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Congressman Doug LaMalfa

NorCal Leadership on Voting Rights Act

Yesterday marked the 37th Anniversary of the first steps of man on the moon, by the USA’s Neil Armstrong.  Strong leadership was required to see this feat accomplished, during the Space Race era of the Cold War.  Spurred on by President Kennedy in 1962, declaring we must put a man on the moon by the end of the decade, the efforts of NASA, and a country mostly united behind this goal, it did come to fruition July 20, 1969.  Using what is now looked at as cumbersome antique technology, our nation was able to fly men to the moon, land them and bring them home safely to Earth, something still never accomplished by any other nation.    

The Voting Rights Act, passed August 6, 1965 [the day after Armstrong’s 35th birthday] required strong leadership to succeed as wellThe notion that all US citizens have the right to vote without impediments such as poll taxes or intimidation at polling places was widely held and resulted in
VRA’s passage, by a strong bipartisan vote of Senate Republicans 30-1 and Senate Democrats 49-17.  In the House it was Republicans 111-20 and Dems 217-54 that summer of ’65.

Notice the proportions of the aye vs. no votes.   Republican aye votes percentages were much higher on these and the pre-Conference Report votes concerning the ’65 VRA.  Yet what do we always hear?  "Republicans want to turn the clock back decades on voter rights…. disenfranchisement…Jim Crow…"

This year in the Assembly it even went so far as during the debate on what should’ve been a simple Joint Resolution to ask Congress to extend VRA, a measure, appropriately written, would’ve enjoyed full support of Assembly Republicans.  Alas, objectionable language stating "conservative opponents to civil rights", not only objectionable but historically inaccurate…by about 180 degrees, was contained in this resolution as written.  Thankfully, after heated discussion, the Speaker intervened with the author, the phrase was removed and it passed off our floor 75-0These, coupled with this weeks appearance by President Bush at the NAACP, and all the nonsense following that appearance being spouted about the President’s record or attitude on civil rights and racial issues, just illustrates the disingenuousness of those attacking the Republican record on defending civil rights.

This brings me to last weeks House vote on the renewal of VRA provisions set to expire in ’07 and the leadership by our NorCal Congressmen on the issue.  My Congressman, Wally Herger of the 2nd District (pictured above to the left) and, representing the 4th District, [whose boundary is across the highway from our ranch], Congressman John Doolittle (pictured to the right), both voted against the un-amended version of VRA.  They join a total of 33 House Republicans that objected to various outdated or overreaching aspects of the bill with their no votes, as opposed to the total of 390 aye votes by both parties.  

Amendments were offered and rejected.  One would remove the requirement to print ballots in foreign languages.  California is required to print in seven.  The logic of the amendment being that since one must pass the tests to become a US citizen in English, it’s not a big leap to vote in English only as well.  Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, one of the 33 no votes, called it  "a terrible long-term attack on the unity of America"  and  said, "what unites us is English."   "This is multiculturism at its worst."

Conversely, a Georgia member makes an incredible argument that enactment of a voter ID bill in
his state is ample evidence of continued discrimination.  Uh huh.  This in defiance of the fact that Georgia now has among the highest registration, turnout and success rate of election of black candidates of any state. 

Yet, Georgia is still subject to Justice Department oversight of it’s voting methods, as are many other states and counties, as if it were still 1965, at great expense.  The difficulty to achieve exemption from these provisions is high.  Even 4 California counties are still subject to this oversight.  Counties that contain military bases frequently incur the wrath of VRA oversight.  As most personnel are from other states, they frequently vote absentee in home-state elections.  This skews the numbers in a small county, giving the appearance of low turnout by eligible voters, automatically causing the assumption of potential voting impediments.  This kicks in VRA/JD oversight criteria, with it’s costs and handcuffing of local control of election officials, where no voting rights are even being imfringed. Yuba, a low population county and home to Beale Air Force Base, is subject to $30,000 [lotsa bucks to a small county election office] of additional costs each election because of this oversight. 
Another amendment would’ve simply extended these archaic rules 10 years instead of the 25 years
in the bill, allowing a much sooner opportunity for states and counties to plea their case again, to win simpler exemptions from overbearing, outdated VRA Justice Department meddling, in the next renewal.
Not to mention judges and courts interpretating VRA to mean that districts have to be drawn to fix outcomes of elections so that certain groups are guaranteed their type of candidate wins.  I thought voter rights simply meant the right to vote, unimpeded, with swift justice against those that would harass, intimidate or rig the vote.

Computer technology that took up a warehouse in 1969,  that put a man on the moon, fits on a desktop now.  We can certainly modernize our equally antiquated laws regarding elections now, and acknowledge the tremendous strides that have been made in voter rights since the 60’s, to reflect today’s realities and stop this resulting reverse discrimination.

Kudos are deserved by our 6 California Congressmen, Royce, Rohrabacher, Miller, FR Beltway Correspondent Campbell, and our NorCal heroes, Herger and Doolittle, who have the will to tell it like it is on the VRA vote.