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2006
FANNIE LOU HAMER, ROSA PARKS, AND CORETTA SCOTT KING VOTING RIGHTS ACT REAUTHORIZATION AND AMENDMENTS ACT OF 2006 (PART II)

HEARING

BEFORE THE

SUBCOMMITTEE ON THE CONSTITUTION

OF THE
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

ONE HUNDRED NINTH CONGRESS

SECOND SESSION

ON
H.R. 9

MAY 4, 2006

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Serial No. 109–119

Printed for the use of the Committee on the Judiciary

Available via the World Wide Web: http://judiciary.house.gov

COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY

F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER, Jr., Wisconsin, Chairman
HENRY J. HYDE, Illinois
HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
LAMAR SMITH, Texas
ELTON GALLEGLY, California
BOB GOODLATTE, Virginia
STEVE CHABOT, Ohio
DANIEL E. LUNGREN, California
WILLIAM L. JENKINS, Tennessee
CHRIS CANNON, Utah
SPENCER BACHUS, Alabama
BOB INGLIS, South Carolina
JOHN N. HOSTETTLER, Indiana
MARK GREEN, Wisconsin
RIC KELLER, Florida
DARRELL ISSA, California
JEFF FLAKE, Arizona
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MIKE PENCE, Indiana
J. RANDY FORBES, Virginia
STEVE KING, Iowa
TOM FEENEY, Florida
TRENT FRANKS, Arizona
LOUIE GOHMERT, Texas

JOHN CONYERS, Jr., Michigan
HOWARD L. BERMAN, California
RICK BOUCHER, Virginia
JERROLD NADLER, New York
ROBERT C. SCOTT, Virginia
MELVIN L. WATT, North Carolina
ZOE LOFGREN, California
SHEILA JACKSON LEE, Texas
MAXINE WATERS, California
MARTIN T. MEEHAN, Massachusetts
WILLIAM D. DELAHUNT, Massachusetts
ROBERT WEXLER, Florida
ANTHONY D. WEINER, New York
ADAM B. SCHIFF, California
LINDA T. SÁNCHEZ, California
CHRIS VAN HOLLEN, Maryland
DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, Florida

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PHILIP G. KIKO, General Counsel-Chief of Staff
PERRY H. APELBAUM, Minority Chief Counsel

Subcommittee on the Constitution

STEVE CHABOT, Ohio, Chairman

TRENT FRANKS, Arizona
WILLIAM L. JENKINS, Tennessee
SPENCER BACHUS, Alabama
JOHN N. HOSTETTLER, Indiana
MARK GREEN, Wisconsin
STEVE KING, Iowa
TOM FEENEY, Florida

JERROLD NADLER, New York
JOHN CONYERS, Jr., Michigan
ROBERT C. SCOTT, Virginia
MELVIN L. WATT, North Carolina
CHRIS VAN HOLLEN, Maryland

PAUL B. TAYLOR, Chief Counsel
E. STEWART JEFFRIES, Counsel
HILARY FUNK, Counsel
KIMBERLY BETZ, Full Committee Counsel
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DAVID LACHMANN, Minority Professional Staff Member

C O N T E N T S

MAY 4, 2006

OPENING STATEMENT
    The Honorable Steve Chabot, a Representative in Congress from the State of Ohio, and Chairman, Subcommittee on the Constitution

    The Honorable Robert C. Scott, a Representative in Congress from the State of Virginia, and Member, Subcommittee on the Constitution

    The Honorable Melvin L. Watt, a Representative in Congress from the State of North Carolina, and Member, Subcommittee on the Constitution

    The Honorable Sheila Jackson Lee, a Representative in Congress from the State of Texas, and Member, Committee on the Judiciary

    The Honorable Mike Honda, a Representative in Congress from the State of California

WITNESSES

Ms. Rena Comisac, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division, Department of Justice
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Oral Testimony
Prepared Statement

The Honorable Chris Norby, Supervisor, Fourth District, Orange County Board of Supervisors
Oral Testimony
Prepared Statement

Ms. Karen Narasaki, President and Executive Director, Asian American Justice Center
Oral Testimony
Prepared Statement

Dr. James Thomas Tucker, Voting Rights Consultant, NALEO Educational Fund, and Adjunct Professor, Barrett Honors College, Arizona State University
Oral Testimony
Prepared Statement

APPENDIX

Material Submitted for the Hearing Record

    Prepared Statement of the Honorable John Conyers, Jr., a Representative in Congress from the State of Michigan, and Member, Subcommittee on the Constitution

    Prepared Statement of the Honorable Melvin L. Watt, a Representative in Congress from the State of North Carolina, and Member, Subcommittee on the Constitution
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    Prepared Statement of the Honorable Linda T. Sanchez, a Representative in Congress from the State of California

    Response to post-hearing questions from Rena Comisac, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division, Department of Justice

    Letter from Loren Leman, Lieutenant Governor of Alaska, in response to testimony by the Leadership Conference, and a report by Native American Rights Fund Attorney Natalie Landreth, and law student Moira Smith, presented before the Subcommittee on the Constitution

    Letter in support of reauthorization from Larry Naake, Executive Director, National Association of Counties (NACO)

    Letter in opposition to reauthorization from Mark C. Scott, Esquire, Commissioner, Office of the Commissioners of Berks County, Pennsylvania

    Letter in opposition to reauthorization from Steve Tatarenko, Councilman, Clifton, New Jersey

    Prepared Statement of Jan Tyler, former Denver Election Commissioner, Denver, Colorado

FANNIE LOU HAMER, ROSA PARKS, AND CORETTA SCOTT KING VOTING RIGHTS ACT REAUTHORIZATION AND AMENDMENTS ACT OF 2006 (PART II)
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THURSDAY, MAY 4, 2006

House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on the Constitution,
Committee on the Judiciary,
Washington, DC.

    The Subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 2:45 p.m., in Room 2142, Rayburn House Office Building, the Honorable Steve Chabot (Chairman of the Subcommittee) presiding.

    Mr. CHABOT. The Committee will come to order. This is the Subcommittee on the Constitution. We welcome everyone here this afternoon. This is the second hearing that this Committee has had today and it's actually the 12th hearing that we have had on the Voting Rights Act since we started this process about 7 months ago.

    And as I mentioned, this is the Subcommittee on the Constitution. I'm Steve Chabot, the Chair, and this is the second of two legislative hearings the Committee is holding on H.R. 9, which is the ''Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2006.''

    I would like to thank our witnesses for being here this afternoon. And I gave a longer opening statement this morning; therefore, I will keep my remarks relatively short this afternoon.

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    This afternoon's hearing will focus specifically on the provisions of H.R. 9 that reauthorize section 203, the bilingual election assistance provisions, for an additional 25 years and makes certain amendments to section 203 to reflect recent changes to the United States Census Bureau's methods of collecting data.

    In addition to these provisions we will discuss concerns expressed by many about what is required of jurisdictions covered by section 203, especially as interpreted, administered, and enforced by the Department of Justice.

    English has been, and continues to be, the force that unified this country, and speaking English should be a requirement which all citizens of this country meet. However, the record shows that many of our citizens experience barriers to the political process because of language impediments, which our witnesses will discuss further today.

    In reauthorizing section 203, the Committee seeks to ensure that all citizens continue to have the opportunity to participate in the political process, including those who are continuing their efforts to learn English. However, we must also ensure that we provide needed assistance to municipalities so that these obligations do not become overly burdensome.

    As I said, we look very much forward to the panel, the very distinguished panel that we have here before us this afternoon.

    And at this time I note that Mr. Nadler is coming shortly. I don't know if, Mr. Scott, you wanted to make an opening statement or if you wanted to wait until Mr. Nadler comes or if you would like to speak on your own.
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    Mr. SCOTT. I would like to speak on my own, if you don't mind.

    Mr. CHABOT. The gentleman is recognized for 5 minutes.

    Mr. SCOTT. And recognize Mr. Nadler as the Ranking Member when he appears.

    Mr. CHABOT. That's fine.

    Mr. SCOTT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to thank you, as we mentioned this morning, for the hard work that you have done on a bipartisan basis with Representative Watt and others. Appreciate the hard work that you have put in to get us to the point where we are now.

    Mr. Chairman, in the 40 years since its passage, the Voting Rights Act has guaranteed millions of minority voters a chance to have their voices heard and their votes counted. The number of Black elected officials has increased from just 300 nationwide in 1964, the year before the Voting Rights Act, to more than 9,100 today. Poll taxes, literacy tests, and other discriminatory schemes that once effectively closed the ballot box have been dismantled. The process has also opened the political process for many of the nearly 6,000 Latinos who now hold public office, including more than 250 that serve at the State or Federal level.

    Section 203 was added to the Voting Rights Act in 1975 and requires certain jurisdictions to make language assistance available at polling locations for citizens with limited English proficiency. These provisions apply to four language groups: American Indians, Asian Americans, Alaskan natives, and those of Spanish heritage. A community with one of those language groups will qualify for language assistance if more than 5 percent of the Voting Act citizens in the jurisdiction belong to a single language minority and have limited English proficiency, or more than 10,000 voting-age citizens in the jurisdiction belong to a single language minority and have limited English proficiency, and the illiteracy rate among citizens with the language minority is higher than the national average.
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    Mr. Chairman, it is significant that these thresholds mean that there is a critical mass, possibly sufficient to vote somebody out of office, and therefore there would be an incentive to try to discourage those people from voting. This requirement requires that if you have that kind of critical mass, you have to provide the language assistance.

    Mr. Chairman, registration and voting materials for all elections must be provided to the minority group in the minority language as well as in English. Oral translation during all phases of the voting process, from registration to Election Day poll workers, is also required. Jurisdictions are permitted to target the language assistance to specific voting precincts or areas where they are needed.

