Statement of Common Cause President Chellie Pingree on renewal of the Voting Rights Act

We are here to urge Congress to renew and strengthen the Voting Rights Act.

When that act was signed into law in 1965, it was a major step forward in ending America’s long history of voter intimidation and disenfranchisement of minority groups.

Key provisions of the Voting Rights Act are set to expire next year. Legislation (HR 9) has been introduced to renew and strengthen the Act, and it enjoys widespread bipartisan support – including from the leadership of both parties – in both the House and Senate.

But despite this support, there are some Members of Congress who are determined to block renewal of the Act. We’re here to say that cannot happen.

On Tuesday, Common Cause presented to the House leadership petitions signed by nearly 10,000 Americans, urging that the Voting Rights Act be strengthened and renewed. The petition read in part: “We urge Congress to protect minority voting rights and prevent a return to past discrimination by immediately passing legislation renewing and restoring the Voting Rights Act.”

We know the House leadership has supported the legislation and we appreciate that support. We hope that they bring the legislation to a vote on the floor tomorrow, as now scheduled and work to ensure its passage.

This is an historic moment for the House of Representatives. Four decades ago, the modern civil rights movement began to break the historic pattern of voter disenfranchisement. Activists persuaded Congress and President Lyndon B. Johnson to enact the Voting Rights Act of 1965; since that time, this law has played a major role in protecting the voting rights of all Americans. Many credit the act as the most effective civil rights bill enacted in American history.

Common Cause has been a longtime supporter of the Voting Rights Act as a way to strengthen democracy by improving citizens’ access to the ballot. We urge Congress to work to ensure that this vital civil rights law continues to protect American voters.