Statement of Common Cause President Chellie Pingree on House passage of the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act

Common Cause thanks the U.S. House of Representatives today for taking the right step today in voting to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act, 390-33. The House also deserves credit for overwhelmingly rejecting four controversial amendments to the Act that would have seriously damaged this historic law.

We commend the leadership of Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, who passionately argued to protect the rights of all Americans in the face of opposition from members of his own party.

The right to vote is the critical foundation of our nation’s democracy. Yet, even today, there are some people in America who think voting should be treated as a privilege instead of the right it is. The Voting Rights Act provides the legal muscle needed to protect voting rights. Today’s vote by the House moves us closer toward that goal.

But our work is far from over. President Bush supports reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act, but the Senate has not acted on S. 2703, a bill similar to the one passed today by the House. On behalf of our 300,000-plus members and supporters across America, we call on Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to move S. 2703 through the full Senate before the August recess. Congress must send a strong reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act to President Bush for his signature as soon as possible.

Common Cause has a long history of supporting of the Voting Rights Act, including a defense of its constitutionality by the organization’s former chairman emeritus, the late Archibald Cox, before the Supreme Court in 1966.