Summer 2005

Section Proposes ABA Policy on Voting Rights

At the 2005 ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago, Ill., the ABA House of Delegates will consider a Section-sponsored Report with Recommendation supporting the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as amended through 1992.

In 1965, enactment of the Voting Rights Act ended literacy tests, poll taxes, and other techniques used to deny minorities the right to vote, enabling them to participate more fully in the political process. The Act also has played a significant role in increasing the number of minority politicians elected to office, and there is general agreement that it has been instrumental in developing a political community of interest and awareness in minority communities. The Voting Rights Act contains both permanent and temporary or “special” provisions. While the permanent provisions remain constant, the temporary provisions, up for reauthorization in 2007, include the remedial provisions guaranteeing language assistance for voters, authorizing federal examiners and observers to monitor elections, and requiring that states and counties with documented histories of discriminatory voting practices submit planned election law changes for approval by federal officials. Despite the progress that has been made since the passage of the Voting Rights Act, members of minority groups still face discrimination in exercising their right to vote. Allegations of voter intimidation and harassment directed at minority groups have marked elections in states across the country, raising new concerns and requiring additional scrutiny of the provisions up for reauthorization. Numerous existing ABA policies oppose discrimination against minorities in any form. The proposed resolution reiterates the importance of full participation in the political process of all citizens of the United States and seeks to enhance current ABA policy by guaranteeing the rights of minorities and traditionally disenfranchised populations continue to be protected under the Voting Rights Act.

The Report with Recommendation was drafted by the Section’s Committee on Civil Rights and Equal Opportunity, and is co-sponsored by the ABA Standing Committee on Election Law.

The Section also is co-sponsoring two other recommendations. The first, submitted by the Los Angeles County Bar Association, urges Congress, state and territorial legislatures, and judicial leadership to enact laws and policies for improving outcomes for abused and neglected children under dependency court jurisdiction. The second, submitted by the Section of International Law’s Report with Recommendation, supports fundamental reform of the United Nation’s Human Rights Commission.

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