    It is crucial that everyone in our democracy have a right to vote. Yet having a right legally is meaningless if certain groups of people, such as those with limited English proficiency or those who are disabled, are unable to accurately cast their ballot at the polls. Voters may well be informed of the issues and candidates but to make sure their vote is accurately cast, language assistance is necessary in certain jurisdictions with concentrated populations of limited English-proficient voters.

    It is important to note, Mr. Chairman, that those who are born in Puerto Rico are American citizens, and yet they may not be fluent in English. And even though most new citizens are required to speak English, they still may not be sufficiently fluent to participate fully in the voting process without much-needed assistance.

    Before language assistance provisions were added to the Voting Rights Act, many Spanish-speaking citizens just did not bother to register to vote because they could not read the election material and could not communicate with poll workers. The fact is that language assistance has encouraged these and other citizens of different language minority groups to register and vote and fully participate in the political process, which is healthy for our democracy.
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    Mr. Chairman, the language assistance is not costly. One of the reasons is that a lot of the compliance doesn't cost anything extra at all. That is because if you have to hire a poll worker anyway, hiring a poll worker who is bilingual doesn't cost you any more than the poll worker you had to hire. And so, therefore, many of the so-called expenses involved are not expenses at all.

    The compliance is extremely—the cost of compliance is extremely limited. So section 203, which we're having a hearing on today, is essential to ensuring fairness in our political process and equal opportunity for all Americans and it is imperative that this provision be renewed.

    Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    Mr. CHABOT. Thank you very much, Mr. Scott.

    The gentleman from Florida is recognized if he would like to make an opening statement.

    Mr. FEENEY. That is not necessary, Mr. Chairman, thank you.

    Mr. CHABOT. Thank you very much, Mr. Feeney. The gentleman from North Carolina, Mr. Watt, is recognized.

    Mr. WATT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'll be brief. I want to ask unanimous consent to submit my entire statement for the record. But I feel like I need to address a couple of things.
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    Mr. CHABOT. Without objection, so ordered.

    Mr. WATT. Number one, this morning one of the witnesses suggested that we had predetermined what would be in this bill before we had any hearings, and somehow contrived the process of what would be in the bill rather than using the hearings as a constructive means of informing us.

    And I, of course, denied that. And there is not a clearer example of that than this—than the language provisions. I mean, if I were drawing these language provisions, I think they would be different. And while I stand behind the bill and understand that it is a product of bipartisan agreement, everybody needs to know that.

    Second, there is this notion that perhaps this ought to be part of the immigration debate or is connected in some way, and that when we talk about these language provisions, that it is about Mexicans or members of the Arab community.

    I would just point out that, really, the Hispanic community has been probably the least of the language minorities that has been aggressive about this, because in most places they already exceed the threshold that the statute provides for. So it is not something that, if they were advocating solely for themselves, would be as much of an issue. I don't mean to minimize it, but it certainly—people need to understand that in Chicago, voluntary voter assistance is provided in Polish, Russian, Greek, German, Korean, and Serbian. In Boston, in Spanish, Haitian Creole, Cape Verdian Creole, Vietnamese, Portuguese, Chinese and Russian.

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    So this is not about the kind of typical immigration debate that is going on in another context in our legislative environment here.

    I would just conclude by saying that the bill before us today extends the current language assistance provisions of the Voting Rights Act and that is supported by the record, not something that was backed into or dealt with in some arbitrary fashion. It does not discourage or prohibit any State or political subdivision from doing more to open this process to more voices, thereby enhancing our democracy.

    I think the bill struck a good balance on this, and while if I were drawing the bill solely by myself I might have done differently, I certainly intend to support the provisions that are in the bill.

    And I yield back the balance of my time.

    Mr. CHABOT. The gentleman yields back.

    And we also have three—before we had one other as well—Members; two of whom are Members of the full Judiciary Committee and not actually Members of this Committee, and two who are not Members of the Judiciary Committee at all. What our practice has been thus far in this is to allow those Members to have 5 minutes which they can choose to use either for an opening statement or questioning the witnesses. Or if they would like to, they can divide it up and take 2 minutes for an opening statement and 3 minutes for questioning. At your discretion, however you would like to do that.

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    And two of the Members here are representing their various caucuses. One is the distinguished Member, Charlie Gonzalez from Texas, who is the Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. And we welcome you here, as always, very good friend of mine, Charlie.

    And we also are joined by the very distinguished gentleman from California, Mr. Honda, who is the Chairman of the Asian Pacific American Caucus.

    And we also have two Judiciary Members here: Sheila Jackson Lee from Texas and Linda Chavez from California.

    Ms. SÁNCHEZ. Sánchez.

    Mr. CHABOT. What did I say?

    Ms. SÁNCHEZ. Chavez.

    Mr. CHABOT. I'm sorry; I apologize. I don't know what I was thinking.

    Ms. SÁNCHEZ. Thank you for not calling me Loretta.

    Mr. WATT. We think that is the ultimate insult.

    Mr. CHABOT. I'm not going to touch that. I didn't say it either. In fact, I didn't even laugh.
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    Ms. Jackson Lee, do you want to use your time now or do you want to use your time for questioning?

    Ms. JACKSON LEE. I will split my time and very briefly say that all eyes are on this Committee and on this Congress, on the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act, primarily because of the pathway and the opportunity that was given through the original passage in 1965.

    I am very eager to hear the testimony of the witnesses and I associate with words that I will be supporting this legislation.

    And my only comment I think I came in on Mr. Watt's commentary, so I don't want to suggest that this is what he was saying, but I am interested in the idea that there are many languages in the United States, and I hope that we will have an opportunity prospectively to be assured that everyone who is in the United States has a right to vote. And that the fact that language interpretation or different language is necessary to exercise the right of a citizen, they should not be penalized nor should they be condemned. So I think any attempt to condemn, because language is needed to make sure that your right to vote is exercised, should be eliminated from our discussion and we should move forward.

    With that, I yield back.

    Mr. CHABOT. Thank you very much. The gentlewoman has 4 minutes remaining for questioning. Thank you.
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    The gentlewoman from California, Ms. Sánchez, is recognized.

    Ms. SÁNCHEZ. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am going to reserve my time for questions.

    Mr. CHABOT. Duly noted. Mr. Gonzalez.

    Mr. GONZALEZ. I also reserve my time for questioning.

    Mr. CHABOT. Thank you. Mr. Honda.

    Mr. HONDA. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I will take a few minutes to make comments.

    Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Nadler, and Members of the Subcommittee, I want to thank you for allowing me to make an opening statement at this important hearing on the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act.

    Just 2 days ago H.R. 9, the Voting Rights Act Reauthorization Amendments Act, was introduced to strengthen and renew the Voting Rights Act for another 25 years. I am proud to be an original cosponsor of this historic measure. I would like to personally thank the Members of this Committee for their diligent work in conducting a thorough review of the VRA.

    Mr. Chairman, your Committee's extensive hearing record showed that while substantial progress has been made in the area of voting rights over the last 40 years, the provisions of the VRA, including temporary provisions, remain a necessary part of our efforts to protect the rights of every American voter.
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    Last year I had the honor of being with our distinguished colleague, Congressman John Lewis, and others in Alabama to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. On that day on March 7, 1965, on the Edmund Pettis Bridge outside of Selma, Alabama, the Vivil Rights Movement continued its unwavering steps forward. As we all know, civil rights activists, led by Dr. King, took to the streets in a peaceful protest for voting rights for African Americans. They were met with clubs and violence. This dramatic event helped the Nation understand what was at stake.

    What makes the promise of this Nation a reality is the ability to vote. The VRA helps to ensure that everyone who is eligible to vote has that opportunity. This month is Asian Pacific American heritage month and I'm here to underscore the point that the right to vote is keenly felt by the Asian and Pacific islander American community.

    Chinese Americans could not vote until Chinese Exclusion Acts of 1882 and 1892 were repealed in 1943. First-generation Japanese Americans could not vote until 1952 because of the racial restrictions contained in the 1790 naturalization law. More recently, language minority citizens were often denied needed assistance at the polls. In the 1975 amendments to the Voting Rights Act, such language assistance became required in certain situations, and I submit to you today that section 203's impact and importance to language minority communities has only grown.

    When I was a supervisor in Santa Clara County, California, I led an effort to get sample ballots printed in English and Chinese. And I know firsthand how important this was to the community. Their participation increased by 11 percent. And the Vietnamese ballots, we made them available upon request.
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    I am looking forward to hearing from our distinguished panel today. I am especially looking forward to important testimony from my good friend, Karen Narasaki, President and Executive Director of the Asian American Justice Center. Karen Narasaki and AAJC have been at the forefront of protecting the rights of Asian Americans. The record of evidence established in her testimony will clearly show the importance of section 203 and other provisions of the Voting Rights Act.

    Again I thank the Chair and Ranking Member and Subcommittee Members for allowing me to make this statement today, and I yield back.

    Mr. CHABOT. Thank you, Mr. Honda, and you have 2 minutes remaining.

    We would now like to—after stating that, without objection, all Members would have 5 legislative days to submit additional materials for the hearing record—we will introduce our distinguished panel this afternoon.

    Our first witness will be Ms. Rena Comisac. Ms. Comisac was appointed Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in October of 2005, and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General in April of 2006. Prior to joining the Civil Rights Division, Ms. Comisac served as Deputy Chief of Staff for the Criminal Division. From 1998 to 2000 she worked as Assistant U.S. Attorney for the middle district of Georgia, where she prosecuted asset forfeiture in white collar crimes cases.

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    Ms. Comisac served as a staffer on the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations from 1997 to 98 and 2000 to 2001. In addition, she served as staff on the Senate Judiciary Committee from 2001 to 2004. We welcome you here this afternoon, Ms. Comisac.

    Our second witness will be the Honorable Chris Norby. Mr. Norby was elected to the Orange County Board of Supervisors in March 2002. He was sworn in as the Supervisor of the Fourth District on January 6, 2003. Prior to his election to the Board of Supervisors, Mr. Norby served on the Fullerton City Council since 1984. He also served 3 years as the Mayor of Fullerton. His 18 years of public service place him among the most senior of Orange County's elected city officials. As a member of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, Mr. Norby works to implement structural reform for local governments. We welcome you here this afternoon, Mr. Norby.

