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From Our National Office

ACLU of Utah Reporter: Fall 2005

Patriot Act Reform
As both houses of Congress prepare to vote on Patriot Act renewal and reform, thousands of emails from the ACLU Action Network have helped convince 163 Republican and Democratic lawmakers to sign the “Dear Conferee” letter. The letter urges Members of Congress negotiating the final Patriot Act bill to support the Senate reforms to some of the secretive powers in the Patriot Act, and to reject the reauthorization package passed by the House of Representatives. Just last week, a bipartisan group of powerful business leaders sent a letter to the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter, urging Congress to support reforms in the Senate reauthorization bill. This is an important victory because these leaders represent businesses that have a great deal of influence in Washington. The Patriot Act battle continues in our courts as well. Last month, a Connecticut judge told the government to give an ACLU client his First Amendment right to speak out in the Patriot Act debate about his experience with these powers, but while the case is on appeal the client remains gagged under the National Security Letter provisions expanded by the Patriot Act. Thousands of you spoke out in a petition we delivered to the Department of Justice, urging the government to lift the gag and “Let John Doe Speak.” For more information about what you can do to support important Patriot Act reforms, visit www.reformthepatriotact.org.

The ACLU Freedom Files
At a time when the civil liberties of ordinary Americans are at great risk, the ACLU and producer/director Robert Greenwald proudly present The ACLU Freedom Files, a new 10-part television series that explores the pressing issues that threaten our most precious freedoms. Through 30-minute episodes told from the perspectives of ordinary Americans, The ACLU Freedom Files examines the Patriot Act, the Supreme Court, free speech and dissent, religious liberty, lesbian and gay rights, drug policy, racial profiling, women’s rights, and youth freedoms. The series features ACLU clients and the attorneys who defend them, as well as well-known actors, activists, and comedians.The ACLU Freedom Files is available through the satellite network Link TV, on college campuses across the country through Zilo TV, and via new media, technology, and grassroots networks such as video blogs, podcasts, streaming video, viewing parties, and community screenings. On September 8, thousands of viewers watched Episode 1, “Beyond the Patriot Act,” and then took action. October 13’s timely episode, “The Supreme Court,” featured Lindsay Earls, a high school sophomore who opposed her school’s drug testing policy. To find out how you can watch The ACLU Freedom Files, visit www.aclu.tv.

Voting Rights Act 
America’s long and deliberate misadventure with segregation was ended by many things, but nothing dismantled the Jim Crow South and created true opportunities for equal political participation more than the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In 2007, three crucial sections of the VRA will expire unless Congress votes to renew them. In light of the history of discrimination that racial and ethnic minorities have experienced when voting, and of the proven effectiveness of the VRA, Congress should:1. Re-enact VRA’s Section 5 pre-clearance requirements. These provisions directly impact nine states with a documented history of discriminatory voting practices and local jurisdictions in seven others by requiring them to submit planned changes in their election laws or procedures to the U.S. Department of Justice or the District Court in Washington, D.C. for pre-approval.2. Renew Section 203 for 25 years so that new citizens and other Americans who are limited in their ability to speak English can continue to receive assistance when voting. These provisions currently impact some 466 local jurisdictions across 31 states, including Utah. Congress also should modify the formula by which these covered jurisdictions are identified in order to provide more communities with Section 203 assistance.3. Renew Sections 6 to 9, which authorize the attorney general to appoint election monitors and poll watchers.4. Provide for the recovery of expert fees in voting rights litigation.5. Enact language that restores the original intent of Congress as expressed in the 1982 reauthorization and repairs the damage done by two narrowly decided U.S. Supreme Court decisions which fundamentally weaken the administration of Section 5: Reno v. Bossier Parish Sch. Bd (2000) and Georgia v. Ashcroft (2003).To find out what you can do to support the renewal of these critical sections of the VRA, visit www.votingrights.org.Return to top of page

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