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President Signs Voting Rights Act Reauthorization

Location: Washington, DC

President Signs Voting Rights Act Reauthorization

WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr. joined President Bush in a White House ceremony this morning as he signed into law important legislation that would renew key sections of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965. The original legislation banned discriminatory practices such as literacy tests and poll taxes designed to deny African Americans the right to vote, but critical portions of that law were set to expire in August 2007. Today's bill signing remedies that, ensuring equal rights for all voters.

Senator Biden co-sponsored the bill and has long-supported its provisions. In 1982 he played a key role in attaining a compromise that extended the Voting Rights Act by working closely with Senator Dole to craft language that gave the bill the bipartisan support necessary to break the impasse with conservative forces in the Senate and the White House. Though the law has been renewed several times since its initial passage, today's ceremony ensures continued federal oversight and additional assistance to guarantee fair practices at the polls.

"This is a great day," said Senator Biden. "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 alright, 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," Sen. Biden added.

Specifically, the bill signed into law today extends the following portions of the Voting Rights Act that were set to expire next summer:

• Section 5, which requires certain states and jurisdictions to "preclear" (obtain approval for) changes in their voting systems in order to ensure that changes do not deny or abridge the right to vote on account of race or ethnicity.

• Section 203, which requires jurisdictions to provide language assistance in those areas where minorities with low English proficiency constitute a substantial segment of the population.

Sections 6-9, which authorize of the U.S. Attorney General to appoint and send federal examiners and observers to certain jurisdictions to deter, witness, and report on discriminatory activities at the polls.

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