    Our third witness is Karen Narasaki. Ms. Narasaki is President and Executive Director of the Asian American Justice Center. AAJC is a nonprofit, nonpartisan civil rights organization whose mission is to advance the human and civil rights of Asian Pacific Americans through advocacy, public policy, public education and litigation.

    Ms. Narasaki serves in a number of leadership positions in the civil rights and immigrant rights communities. She is Vice Chair of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. She is also the Vice President of the Coalition for Comprehensive Immigrant Reform and the Chairperson of the Rights Working Group. Before joining AAJC, Ms. Narasaki was the Washington, D.C. representative for the Japanese American Citizens League. Prior to that, she was a corporate attorney at Perkins Coie in Seattle, and served as a law clerk to Judge Harry Pregerson on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. We welcome you here, Ms. Narasaki.

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    And our fourth and final witness is Dr. James Thomas Tucker. Dr. Tucker is a Voting Rights Consultant for the National Association for Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Education Fund, with expertise in redistricting and voting rights law. He is also a former senior trial attorney with the voting section of the Department of Justice. Dr. Tucker's litigation experience at the Justice Department included Georgia v. Ashcroft, minority language assistance cases under section 203, and Federal observer coverage, to name a few. He has also published numerous articles on the Voting Rights Act and voting law, including ''Minority Language Assistance Practices in Public Elections.'' we welcome you here this afternoon, Mr. Tucker.

    For those of you who may not have testified before a congressional Committee, we have what is called the 5-minute rule. That is the time allotted to each of you to give your testimony. We actually have two timepieces up there where there will be a series of lights. The green light will be on for 4 minutes. The yellow light is a warning to let you know you have 1 minute remaining. And when the red light comes on, we would appreciate it if you would wrap up as close to that as possible. We won't gavel you down immediately, but if you could stay within that we would be appreciative. And we will also restrict ourselves to 5 minutes in questioning you all as well.

    It is also the practice of this Committee to swear in all witnesses appearing before it. So if you wouldn't mind, if you could all please stand and raise your right hands.

    [Witnesses sworn.]

    Mr. CHABOT. All witnesses have indicated in the affirmative. And we will now hear from our first witness.
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    Ms. Comisac you are recognized for 5 minutes.

TESTIMONY OF RENA COMISAC, PRINCIPAL DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, CIVIL RIGHTS DIVISION, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

    Ms. COMISAC. Thank you, Chairman Chabot.

    Mr. CHABOT. And you all need to turn the mike on. You did, but you will need to turn the mike on.

    Ms. COMISAC. It is my privilege this afternoon to provide you with an overview of the Justice Department's enforcement of the minority language sections of the Voting Rights Act. Under this Administration, the Justice Department has undertaken the most extensive sections 203 and 4(f)(4) enforcement activities in history.

    The initiative began immediately following the Census Bureau's 2002 determinations as to which jurisdictions are covered under section 203. The Civil Rights Division not only mailed formal notice and detailed information on section 203 compliance to each of the 296 covered jurisdictions, but we also initiated face-to-face meetings with State and local election officials and minority community members in the 80 newly covered jurisdictions to explain the law, to answer questions, and to foster the implementation of effective legal compliance programs. That is an effort that has been a continuing one in the Justice Department.

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    In August 2004, the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division mailed letters to the 496 jurisdictions covered by sections 203—or 4(f)(4)—reminding them of their obligations in the November 2004 general elections and offering them guidance on how to achieve compliance. This was the first blanket mailing to the section 4(f)(4) jurisdictions since shortly after their original designations in 1975.

    The division's voting section has been systematically requesting voter registration lists and bilingual poll assistance data from all covered jurisdictions. This information is then reviewed to identify polling places with a large number of minority language voters and to ascertain whether the polling places are served by a sufficient number of bilingual poll officials who can provide assistance to voters.

    We fully recognize that comparing voter registration lists to the Census Bureau's Spanish surname list, place of birth data, or other data, are imperfect measures of the language need in a precinct. We use such data as a mere starting point in our investigations. We also suggest it as a convenient starting point for local election officials, in trying to determine how and where best to meet the needs of their voters.

    The division is also systematically looking at the full range of information provided by covered jurisdictions to voters in English, and determining whether the same information is being made available to each minority language community in an effective manner and whether necessary translated materials are actually provided at the polling places.

    These efforts have borne abundant fruit. Since 2001, this Administration has filed more minority language cases under sections 4 and 203 than in the entire previous 26 years in which these provisions have been applicable. The lawsuits filed in 2004 alone provided comprehensive minority language programs to more citizens than all previous sections 203 and 4(f)(4) suits combined.
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    Among these cases were the first suits ever filed under section 203 to protect Filipino and Vietnamese voters. We recognize, of course, that States and local jurisdictions do not have unlimited budgets. We thus encourage and work with local election officials to identify the most efficient channels of communication to get information effectively to the language minority community at low cost.

    Our lawsuits have significantly narrowed gaps in electoral participation. In Yakima County, Washington, for example, Hispanic voter registration went up more than 24 percent in less than 6 months after resolution of the division's section 203 lawsuit. In San Diego County California, Spanish and Filipino registration was up 21 percent, and Vietnamese registration was up more than 37 percent within 6 months of the division's enforcement action.

    The division's minority language enforcement efforts likewise have made a tremendous difference in enhancing minority representation in the politically elected ranks. For example, a memorandum of agreement in Harris County, Texas, helped double Vietnamese voter turnout, and the first Vietnamese candidate in history was elected to the Texas legislature, defeating the incumbent chair of the Appropriations Committee by 16 votes, out of more than 40,000 cast.

    Let me say in conclusion, that the Civil Rights Division has made the vigorous enforcement of the Voting Rights Act language minority provisions, one of its primary missions. Our enforcement program shows the continuing need for the minority language provisions of the act, and we support their reauthorization. Thank you.

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    Mr. CHABOT. Thank you very much.

    [The prepared statement of Ms. Comisac follows:]

PREPARED STATEMENT OF RENA J. COMISAC

[Note: Image(s) not available in this format. See PDF version of this file for complete hearing record.]

    Mr. CHABOT. Mr. Norby, you are recognized for 5 minutes.

TESTIMONY OF THE HONORABLE CHRIS NORBY, SUPERVISOR, FOURTH DISTRICT, ORANGE COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS

    Mr. NORBY. Thank you. My name is Chris Norby. I represent the Fourth Supervisional District of Orange County, California, including the cities of Anaheim, Fullerton, Placentia, LaHabra and Buena Park. I will have to catch a 5:40 flight to Long Beach and so I may not be able to stay for the entire hearing, but I do thank you for listening to my testimony and I welcome any questions at any time.

    I would also like to enter into the record letters of three other elected officials unable to be here, which I believe you have a copy of—Mark Scott, who is a commissioner from Berks County, Pennsylvania; Jan Tyler, elections officer from Denver, Colorado; and Stephan Chaterenko from Clifton, New Jersey, who have comments similar to mine. I believe you have these as well.
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    Mr. CHABOT. Without objection, they will be entered into the record.

    [The information referred to is printed in the Appendix.]

    Mr. NORBY. Our county has made it clear that we support clear, reasonable, Voting Rights Act provisions and that they not be subject to continual changes by Department of Justice agents.

    We suggest five specific improvements to the Voting Rights Act:

    Number one, accept naturalized voter self-description of their own English ability. Speaking English well or very well should both be considered adequate.

    Two, non-English voting materials should only be provided to those who request it.

    Three, delete the numerical threshold of 10,000 which is unrealistic in large urban counties, and raise the 5 percent threshold to 10 percent.

    Four, English fluency assumptions must never be based on a voter's surname.

    And number five, multilingual ballot provisions must not be applied to petitions.
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    The multilingual ballot sections of the Voting Rights Act, I believe, perpetuate negative stereotypes, are outdated, vague, and violate the spirit of assimilation that holds our country together. According to the current interpretation of the VRA, my county of Orange must provide translations in Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese and Korean. Yet in the 1995 special election, countywide, only seven-tenths of 1 percent of our voters requested such materials.

    The method for determining which voters are non-English speaking is highly suspect. Census forms ask us whether we speak English well, very well, not well, or not at all. Only those checking ''very well'' are judged capable of voting in English.

    Speaking English well should be good enough, as it was obviously good enough to pass the citizenship test. In addition, all immigrants who have not finished the fifth grade are presumed illiterate. When more than 5 percent, or 10,000 people, of the voting age population in the county meet these criterion, non-English ballot requirements take effect.

    If these standards are left unchanged after the 2010 census, my county could be required to translate into a plethora of additional languages, including Tagalog, Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu and Farsi, depending on future immigration patterns.

    Such confusing rules allow Department of Justice agents to push us far beyond what the law actually requires. Last year, at an expense of over $20,000 from our county general fund, we were required to send about 120,000 outreach letters offering naturalized voters foreign-language ballot materials. We got hundreds of angry responses back from voters at the suggestion they could not speak English based on their heritage. And these cards have been provided to you—samples of these cards.
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    Department of Justice agents have now given our registrar a list of Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean and Chinese surnames. And based on last names alone, we are told to assume that 25 percent of the voters with these last names are limited English-speaking. And you have these surnames here, this list which was provided to us by the Department of Justice. Most of our voters with Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean and Chinese surnames were born in this country, while many others took these names upon marriage. The rest all took citizenship tests in English, and it is insulting to stereotype people's language ability based on their last names.

    I urge a total reexamination of the need for multilingual ballots. If they are kept, again, five simple clarifications would greatly improve the Voting Rights Act, and we have submitted these in writing for your consideration:

    One, accept naturalized voters' self-description of their own English ability. Speaking English well should qualify.

