PFAW's Neas Praises Advance of Voting Rights Act, Calls on Bush Administration to Start Enforcing the Law

While vocally supporting passage of the Act, President Bush and his administration have refused to effectively enforce it

“The passage of the Voting Rights Act reauthorization today is good news for all Americans who care about the integrity of our democracy. More than 60,000 People For the American Way members, supporters and activists had signed petitions urging the Act’s passage and opposing right-wing efforts to undermine its effectiveness. Their activism has helped preserve one of the most important accomplishments of the civil rights movement.

“President Bush’s decision to support the legislation was the right one. But the law has little real meaning if it is not enforced. And the sad truth is that the Bush administration has abandoned its responsibility to enforce the law.

“In fact, the Bush Justice Department has brought important Voting Rights Act litigation to a grinding halt. Repeatedly the recommendations of career civil rights attorneys have been overturned by political appointees who seem committed to a ‘see no evil’ approach when minority voters are being left behind.

“Not only did the Justice Department whitewash the disenfranchisement and vote suppression that occurred in Florida and Ohio, as well as other states, in 2000 and 2004, it also actively encouraged placing barriers in the paths of those who would seek to exercise the most fundamental right to vote.

“And less than two weeks ago, the Supreme Court determined the Texas redistricting plan, led by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, improperly diluted minority voting strength in Texas, particularly that of the Latino community in Laredo, Webb County, Texas under the Voting Rights Act. But where was the Bush administration?

“Today, we call on President Bush to walk the walk. We will be a few steps closer to the vision of Coretta Scott King, Cesar Chavez, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Rosa Parks when we hold accountable those who are attempting to turn back the clocks on voting rights. Mrs. King said that freedom is never really won for good, it’s earned and won in every generation. The Voting Rights Act reauthorization is an important step forward, but it will be a hollow victory unless this administration reverses its policy of neglect and demonstrates a real commitment for enforcing the Act’s protections.

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