Statement of Common Cause President Chellie Pingree on US Senate Reauthorization of Voting Rights Act

Common Cause commends the US Senate today for its overwhelming vote in support of reauthorizing expiring provisions of the Voting Rights Act for another 25 years. The vote means millions of Americans will continue to enjoy strong, vigorous protection of their voting rights against forms of discrimination.

Common Cause also wishes to thank Sens. Arlen Specter, R-PA, Patrick Leahy, D-VT, and Edward M. Kennedy, D-MA, for their skillful leadership in moving the legislation through the Senate Judiciary Committee. We also thank Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-TN, and Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV. They convinced their respective Senate caucuses to move this significant bill before the August recess, and without amendments that could have jeopardized its ultimate passage.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 predates Common Cause by five years. Yet we have a long and proud history of supporting this historic law. In addition, our former chairman emeritus, the late Archibald Cox, defended the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act before the Supreme Court in 1966.

The right to vote is key for American citizens, and the exercise of the vote is a critical hallmark of American democracy. Though we have come a long way as a society since 1965, too many citizens still face opposition from people who wish to take away their voting rights or silence their voices at the ballot box. The Voting Rights Act provides the legal muscle needed to secure citizens’ voting rights, and today’s Senate vote is a solid affirmation that such protections are still needed and should continue.

Earlier today, President Bush called on the Senate to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act without amendment so he could sign it into law. Now that the Senate has obliged, we look forward to seeing the President sign this bill into law as soon as it reaches his desk.