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Report cites franchise bias against minorities, urges Voting Rights Act renewal

[JURIST] Minority voters in the United States still face unfair poll tactics and barriers that disenfranchise them, according to a major study [PDF; executive summary] released Tuesday by the National Commission on the Voting Rights Act [official website], a project of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law [advocacy website]. The group intends to use the report to lobby Congress to renew the federal Voting Rights Act, set to expire in 2007. Among other findings, the report details purged voting lists, variable times and locations of polling places, and other unfair practices which have the effect of discouraging voting by minorities.

An early product of the civil rights movement, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 [US DOJ backgrounder] allowed federal authorities to oversee elections in states where there were historical racial tensions. Critics of the law, such as Ralph Conner of the conservative Heartland Institute [advocacy website], argue that the increase in minority elected officials and relatively constant voting patterns among minorities since the Act was renewed in 1982 show that it is no longer needed. Proponents counter that the Act must be renewed because its protections will prevent drops in minority voting and representation. AP has more.

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