[JURIST] Members of the US House and Senate on Tuesday introduced bipartisan legislation [press release] to renew the Voting Rights Act of 1965 [text, US DOJ backgrounder], which prohibits voter discrimination based on race or color. Although most of the act is permanent, three sections, including a requirement that states or counties with a history of discrimination secure Justice Department or court approval before changing voting procedures, are set to expire in 2007. A group of congressmen, led by House Judiciary Chairman Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) [official website], introduced the Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2006, HR 9, which will extend the Voting Rights Act for another 25 years. The House Judiciary Committee will hold hearings on the proposed legislation later this week. An identical version of the bill was also introduced in the Senate on Tuesday.
The Justice Department has previously announced its support for the renewal of the Voting Rights Act [JURIST report] and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People [advocacy website] strongly endorsed the proposal [press release] Tuesday. Representatives from the NAACP and ACLU testified before the House Judiciary Committee [official website] last year on the existence of voting barriers to minorities [JURIST report] and a recent study completed by the National Commission on the Voting Rights Act [official website] found that minorities still faced disenfranchisement at the polls. The commission urged Congress to renew the Voting Rights Act [JURIST report]. Reuters has more.