US House Votes down Stearns Amendment

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Fri Jun 30 14:00:21 UTC 2006

House Votes down Stearns Amendment

By staff
June 29, 2006

The House voted down, 254-167, an amendment to the Voting Rights Act
reauthorization bill (HR. 9) that would have had disenfranchised millions
of American citizens who do not speak English very well. Rep. Cliff
Stearns, R. Fl., proposed Monday to strike a blow to Section 203 of the
Voting Rights Act that provides language assistance to minorities, in
another Republican attempt to weaken the nation's most effective civil
rights law. The amendment, No. 21 to the SSJC appropriations bill H.R.
5672, directs the Department of Justice not to expend funds to enforce the
minority language provisions of the VRA, essentially subverting the VRA
reauthorization process.

This latest attack on the VRA reauthorization comes on the heels of a
stalled vote in the House last week, which was hijacked by a group of
Southern Republicans, led by Lynn Westmoreland, R. Ga., objected to the
language provisions. Civil rights groups stated that the new amendment was
yet another attempt to scapegoat minorities and disenfranchise those
citizens who do not speak English well. "Efforts by a few rebels in the
House to gut the language minority provisions of the Act have been
thwarted twice," said Julie Fernandes, senior policy counsel at the
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. "It is now time for the House to
bring HR 9 to the floor for a vote."

Key provisions of the VRA will expire next summer: Section 5, the federal
pre-clearance provision, which requires certain jurisdictions to obtain
federal approval before making any voting or election changes; Section
203, which requires certain jurisdictions to provide language assistance
to limited English proficient voters; and Sections 6-9, which authorize
the Department of Justice to send federal examiners and observers to
monitor elections. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was last reauthorized in

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