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NAACP, ACLU seek Congressional modifications to Voting Rights Act

[JURIST] Representatives of the NAACP [advocacy website] and the ACLU Voting Rights Project [advocacy website] testified before the US House Judiciary Committee [official website] Wednesday as to how Congress should modify the Voting Rights Act [US Department of Justice backgrounder] when it comes up for renewal in 2007. The witnesses advocated [hearing transcripts, PDF] that Congress modify the "retrogression" standard established in Section 5 of the Act because its current interpretation takes voting power away from minority groups. At one point, the Act's retrogression standard allowed a legal challenge to any redistricting plan if plaintiffs could show that the plan diminished minority groups' ability to elect the candidate of their choosing. In 2003, however, the US Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. Georgia [opinion] modified the standard, ruling instead that plaintiffs must show the redistricting plan would affect minority groups "influence" over an election. Laughlin McDonald, the director of the ACLU Voting Rights Project, said that the Supreme Court's interpretation of the retrogression standard had turned it into a "subjective, abstract, and impressionistic" standard. AP has more.

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