    Two, non-English voter material should only be provided to those who request them. And we are being told by the Department of Justice it is possible in the future we will have to have all five translations of all languages published in the same voter pamphlet and sent to all voters. This would cost us $20 million per election cycle and produce a sample ballot the size of a phone book, and it would lead to an anti-immigrant backlash. These practices are recruiting Minutemen that ask why they have to be addressed because they are perpetuating negative stereotypes.

    English fluency assumptions must never be based on a voter's surname. And multilingual ballot provisions must not apply to petitions. We recently had a suit in the Ninth District Court where our registrar was challenged because the petition in a Santa Ana recall case was not also published in Spanish. That is nowhere in the act. But judges must be told that these provisions do not apply to petitions. That would put a tremendous burden on those who would want to petition their government and change their government. Let the values of the Voting Rights Act reflect the civic value of assimilation, not static schisms. Let voting be a tool for unity, not divisions. Thank you.
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    Mr. CHABOT. Thank you very much.

    [The prepared statement of Mr. Norby follows:]

PREPARED STATEMENT OF CHRIS NORBY

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    Mr. CHABOT. Ms. Narasaki, you are recognized for 5 minutes.

TESTIMONY OF KAREN NARASAKI, PRESIDENT AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ASIAN AMERICAN JUSTICE CENTER

    Ms. NARASAKI. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good afternoon. I am pleased to be here to testify on behalf of the Asian American Justice Center. One of our top priorities has long been the elimination to discriminatory barriers to voting. We have worked in partnership with local Asian American community-based organizations and the Department of Justice to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act. And we commend the leadership and the Chairs and Ranking Members of both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees and Subcommittees in working together to ensure that Congress has a full record to review as it considers the reauthorization of this very important piece of legislation.

    I'd like to request that my full written statement be formally entered into the hearing record.
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    Mr. CHABOT. Without objection, so ordered.

    Ms. NARASAKI. Thank you. Since the Voting Rights Act has been enacted, Asian Americans have made some gains in electoral representation. About 75 percent of the Asian Americans elected are in jurisdictions either covered by section 2, which is the language assistance provisions of the act, or section 5, which is preclearance covered jurisdictions.

    And while progress has been made, Asian Americans still face significant race discrimination at the polls when attempting to exercise their right to vote, including hostile and unwelcoming poll workers, and outright challenges on the right to vote based on their race. AAJC believes that H.R. 9 is critical to helping ensure the health of our democracy.

    Here are just a couple of examples of problems from recent elections. In Jackson Heights, Queens, New York during the 2004 elections one poll worker said: You Oriental guys are just taking too long to vote. In fact, we heard many complaints of some poll workers telling people who didn't speak English that well that they had to go back to the back of the line.

    In the 2004 primary elections in Bayou LaBatre, Alabama, there was a concerted effort to intimidate Asian American voters made by the supporters of a White incumbent running against a Vietnamese American candidate. These supporters challenged Asian Americans at the polls, charging without any basis other than their race that they were not U.S. citizens or city residents or they had felony convictions.

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    There is also evidence of the continuation of racially polarized voting. For example, in the 2003 gubernatorial election in Louisiana, Congressman Bobby Jindal was well ahead in the preelection polls prior to the November runoff, but on Election Day he lost. A significant number of those who voted for David Duke, noted for his past leadership of the KKK, swung their support away from the very conservative Asian American, Jindal, to the much less conservative White Democrat, Kathleen Blanco.

    We strongly support H.R. 9's provisions that would renew and strengthen the preclearance provisions of section 5 and the award of expert witness fees for the prevailing party in enforcement actions. We also strongly endorse the renewal of the Federal observer provisions which deter and prevent discrimination at the polling place. Indeed, we ask the Subcommittee to consider strengthening them by amending the act to authorize the Attorney General to send Federal observers to section 203 covered jurisdictions, just as they are able to do with section 5 covered jurisdictions.

    We would ask specifically to discuss section 203 today which is very critical, as Congressman Honda noted, to the Asian American community. While new immigrants are required to be able to speak transactional English for citizenship, voting materials are often written at a much more complex level. Voting can be particularly daunting for those whose only language—those of us who actually speak English. In California's 2004 election, there were 16 measures and the voting guide was over 200 pages long.

    Moreover, although many language minorities were born in this country or came here at a very young age, many have had trouble speaking English well, often because they received a substandard education. Others have not had adequate access to advanced ESL classes to be able to learn English at the level required for the voting process.
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    In addition, the United States encourages senior citizens who have been here 20 years and who have been contributing to America, to become citizens by waiving the English literacy requirement when applying for citizenship. Also exempted are Hmong veterans who helped Americans during the Vietnam War and were pledged refuge by the United States.

    The formula triggering coverage is a very rigorous one. It does not presume that all minority voters need assistance, but considers educational attainment as well as self-assessed language ability. The Census Bureau asks for English ability in its long-form census questionnaire. And it has determined by testing that respondents for various reasons tend to overestimate their ability to speak English. So only those who respond that they speak English very well are deemed to be truly proficient.

    As a result of these strictures, only 16 jurisdictions in seven States are covered for any Asian language. These jurisdictions account for half of the Nation's Asian American population. Section 203 has also proven effective in achieving its objective. Both Asian American voter registration and voter participation has increased significantly in the covered jurisdictions.

    In 2004, for example, over 10,000 Vietnamese American voters registered in Orange County, which helped to lead to the election of the first Vietnamese American to the California State legislature. As was noted earlier, 2004 also saw the first Vietnamese American elected to the Texas State legislature after Harris County began fully complying with section 203.

    We recommend that the Subcommittee consider strengthening section 203 by lowering the numerical threshold for language assistance coverage from 10,000. The advent of computerized voting makes the provision of language access even easier than when the formula was last set in 1992. For example, lowering the threshold to 7,500 would trigger coverage for at least three more Southeast Asian American communities.
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    On behalf the AAJC, I would like to thank the Committee for allowing me to testify today.

    Mr. CHABOT. Thank you very much.

    [The prepared statement of Mr. Narasaki follows:]

PREPARED STATEMENT OF KAREN K. NARASAKI

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    Mr. CHABOT. Dr. Tucker, you are recognized for 5 minutes.

TESTIMONY OF JAMES THOMAS TUCKER, VOTING RIGHTS CONSULTANT, NALEO EDUCATIONAL FUND, AND ADJUNCT PROFESSOR, BARRETT HONORS COLLEGE, ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY

    Mr. TUCKER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman and distinguished Members of this Subcommittee, I want to thank you for your strong bipartisan leadership, and I want to specifically acknowledge two members of NALEO, Mr. Gonzalez of Texas and Ms. Sánchez of California, for the work that you have done on this bill.

    I want to express my strongest support for H.R. 9. Section 7 of H.R. 9 provides for a straight reauthorization of sections 4(f)(4) and 203 of the Voting Rights Act until August of 2032. Section 2 of the bill outlines substantial evidence of continued discrimination against language minorities that supports the 25-year reauthorization.
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    Equally important, the bill reaffirms the findings in section 203 of the Voting Rights Act. There is an extensive record of documented discrimination in voting and education that supports maintaining the protections in sections 4(f)(4) and 203 of the Voting Rights Act for the four covered language groups. Other language groups have not been included because there is no similar record for those groups.

    H.R. 9 maintains the existing section 203 coverage formula. It also updates the data used for coverage determinations to reflect changes in how the Census Bureau collects language ability data using the American community survey.

    In 1992, Congress acknowledged the substantial record of educational discrimination against the covered language minority groups. Since 1975, at least 24 successful educational discrimination cases have been brought on behalf of English language learners in 15 States, 14 of which are presently covered by section 203; 10 of those cases have been since 1992. Consent decrees or court orders remain in effect for English language learner students Statewide in Arizona and Florida, and in the cities of Boston, Denver, and Seattle.

    The December 2005 decision in Florez v. Arizona illustrates the impact that unequal educational opportunities have had on the 175,000 English language learner students enrolled in Arizona's public schools. As the Court explained in citing the State $500,000 a day for being in contempt of its prior orders, and I quote: ''The court can only imagine how many students have started school since Judge Marquez entered the order in February 2000 declaring these programs were inadequately funded in an arbitrary and capricious manner that violates English language learner students' rights under the Equal Education Opportunity Act. How many students may have stopped school by dropping out or failing because of the foot-dragging by the State?''
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    Educational discrimination is compounded by the absence of sufficient adult-ESL programs in most of the covered jurisdictions. In Albuquerque, the largest provider reports an average waiting time of about 12 months. In Boston, the average waiting time is 6 to 9 months, but some adults have to wait as much as 2 to 3 years.

    As of just a few days ago, there were at least 16,000 adults on ESL waiting lists in Boston. In New York, the need for adult-ESL courses is estimated to be 1 million, but only 41,000 adults were able to enroll in 2005. Most adult-ESL programs no longer keep waiting lists because of the extreme demand, but use lottery systems in which at least 3 out of every 4 adults are turned away.

    In Phoenix, the largest adult-ESL provider reports a waiting list of over 1,000 people, with a waiting time of up to 18 months for highest-demand evening classes.

    In Rhode Island, over half of all adults on waiting lists have been waiting for 12 months or more. This demonstrates that there is a national problem on ESL.

    Limited-English-proficient adults are extremely motivated to learn English and become fully assimilated into American society. The average adult-ESL student is the working poor, holding two jobs, supporting a family and learning English in the few hours available to them in the evenings.

    It can take several years for LEP students to even acquire spoken English language and literacy skills equal to a fifth-grade education, which is still functionally illiterate. The need for language assistance on ballot questions is especially important because of the growing number of propositions directly impacting the covered language minority citizens. An average of 13.1 percent of voting-age citizens are limited-English-proficient in the languages triggering coverage, with an average illiteracy rate that is nearly 14 times the national rate.
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    The barriers posed by educational discrimination, language, and the absence of sufficient ESL classes and high illiteracy result in significantly decreased voter participation. H.R. 9 maintains the existing bailout provision from section 203 coverage for jurisdictions that are able to remedy the illiteracy rate of the applicable language minority groups. As I testified previously, where implemented properly, language assistance accounts for only a small fraction of total election costs, if at all.

