WASHINGTON (AP) -- The House voted Thursday to renew the 1965 Voting Rights Act, rejecting efforts by Southern conservatives to relax federal oversight of their states in a debate haunted by the ghosts of the civil rights movement.
The 390-33 vote sends the measure to the Senate. The act bans discrimination in voting, including through poll taxes and literacy tests, and requires some states, mostly in the South, to clear proposed changes in voting procedures with the Justice Department.
Southern conservatives had complained that the act punishes their states for racist voting histories they say they've overcome.
"By passing this rewrite of the Voting Rights Act, Congress is declaring from on high that states with voting problems 40 years ago can simply never be forgiven," said Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, a Georgia Republican and one of several lawmakers pressing for changes to the law to ease its requirements on Southern states.
The House overwhelmingly rejected amendments that would have shortened the renewal period from 25 years to a decade and would have struck its requirement that ballots in some states be printed in several languages.
Supporters of the law as written called the amendments "poison pills" designed to kill the renewal because if any were adopted by the full House, the underlying renewal might have failed.
Supporters used stark images and emotional language to make clear that the pain of racial struggle -- and racist voting practices -- still stings.
Please take a few moments to call and/or write to your Senators and let them know you're counting on their support for the renewal of this vital legislation.
UPDATE: You can check out how your Congresspersons voted here. Were they among those 33 who, incredibly, said NAY to The Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act? It's worth a click to find out.
(Hat-tip to David)