Summary of the Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2006 (the VRARA)(H.R.9/S.2703)
June 20, 2006
Section 1 (Short Title). This section titles the Act the "Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2006."
Section 2 (Congressional Purpose and Findings). This section sets out the Congressional findings and purposes supporting the VRARA.
Section 3. Section 6 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) authorizes the court or the Attorney General to direct the Office of Personnel Management to send federal examiners either to covered jurisdictions, or where the court believes it necessary to protect citizens' 14th and 15th Amendment rights. Under current law, federal observers can only be assigned after a jurisdiction has been certified for federal examiner coverage. This section eliminates Federal examiners because examiners have not been appointed to jurisdictions certified for coverage in over twenty years and amends the VRA by allowing the assignment of federal observers upon a finding by the Department of Justice (DOJ) that there is a reasonable belief that a violation of the 14th or 15th Amendment will occur, without having to first certify the use of federal examiners.
Section 4. Section 4 of the VRA identifies by formula those jurisdictions subject to the federal oversight provisions contained in Sections 5 through 8 of the VRA and sets out the requirements covered jurisdictions must meet to be removed from coverage. This section extends the expiring provisions contained in Sections 4 through 8 of the VRA for an additional 25 years.
Section 5. This section addresses two Supreme Court decisions that have significantly narrowed the effectiveness of the VRA's preclearance requirements. This section rejects the Court's holding in Reno v. Bossier Parish II, by making clear that a voting change motivated by any discriminatory purpose should not be approved. This section also partly rejects the Court's decision in Georgia v. Ashcroft, by restricting the standard for review of redistricting plans to ensure that voting changes reduce the ability of the minority community to elect their candidates of choice should not be precleared.
Section 6 (Expert Fees and Other Reasonable Costs of Litigation). Section 14 of the VRA currently authorizes prevailing parties (other than the United States) to recover attorney fees. This section updates this provision by authorizing the recovery of expert costs as part of the attorney fees.
Section 7 (Extension of Bilingual Election Requirements). This section extends the minority language assistance provisions of the VRA (Section 203) for a period of twenty-five years.
Section 8 (Use of American Community Survey Census Data). This section updates Section 203 of the VRA to reflect that the American Community Survey (ACS) has replaced the Census Decennial long form and will be administered by the Census Bureau annually after 2010. Thus, coverage determinations under Section 203 will be made based on data compiled by the ACS on a rolling five-year average.