    For these reasons I recommend that without delay the House pass H.R. 9, without amendment, to ensure the continued protection of the right to vote for all American citizens.

    Thank you very much for your attention and I will welcome the opportunity to answer questions you may have.

    Mr. CHABOT. Thank you very much.

    [The prepared statement of Mr. Tucker follows:]

PREPARED STATEMENT OF DR. JAMES THOMAS TUCKER

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    Mr. CHABOT. As Chair, I'm going to yield to the gentleman from North Carolina, who has a flight to catch, and let him question first. The gentleman from North Carolina is recognized for 5 minutes.
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    Mr. WATT. I thank the Chairman for yielding to me first, and I want to offer to Mr. Norby, if he wants a ride to the airport I will be happy to give it to him.

    Mr. NORBY. Great. Are you going to Long Beach on Jet Blue too?

    Mr. WATT. No. Are you going to Dulles?

    Mr. NORBY. Yes, I'm going to Dulles.

    Mr. WATT. Oh, you are in trouble. You need to leave now. I'm going to National. And my flight is before yours, but you need to leave immediately.

    Mr. NORBY. All right. I presume your questions are not for me, then.

    Mr. WATT. That's right. But I was going to give you a ride.

    My question is actually for the representative from the Justice Department, because if the answers to any of these questions are ''yes,'' please just give us the information about them subsequently so that we can put it into the record. If they are ''no,'' then you can just answer them quickly ''no.'' but if they are ''yes,'' then we need information about them.

    Section 11(a) of the Voting Rights Act prohibits any person acting under color of law from failing or refusing to permit any person entitled to vote from voting.
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    Have there been any documented violations or prosecutions by the Department of Justice for violations of section 11(a) of the Voting Rights Act?

    Ms. COMISAC. I do not know the answer to that question. I will provide it to the Committee.

    Mr. WATT. Section 11(b) prohibits any person, quote, whether acting under color of law or otherwise, closed quote, from intimidating, threatening, or coercing or attempting to intimidate, et cetera, any person from voting or attempting to vote.

    Have there been any documented violations or prosecutions by the Department of Justice for violations of this section?

    Ms. COMISAC. Again, I will be glad to provide that information.

    Mr. WATT. Third, sections 204 and 205 proscribe certain activity under the Voting Rights Act.

    Have there been any documented violations or prosecutions by the Department of Justice for violations of this section—of these two sections of the Voting Rights Act?

    Ms. COMISAC. I will be glad to provide that information.

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    Mr. WATT. Wonderful. Now, in anticipation of receiving this, Dr. Tucker, I think you might be able to tell us what the significance of either ''yes'' or ''no'' answer might be, if you have an opinion about that, on these questions.

    Mr. TUCKER. Well, I believe what it will show is that those provisions are obviously meant to complement section 203 and section 404. They are not meant to replace the provision, by any stretch of the imagination. And I believe, again, that there are—to the extent that they are undocumented instances in which certain cases may or may not have been brought, I think that it will go far to show whether or not—whether or not section 203 is needed and whether or not instances in which voters who may need assistance may not only not get it, but there may be instances of specific discrimination or intimidation at the polls that obviously would discourage not only that voter but other voters from the same covered language group from coming to the polls as well.

    Mr. WATT. We're just trying to complete the circle here. If you will provide that subsequent to the hearing, it would be great. I said, jokingly, that you should leave, Mr. Norby. I really was not joking. I think we should excuse Mr. Norby, unless somebody has questions immediately, because he is not going to make his plane.

    Mr. NORBY. I may not, but I am here representing my county and if there are any questions for me, I would be happy to take them.

    Mr. WATT. You didn't have any particular perspective on any of the questions I asked, I take it?

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    Mr. NORBY. Well, yes, I do have a very strong perspective. I think that this is a law that is creating negative stereotypes, which is putting an undue burden on counties. Twenty million dollars is a lot of money from our general fund if we are required to publish all five languages in the same voter information pamphlet, which DOJ agents have said we are going to have to do. That is going to create an anti-immigrant backlash. Imagine people getting in the mail a phonebook-sized book.

    Mr. WATT. I thought we were talking about the questions I just asked. Is this responsive to those questions?

    Mr. NORBY. You will have to determine that and if they are not, I will wait for the next one.

    Mr. WATT. Thank you. I think I will yield back, and I appreciate the Chairman—and I wish I was going to Dulles. Actually, I don't wish I was going to Dulles. That is a challenge at this time of day. But I would have been happy to give you a ride to National.

    Mr. NORBY. I appreciate that. Maybe next time.

    Mr. CHABOT. The gentleman yields back. The Chair recognizes himself for 5 minutes for questioning, and I will start with you, Ms. Comisac, if I can.

    Could you explain the impetus for the Department's increased enforcement efforts under section 203? And are jurisdictions, at least some, not complying? And what efforts does the Department take to work with jurisdictions before engaging in litigation?
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    [3:40 p.m.]

    Ms. COMISAC. I will be glad to address those questions. Your first question was the impetus for our enforcement efforts; and, Chairman, we take very seriously our obligations to enforce each of the provisions that are part of our responsibility, part of the Civil Rights Division's responsibility, under the Voting Rights Act.

    Section 203 is one of the sections, and we are committed to do vigorous enforcement of section 203 as a means by which Congress has made a determination that we should, to the extent practicable, as Congressman Scott put it, meaningful access right to vote for non-English-speaking Americans.

    Mr. CHABOT. Can I interrupt you for one moment? Mr. Norby, were you going to leave? Because maybe we could address our questions to you right now. What time is it?

    Mr. NORBY. Yes. I need to catch my plane. The flight is at 5:45 from Dulles, and the one after that is in the morning.

    Mr. GONZALEZ. Mr. Chairman, I have questions for Mr. Norby.

    Mr. CHABOT. Can you stay for another 5 or 10 minutes?

    Mr. Norby. I would be happy to.
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    Mr. CHABOT. We will come back to Ms. Comisac if we can.

    I have one question for you. Could you describe how helpful is the Department of Justice in working with covered jurisdiction to determine what assistance is required?

    Mr. NORBY. Well, our Registrar of Voters has reported repeatedly, two different registrars, that the attitude is confrontational and arrogant. We have repeatedly told them they are only required to meet the law; and they have told us that the agents say they are free to interpret the law, and we feel they are making interpretations not based on what the law actually says. The law does not allow, for example, an analysis of English fluency based on surnames. This is nowhere in the law, but this is the list the Department of Justice has given us.

    And we want to work with the Department of Justice. We are happy to follow the law, but we feel as long as authorized, it must be clear as to what we have to do, and we will do it. But the law cannot be a license to continue ratcheting up licenses that are not within the law.

    Mr. CHABOT. Okay. Also could you comment on how costly it is to comply with section 203?

    Mr. NORBY. Well, it depends on how far it is going to be pushed. Like I said, a previous DOJ agent had said that they are emphasizing the county should place all languages in the same voter pamphlet all together. We have a total of five. If we do that, it will cost us $20 million per election cycle. The so-called outreach which sent questionnaires to non-native voters cost us about $20,000, and mostly we got a negative response from these voters, feeling insulted. If they wanted the materials, they would have asked for it, and they didn't appreciate us suggesting they didn't speak English well.
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    The poll worker requirements is hard to judge. It is very, very difficult to try to find them. We are being told a number of precincts in Irvine are going to have to have Chinese-language poll workers.

    We can only pay $70 a day for these poll workers. The typical Chinese American voter in Irvine who might speak Mandarin is a professional, highly skilled. Many of them are making $70 an hour and really have no interest in being a poll worker for that amount of money. So it is very difficult to find people like this. Many of them are perfectly fluent in English. Certainly if you are talking about Asian Americans, the educational level of Asian Americans in my county is at least as high, if not higher, than the typical population. So the educational opportunity is there.

    So I feel the law is creating stereotypes. It is helping to fuel an anti-immigrant backlash, and it is creating Minutemen.

    Mr. CHABOT. Let me stop you there on my questions, and I would like to go down the line. I would like if each Member has questions for Mr. Norby, we could do that now.

    Mr. Scott, if you want to yield to one of the others because they are champing at the bit.

    Mr. SCOTT. Most of them would be for the others.

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    Mr. CHABOT. Ms. Jackson Lee.

    Ms. JACKSON LEE. Thank you very much, Mr. Norby. I see you are not as advocate you are in local government.

    Mr. NORBY. I am an elected official just like all of you. I am the only one on this panel.

    Ms. JACKSON LEE. I sense there is a concern about unfunded mandate.

    Mr. NORBY. Definitely.

    Ms. JACKSON LEE. With that in mind, I would assume, then, that you would not wish to deny a person that had the right to vote whose only barrier might be language, and they had every right to vote, you are not asking us to deny that person the right to vote.

    Mr. NORBY. I am not asking anyone be denied any right to vote.

    Ms. JACKSON LEE. So with that in mind, if we are able with the reauthorization of this legislation to address the issue of unfunded mandates, you think it would be appropriate to ensure that everyone who had the right to vote should vote?

    Mr. NORBY. Well, the money is only a part of it. Current law does allow any voter to take in any person that they want into the polling place, including any interpreters. It does allow that.
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    Ms. JACKSON LEE. It allows that, but if the voter chooses to be able to vote in private on their own, and their only barrier may be a language, temporary or otherwise, you are not suggesting we should deny them the right to vote?

    Mr. NORBY. I would suggest we take a look again at the citizen requirements which theoretically——

    Ms. JACKSON LEE. You are going beyond the parameters of this legislation, which is the question of whether or not a person has the right to vote. I just want to be clarified of where you are going. That may be a debate that we are having, Mr. Chairman, on immigration, but we are talking about the reauthorization of the Voter Rights Act, and we are talking about citizens who have the right to vote. I am trying to understand if you are trying to deny the citizens the right to vote.

