- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Several high-profile Democratic senators told members of the NAACP yesterday that it would be easier to protect their rights by putting Democrats in power in November, even as Republicans continued to work to pass a 25-year extension of the Voting Rights Act.

“The best way to prevent people from benefiting from their behavior in weakening our voting rights is to vote in a Democratic Senate and House majority this November, because we can talk all we want, but at the end of the day, we get the government we vote for,” Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said.

The New York Democrat, a possible 2008 presidential contender, received a standing ovation when she was introduced, and chants of “Run, Hillary, Run” echoed through the halls of the Washington Convention Center when she concluded her remarks.

The extension of the Voting Rights Act has been the primary focus of the 97th annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Meanwhile in the Senate, the Judiciary Committee voted yesterday to send an extension of the act to the floor without any amendments.

“We expect to begin floor debate on this bill tonight, and hopefully complete it with votes sometime tomorrow,” Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said yesterday, standing beside NAACP President Bruce S. Gordon.

President Bush will address the group today, discussing voting rights and touting the fact that he has presided over the highest minority home- and business-ownership rates in U.S. history.

Even as Democrats criticized the president in an open session yesterday, they admitted that Mr. Bush’s support for reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act helped to defeat four “poison pill” amendments offered in the House last week and led to the quick Senate action.

Thousands of NAACP members — at the urging of Mrs. Clinton and fellow Democratic Sens. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Barack Obama of Illinois — had lobbied their congressional delegations to extend the act, as well as to provide increased enforcement of voting rights and funding.

Much of the discussion at the convention has focused on strengthening the 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA), which was designed to fix the problems that plagued Florida and several other states in the 2000 election.

“HAVA has never been properly funded, and many states have been disregarding it,” Mr. Obama said.

“People need to understand that when you mess with folks’ vote, there will be consequences,” he said, touting what he calls his Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention legislation, which is pending in Congress.

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