congress, the largest number ever.

The act helped open the way for the 6,000 Latino public officials elected and appointed nationwide, including 263 at the State or Federal level, 27 of whom serve in Congress.

One of the leaders of the civil rights movement, Congressman JOHN LEWIS, has characterized the impact of the Voting Rights Act this way: ``It not only transformed Southern politics, it transformed the nation.'' I couldn't agree more.

But we shouldn't just rest on the successes of the recent past. We must remain vigilant. For hundreds of years, our country struggled with slavery and the fact that nothing more than a person's skin color could determine his or her prospects in life. Even after we enacted the 15th amendment, our country struggled with Jim Crow laws and persistent discrimination.

We have now had the Voting Rights Act for 40 years, which may seem like a long time, but compared against our long and shameful history of race discrimination, 40 years seems pretty short.

Thankfully, we have come a long way since signs emblazoned windows read: ``colored need not apply'' and ``Whites only.'' But let's not be lulled into a false sense of security: racism--though much more subtle--still exists. African Americans can apply for a job all right but they might not get it because ``they're not the right type,'' or ``they just wouldn't fit in.'' New words for old sins.

Our recent history still finds sophisticated discrimination occurring when it comes to voting; and we must be especially vigilant here because voting is such a cornerstone of our democracy. We must continue to ensure diversity in our democracy and protect the rights of all Americans irrespective of race, gender, or national origin.

That is why I strongly support this reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act and am a cosponsor.

Authorizing the Voting Rights Act will be one of the most important things we can do this year, and I look forward to helping in any way that I can.

I yield the floor.

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