    Mr. NORBY. I am not trying to deny that at all. I have a large number of Romanians in my city.

    Ms. JACKSON LEE. You are okay with citizens voting.

    Mr. NORBY. They are not covered by this, and yet many people in many language groups aren't covered by this. So there are people out there now that you might say are being denied that.

    Ms. JACKSON LEE. You certainly have validity in acknowledging that there are other groups with a language issue, and, of course, as——
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    Mr. NORBY. There are.

    Ms. JACKSON LEE [continuing]. Progress——

    Mr. NORBY [continuing]. Reasonable accommodations.

    Ms. JACKSON LEE. I just want to make sure you didn't leave with yourself being on record with wanting to deny a person the right to vote.

    Mr. NORBY. Of course not.

    Ms. JACKSON LEE. Of course not. Thank you very much.

    Mr. CHABOT. The gentlelady has 2 minutes remaining.

    The gentlelady from California is recognized.

    Ms. SÁNCHEZ. Very briefly for Mr. Norby before you head out on your flight. I wanted to ask you, did you ever consider perhaps passing the citizenship test and having a certain level of English proficiency still might not make voting in English an easy proposition, especially given in California, as we know, a number of valid ballot initiatives that get qualified in each election? The double negatives that appear in the language——

    Mr. NORBY. Sometimes triple negatives.
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    Ms. SÁNCHEZ [continuing]. Are written to be purposefully confusing to those of us who are native English speakers, much less somebody who has learned English at a level that ensures that they can pass their citizenship test, but perhaps might feel more comfortable or more enfranchised being able to vote in a native language that they feel more comfortable in. Have you ever stopped to consider——

    Mr. NORBY. Of course. I consider that every day of my life practically, how to serve as many people as we possibly can. I would submit $20 million would be better spent on teaching people in English classes rather than sending out ballot materials to people who haven't requested it.

    Ms. SÁNCHEZ. I do not disagree with the point you made. We may need to be funding more ESL classes, but unfortunately we have not seen an increase in funding for that.

    Mr. NORBY. I taught ESL myself.

    Ms. SÁNCHEZ. I wanted to bring that to your attention because my mother, who is a naturalized citizen, who teaches in an elementary school, who is very fluent in English, on occasion she finds it is easier for her to vote and receive the materials in her native language because the election materials are written in a way so as to confuse. And I just want——

    Mr. NORBY. Oh, that is definitely true. And English speakers have a difficult time understanding a lot of California propositions as well.
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    Our county is not opposed to multilingual ballots. We think the threshold should be reasonable, and we also think that immigrant voters are capable of saying how well they speak English. To say an immigrant claims they speak it well but they really don't, we know better than them, we should take it at face value if they say they speak it well. And we should never infer language fluency based on a list of last names.

    Ms. SÁNCHEZ. I think perhaps that is a good starting point, but you are right. Definitely the system probably needs to be fine-tuned.

    Mr. NORBY. No law is perfect. I just think it could be fine-tuned.

    Mr. CHABOT. The gentleman from Texas is recognized.

    Mr. GONZALEZ. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

    I guess, Mr. Norby, I am reading something into your statements that I shouldn't be reading. But let me read you something from your own Website of November 2005.

    In fact, the vast majority of immigrants do vote in English. Of the 1.5 million Orange County voters, only 10,506 requested non-English ballots in the last election. That is 0.7 percent of the total voting population, or just 7 out of every 1,000 voters.

    It seems to me that you are dismissing the progress and effect and accomplishment of section 203, and you are minimizing and dismissing and discounting the importance of these voters.
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    We don't know how many voted out there and so on and took advantage. Some were assisted and such, but I guess it could make a difference.

    Four years ago in San Antonio, State Representative Mike Villarreal owes his very existence and political career in public service to a margin of two votes. Two months ago my friend Judge Casin lost his reelection by seven votes; and I don't think I have to remind you that in Florida 2000, the President of the United States was elected by 537 votes or so.

    Think in terms of the impact. Now, maybe there are better ways of doing it, but I really do challenge you to think through what you are espousing here, and reaching out to that population that can be the margin of victory for a Republican or a Democrat, from State representative to President of the United States.

    You also have a attached to your testimony all of these cards you got back from those voters. Now, if you read these carefully, what they are representing to me here is if you don't speak English, you should not vote.

    Now, that hearkens back to a time we had literacy tests. We don't need to go back to literacy tests. That is what these comments indicate to me if you really read their full import.

    My question to you is: Do you place a price tag on reaching out to those communities, empowering them, having them come to the polling place and vote, and making a more informed choice; and if you do, what is the price?
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    Mr. NORBY. Well, a price tag is placed on everything, especially in county government, because we have to cover in taxing everything that we spend. The Federal Government might be a little bit different in that regard, and the question is, what is the best use of spending the money?

    You have said that these 10,000 people who voted in non-English materials make the price worth it, and I am not necessarily disputing that because we are not for necessarily repealing this, but making them reasonable. On the other hand, if in the future we do add Tagalog, Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, Farsi, Arabic and a whole host of additional languages, we might have a few thousand more people voting as well. Would that be worth it? Where does it stop?

    Like I say, I have a large Romanian population in my city of Fullerton. Romanian is specifically excluded because European languages other than Spanish are excluded from this. So large numbers of Russian immigrants are actually discriminated against because Russian is not considered a qualifying language since it is not an Asian or non-Spanish European language.

    So the law is already drawing a line to which languages qualify and which people don't qualify. The question of where should the line be drawn—and I am saying it should be drawn more clearer than it is so I, as an elected official, know where it is, so the Department of Justice agents can't say, well, that is the law, but we want you to do more than the law actually requires.

    I want clarity even if I disagree with what that clarity is. The clarity currently isn't there. It has to be there, especially with petitions, because if we require that all initiatives, all recall petitions be written in these five languages, then it is going to jeopardize the rights of citizens to petition their own government because they will have to be dismissed, and judges are starting to do that. So the VR has to do at least that.
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    Mr. GONZALEZ. Thresholds haven't been increased even though there are some of us who thought they ought to be reduced; they haven't been decreased to meet the guidelines in the applicability of this law. So you seem to be arguing maybe we ought to have a lower threshold so that other groups might qualify. I may not disagree with you on that.

    It is not where does it end. The question is, where does it begin? And I think you bring out a good point. But I really read much into your testimony and the materials that you have provided, and I am just simply asking look at the advantages. Have a positive attitude at what this accomplishes. We can do it better, be more creative, imaginative, and not have unfunded mandates from this end of the equation; but from your end, I think you can be creative, imaginative, and cost-efficient to a point where it is worth the investment. This is one country where we are all in this together, contrary to everything that is going on.

    Mr. NORBY. I have 600,000 constituents, many of whom are foreign born, and, like you, I have to be as creative as I can.

    Mr. CHABOT. Thank you very much for coming and testifying today.

    Mr. NORBY. Thank you.

    Mr. CHABOT. The gentleman has 5 seconds left. So—thank you, Ms. Comisac. I think we were with you on your questions. Do you need me to repeat them, or do you recall what the questions were?
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    Ms. COMISAC. No. I think I recall what the questions are.

    Mr. CHABOT. I recognize myself for the 3 minutes that I have left.

    Ms. COMISAC. One of the questions you asked us about was about our efforts to work with jurisdictions, and I would like to take up that questions now because I would like Mr. Norby's comments that I would like an opportunity to address. I think they may answer your questions as well.

    I am very distressed to hear his characterization of his interaction with the Justice Department, because our first efforts at enforcement of section 203 of the minority language provisions of the VRA, our first efforts are to work with jurisdictions. We find this to be a really productive method of achieving compliance. We hold one-on-one meetings with election officials. We ensure that they have points of contact in the Division's voting section. I mean, we have conducted outreach by speaking to the National Association of County Officials; the National Association of County Recorders, Clerks and Registrars; National Association of Secretaries of State; the National Association of State Elections Directors. We conduct a tremendous amount of outreach to make them aware of what their requirements are, what their obligations are to answer their questions. And we want to achieve, Congressman Gonzalez, that creativity and imagination that you spoke about.

    We do not believe that there is a one-size-fits-all solution to compliance with section 203. We want to work with covered jurisdictions so that the local election officials who know their districts the best, who know their jurisdictions the best, have the flexibility to devise solutions that will achieve that compliance.
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    We enforce low-cost compliance. We have encouraged use of information trees, for example; of using faxes and e-mails; of communicating through business organizations, unions, social and fraternal organizations, churches that have contacts in the minority language communities. We have discouraged, for example, jurisdictions from placing minority language notices in English-language newspapers so that they can better target their efforts.

    The first step in our enforcement efforts truly is to try to work with the jurisdictions. Having said that, if we find that a jurisdiction is not meeting their obligations, we will investigate; and if our investigation indicates that they have not met their obligations, we will bring enforcement actions, as we have done. I mentioned some examples of successful enforcement actions in my statement.

    Mr. CHABOT. Not to interrupt you there, but my time is running out, and I wanted to get a question in to Ms. Narasaki if I can.

    Ms. Narasaki, if Congress allows section 203 to expire, what will be the impact on the language minority citizens?

    Ms. NARASAKI. We believe it will be a very huge impact. As I noted for the Asian American community, three-fourths of the elected officials who are Asian American come from the jurisdictions that are covered by section 203. We have seen enormous increases in voter registration and voter turnout in all of the newly covered jurisdictions that got covered after the 2002 census. So while some jurisdictions do voluntarily provide some coverage, it is a minority of jurisdictions, and what Councilmember Norby was asking for with a 10 percent threshold was basically to not cover Orange County because Orange County has about 9 percent who would qualify.
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    And also, I am sorry that he left because we have different numbers than he does. According to the Orange County Registrar of Voters, as of December 2005, they had 72,436 voters who had requested materials in other languages. That is 4.8 percent of the registered voters there, and we know that the usage is much higher because a lot of people don't need the written materials, but use the oral system at the polls; and we know that because our affiliate in Los Angeles does exit polling and has done for the last decade in L.A. And Orange County, and according to them, in 2004, about two-thirds—no, 46 percent of Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese voters did request assistance. So you could see the impact on the ability of Asian Americans to vote.

    Mr. CHABOT. Thank you very much. My time has expired.

    The gentleman from Virginia Mr. Scott is recognized for 5 minutes.

    Mr. SCOTT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    Mr. Chairman, I think it is significant Dr. Tucker mentioned all of the waiting lists for bilingual education—for English education. If you want to fund more English education, you do that through the political process; and if you can't vote, obviously you can't reduce those waiting lines. So I think what we are talking about here is extremely important not only as it affects voting, but as it affects public policy.

    Let me ask Ms. Comisac, based on your experience, is it a fact that section 203 has, in fact, increased participation amongst citizens who have limited English proficiency?
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    Ms. COMISAC. I think there is no question that as a result of our enforcement efforts, we have seen significant increases among—in participation in the electoral process and in election among the political ranks in limited English-proficient voters.

    Mr. SCOTT. And if you had a desire to reduce participation amongst that group, would repeal of section 203 be helpful in reducing the participation?

    Ms. COMISAC. Well, I certainly am of the opinion that our enforcement efforts have shown that we have made steady gains as a result of 203 enforcement, gains that I don't think would have been accomplished absent our enforcement efforts of section 203.

    Mr. SCOTT. Dr. Tucker, I have a report that apparently your organization released on the expenses involved in complying with section 203.

    Mr. TUCKER. Yes.

    Mr. SCOTT. Can you give us a little background information on how extensive it is to actually comply?

    Mr. TUCKER. The costs are minimal, if there are any costs at all.

    I guess I should, first of all, begin by saying that the report was of every jurisdiction that was covered, down to cities of 50,000 or more, and we had a response rate of better than 50 percent. We had responses from 29 of the 31 States that are covered by section 203, and this was all self-reported data. What they indicated—what the election officials indicated was that a majority of jurisdictions incur no additional costs for either written language materials or oral language assistance.
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    Mr. SCOTT. And is that because when they hire a poll worker, they would just, for the same amount of money they are paying a poll worker, pick somebody that is bilingual?

    Mr. TUCKER. Absolutely. And the jurisdictions that are not doing that are the ones that are incurring costs for—the costs themselves are quite low where they do have costs. On average they reported costs of 3 percent for written language materials and 1.5 percent for oral language assistants, and these costs could obviously be diminished even further by doing as the Deputy Assistant Attorney General suggested and adequately targeting the materials in oral language assistants to those places that actually need it.

    Mr. SCOTT. Thank you.

    Ms. Narasaki, the threshold of 10,000, of 5 percent, is at an extremely high threshold. It actually could—in many areas, and I think you mentioned one—be the swing vote in a particular district. Does that give those that may not be popular in that segment of their district an incentive to try to depress the vote?

    Ms. NARASAKI. Absolutely. One of the things that we see with the changing demographics is there are a threshold of once you get to so many minorities in a community, there starts to be some push-back and some potential friction. So it is really important——

    We actually—as you know, Congressman Scott, the original threshold was 5 percent, and what happened was with large cities like L.A. County, to be 5 percent of L.A. County meant you had to have 500,000 people, which was clearly more than many—than a lot of jurisdictions people actually voting. So 10,000 was picked at a reasonable level, looking at what the cost affecting this would be.
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    Mr. SCOTT. In many jurisdictions it may be enough to swing an election.

    Ms. NARASAKI. Exactly. And in terms of Orange County, under Mr. Norby's own testimony, it cost $600,000 in the last election, which is 10 percent, $6 million overall costs, for Orange County. Well, almost 10 percent of his county is eligible. So it is a reasonable trade-off because those are all taxpayers as well. That is what we looked at in looking at thresholds.

    Mr. SCOTT. Thank you.

    And finally, Ms. Comisac, can you send observers to enforce just section 203?

    Ms. COMISAC. I am not certain, but I will certainly find out if that is the case.

    Mr. SCOTT. I think Ms. Narasaki's testimony suggested there may be a little glitch where you can send them into a section 5-covered jurisdiction. While they are there, they can observe section 203 violations, but there may not be specific authorization to send an observer just for section 203.

    If you could look at that to make sure we don't have a little gap in the coverage, and if we do have a gap in the coverage, we would want to make sure that we could send observers in specifically to observe 203 violations.
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    Ms. COMISAC. I will be glad to get back to the Committee on that.

    Mr. SCOTT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    Mr. CHABOT. The gentleman's time has expired.

    The gentle lady from Texas has 2 minutes.

    Ms. JACKSON LEE. Thank you very much.

    Let me ask Ms. Comisac, I was trying to read through your testimony, and thank you. Has the Justice Department taken a position on the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act?

    Ms. COMISAC. Well, certainly——

    Ms. JACKSON LEE. The Administration, excuse me.

    Ms. COMISAC. Certainly the Department and the Administration in general supports reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act, and we certainly support reauthorization of the minority language provisions of the act. Clearly H.R. 9 was introduced on Tuesday, and we are still examining the provisions of that bill.

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    Ms. JACKSON LEE. So you are doing your due diligence?

    Ms. COMISAC. That is correct.

    Ms. JACKSON LEE. You are doing your due diligence. I would hope that inasmuch as this is a tool that the Justice Department has used now for more than two decades—and I think Administrations have come and gone, Republicans and Democrats, and they have found it to be an effective tool. Many times we may have agreed or disagreed with its interpretation that it is an effective tool. I would hope that you would engage with Congress in this instance, since we are not adversarial, as you do your due diligence.

    Can you keep this Committee advised as you do your due diligence so that we are aware of hopefully your approval or your concerns?

    Ms. COMISAC. We will be glad to work with the Committee.

    Ms. JACKSON LEE. Let me ask both Ms. Narasaki and Dr. Tucker. We have heard comments being made about other language groups. Help us quickly—again, for the record, if we use other language groups to suggest we shouldn't have it, the devastating impact, but then because of your expertise, how we might work perspectively in acknowledging the concern of the need for other language groups. Dr. Tucker.

    Mr. TUCKER. Okay. First of all, it is clearly intended—I—this is something that has come up before during prior reauthorization.

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    Ms. JACKSON LEE. It is important for the record, yes.

    Mr. TUCKER. What has happened, there is a discussion of trying to have section 203 applied to all language groups throughout the United States. It is problematic in two respects. First of all, it raises constitutional issues. Section 203 is very narrowly tailored and congruent and proportional to the need, and the need has been focused specifically on the pattern and history of discrimination both in voting and education as to the four groups that are covered.

    It also raises some enforcement problems. The Department of Justice doesn't have unlimited resources, and neither do the private organizations that bring the lawsuits under the private attorneys general provision. Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act is available for those sections that are not covered and for those languages that are not covered; and, in fact, there have been successful cases brought, including one in Hamtramck, Michigan, for Arabic-speaking populations under section 2.

    Mr. CHABOT. The gentlelady's time has expired.

    The gentlelady from California Ms. Sánchez is recognized for 3 minutes.

    Ms. SÁNCHEZ. Really quickly, I am going to ask these questions of Dr. Tucker and Ms. Narasaki.

    Do you think it is a reasonable starting point—starting point to survey those who have ethnic last names and/or you have information about them being foreign-born as a starting-off point in order to survey for whether or not they need assistance with voting materials?
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    And number two, in what ways can language assistance be offered in a cost-effective manner? Because apparently Mr. Norby's biggest concern was unfunded mandates and how expensive they are for the counties.

    I think, Ms. Narasaki, you touched on that a little bit and said it was proportional; but I want to give you a little bit of time to expand on that. I was a little confused by Mr. Norby's testimony, and I wish he were still here, because on the one hand, he argued that we should raise the trigger from 5 percent to 10 percent and eliminate the 10,000 numerical trigger. And then he seemed to contradict himself and say that we should lower it because there are other language minorities that are not being offered this assistance.

    I want to know from both of you, what do you think the world would look like if we eliminated the 10,000 numeric triggers and raised the 5 percent trigger to 10 percent, as Mr. Norby suggested?

    Ms. NARASAKI. Well, I can start out with the cost issue. I think, as the testimony has shown, there actually is a lot of flexibility in the regulations that the Department of Justice has in terms of how they comply, and we very much advise local jurisdictions to work closely with the local community-based organizations who could help them identify where the neighborhoods who—for whom the outreach is necessary, what are the ethnic papers you could get the information out on, what are the cost-effective radio outreach that you can do? So there are many ways that you can cut costs if you work closely with the communities that are involved.

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    We have been told by the Department of Justice that they, in fact, are not asking Orange County to have a telephone book of, you know, five languages and voting. We would actually advise against that because it makes it unusable for everyone. It doesn't make sense to translate something into something nobody is going to use.

    So we think actually there is a lot of room to work with people both on the cost and how you can best comply. The challenge with the surname is, as you know, the census data, in terms of individual answers, is private. So you cannot go to the census and say, tell us who said they are limited English-proficient, under fifth grade. You can't do that.

    So as the Department of Justice said, they recognize that it is an imperfect way to go about it, but right now it is one of the better ways to try to, at least as a starting point, figure out where you might go.

    And I think part of the backlash in terms of the responses that they got is, if you saw the postcard, I would have put a little more explanation in there to people who received it.

    Mr. CHABOT. The gentlelady's time has expired. The gentleman from——

    Ms. SÁNCHEZ. If I could beg the Chairman's indulgence to allow Dr. Tucker to perhaps answer one or two questions.

    Mr. CHABOT. If you could make it relatively brief, we would appreciate it.
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    Mr. TUCKER. And I will just build on what Ms. Narasaki said. First of all, there are a number of ways you can reduce the cost. First of all, the HAVA funding that has been provided to the State and local jurisdictions has allowed the States to purchase new voting equipment where there is absolutely no cost. Many of these new machines, they are electronic. They have oral language instructions that can be programmed into the computer at no additional cost. Private organizations and outreach can be done. And to bring those organizations into the process to cut down the cost of translation and, quite frankly, some of the complaints that Mr.—or Commissioner Norby complained about regarding the outreach materials, that is what the jurisdiction should be doing. You should be doing outreach to the covered communities.

    With respect to the elimination of the 10,000-person trigger and the impact, it would have a devastating impact. There was a substantial record of this that was introduced in 1992, and what it would do is it would do a wholesale elimination of covered language groups in southern California, northern California, particularly Asians, a large number of Latinos, particularly in and around the Cook County, Chicago area. There was a substantial evidence of discrimination against those groups, and, in fact, since the last reauthorization, successful section 2 cases have been brought in those jurisdictions including in the town of Cicero, Illinois. There was a section 2 case involving backlash against the growing Latino vote.

    So the bottom line with it is the elimination of the 10,000 trigger would have a devastating impact, and it would make the section 203 far less effective than it is today.

    Ms. SÁNCHEZ. Thank you.

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    Mr. CHABOT. Thank you very much.

    The gentleman from Texas is recognized.

    Mr. GONZALEZ. Thank you, Mr. Chairman; thank you, Members of the Committee; and thanks to the witnesses.

    Mr. CHABOT. Thank you very much, Mr. Gonzalez. We appreciate your attendance today, and our final questioner will be the gentleman from Maryland Mr. Van Hollen. You are recognized for 5 minutes.

    Mr. VAN HOLLEN. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I want to thank you and Mr. Nadler again for hosting this hearing, and I just have one question, because I know there has been a lot of testimony, and that is for Ms. Comisac.

    Does the Justice Department intend to present its views on this piece of legislation, number one? And if so, when do you expect the Committee would have the benefit of those views?

    Ms. COMISAC. Congressman, we are currently in the process of analyzing H.R. 9, which was introduced on Tuesday, and we will strive to complete our analysis as soon as possible.

    Mr. VAN HOLLEN. All right. Well, thank you.

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    Ms. COMISAC. Thank you.

    Mr. CHABOT. Is that it?

    Mr. VAN HOLLEN. It would be helpful to have it. That is it.

    Mr. CHABOT. I want to thank the gentleman. I want to thank all the panel up here, and I want to especially thank our witnesses here this afternoon for coming.

    This is a very important issue, and each of the witnesses has done a great job illuminating these issues. And I might note for the panel up here, given the unique nature of this issue, we have made an exception to the Committee rules regarding the attendance and participation of non-Committee Members. This was done in a spirit, obviously, of bipartisanship, and it shouldn't necessarily be considered precedent for future hearings, but there is nothing——

    Ms. JACKSON LEE. It isn't?

    Mr. CHABOT. Bipartisanship should always be a precedent. But in any event, we very much appreciate the participation of everyone here. I believe this is the last hearing we are going to have.

    Ms. JACKSON LEE. Yes. Would the gentleman yield?

    We have been calling this H.R. 9, and I just welcome the opportunity to recite that it is also called the Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King Act, and I think it is an appropriate statement for all of us no matter which side of the aisle and no matter where we live in America.
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    Mr. CHABOT. I appreciate the gentlelady having brought that up. Having attended Rosa Parks' funeral, as well as many of our colleagues, it was a very moving event, and I am very pleased you brought that up. Thank you.

    Again, I think this is the last hearing on the Voting Rights Act, although this is the 12th; and it may be around for a couple more weeks before it is actually voted on on the floor. So I wouldn't say for sure it is the last hearing. Yeah, they are saying it is the last hearing. I have heard that before. They said that at number nine, but it has been an extremely good experience for all of us, and we want to thank, again, the witness panel for being here.

    If there is no further business to come before the Committee, we are adjourned. Thank you.

    [Whereupon, at 4:10 p.m., the Subcommittee was adjourned.]

A P P E N D I X

Material Submitted for the Hearing Record

PREPARED STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE JOHN CONYERS, JR., A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MICHIGAN, AND MEMBER, SUBCOMMITTEE ON THE CONSTITUTION

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PREPARED STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE MELVIN L. WATT, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA, AND MEMBER, SUBCOMMITTEE ON THE CONSTITUTION

    Ten years after passage of the Voting Rights Act, Congress in 1975 recognized the link between high rates of limited English proficiency within certain language minorities and the denial by State and local governments of equal educational opportunities for language minority citizens resulting in low voter participation rates. Since that time, Congress has reviewed the operation of the language assistance provisions of the Voting Rights Act and the increased participation of language minorities covered by the Act in the electoral process.

    Most recently in 1992, and again this term, Congress received evidence that the denial of equal educational opportunities to language minority citizens covered by the Voting Rights Act persists. Section 5 enforcement actions and objections also provide ample evidence of present day discrimination against citizens with limited English proficiency. Where language assistance is provided, however, the record reflects measurable progress towards full participation in the political process by affected citizens from the relevant language minority communities. This is a good thing.

    Just as in prior reauthorizations of Section 203—and I quote from the 1982 Senate report—''The testimony [we received this Congress] refuted allegations that bilingual elections are 'excessively costly'; that they discourage non-English speaking citizens from learning English; that they threaten the ideal of the American 'melting pot'; and that they foster 'cultural separatism.' '' These arguments have all been made before. They are as unpersuasive now as they were then. Increasing the opportunity for all Americans to play their role in our democracy makes us stronger, not weaker. It unites, not divides us. Society is enriched by the diversity of voices and views that are heard at the ballot box.
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    Earlier today we heard rank speculation that the arduous process of assembling a record to determine the content of the bill we now have before us was, in effect, a sham—a process designed to reach a pre-ordained conclusion. Nothing can be further from the truth. The truth of the matter is, specifically with respect to the language assistance provisions, for example, while I stand behind the bill we have introduced, I am disappointed that we did not lower the population threshold that would have provided even more citizens from language minority groups the opportunity to obtain voting assistance in the language with which they are most comfortable. I believe, however, that the record before us, at a minimum, supports the conclusion reflected in H.R. 9 that the continuation of the current requirements is necessary and appropriate to enable hard working, tax paying, American citizens with limited English proficiency to participate equally and on the same terms as fluent English speakers in the body politic.

    This bill is no panacea. But nothing in this bill or the Constitution prevents State and local jurisdictions from enacting and implementing innovative, inclusionary practices to foster broader civic involvement by its residents. Indeed, some jurisdictions have done so—voluntarily expanding the franchise to concentrations of language minorities within their boundaries by providing voting materials and ballots in those languages. For example, in Chicago voluntary voter assistance is provided in Polish, Russian, Greek, German, Korean and Serbian. In Boston, the city has pledged to provide language assistance in Spanish, Haitian Creole, Cape Verdean Creole, Vietnamese, Portugese, Chinese, and Russian.

    The bill before us today extends the current language assistance provisions of the Voting Rights Act and is supported by the record. It does not discourage or prohibit any State or political subdivision from doing more to open its processes to more voices thereby enhancing our democracy.
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PREPARED STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE LINDA T. SÁNCHEZ, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA

    On behalf of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, I thank Chairman Sensenbrenner, Ranking Member Conyers, Subcommittee Chairman Chabot and Ranking Member Nadler for their leadership and commitment to reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act.

    I also want to thank Congressman Watt, for being the voice and conscience of the Tri-Caucus during the drafting of this landmark reauthorization bill.

    The ''Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act'' is a bill proudly supported by Democrats and Republicans in both the House and Senate. H.R. 9 is a shining example of quality, bipartisan legislation that respects American ideals.

    By passing H.R. 9, our Committee will honor the sacrifices of the great civil rights champions and namesakes of this bill: Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King.

    Over the last several months, H.R. 9's provisions have been carefully and effectively crafted to stomp out voting discrimination and remove the barriers to full participation in the electoral process.

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    The bipartisan support for this bill is proof that we all agree that voting is a fundamental right that gives every American citizen the power to participate, influence, and collectively shape our democratic government.

    That power should not be denied to any citizen, regardless of the color of their skin, or the language they speak.

    Sadly, the record established during the reauthorization hearings last fall proved that discrimination against racial and language minority citizens still exists.

    That is why I believe that passing H.R. 9, including reauthorizing Section 203, is essential to safeguarding the voting rights of every American citizen.

    I sincerely hope that this bill is marked up today without partisan or ideological amendments added to it.

    Every Member of this body should join in support for this bill ''as is,'' and resist pressures to weaken its protections or strip any of its provisions in order to score short-term political points.

    Again, I thank the Chairmen and Ranking Members of both the Full Committee and Subcommittee for their leadership on this issue. And, I strongly urge all of my colleagues to support a clean Voting Rights Reauthorization bill.

    I yield back.
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RESPONSE TO POST-HEARING QUESTIONS FROM RENA COMISAC, PRINCIPAL DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, CIVIL RIGHTS DIVISION, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

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LETTER FROM LOREN LEMAN, LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR OF ALASKA, IN RESPONSE TO TESTIMONY BY THE LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE, AND A REPORT BY NATIVE AMERICAN RIGHTS FUND ATTORNEY NATALIE LANDRETH, AND LAW STUDENT MOIRA SMITH, PRESENTED BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON THE CONSTITUTION

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LETTER IN SUPPORT OF REAUTHORIZATION FROM LARRY NAAKE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF COUNTIES (NACO)

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LETTER IN OPPOSITION TO REAUTHORIZATION FROM MARK C. SCOTT, ESQUIRE, COMMISSIONER, OFFICE OF THE COMMISSIONERS OF BERKS COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA

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LETTER IN OPPOSITION TO REAUTHORIZATION FROM STEVE TATARENKO, COUNCILMAN, CLIFTON, NEW JERSEY

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PREPARED STATEMENT OF JAN TYLER, FORMER DENVER ELECTION COMMISSIONER, DENVER, COLORADO

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