Letter to the Senate Minority Leader Urging Extension of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
[Dated July 18, 1975. Released July 23, 1975]
As I said to you during our discussion yesterday, it is most important that Congress extend the temporary provisions of the Voting Rights Act before the August recess.
These provisions expire August 6, 1975, and they must not be allowed to lapse.
My first priority is to extend the Voting Rights Act. With time so short, it may be best as a practical matter to extend the Voting Rights Act as it is for five more years; or, as an alternative, the Senate might accept the House bill (H.R. 6219), which includes the important step of extending the provisions of the Act to Spanish-speaking citizens and others. To make certain that the Voting Rights Act is continued, I can support either approach.
However, the issue of broadening the Act further has arisen; and it is my view that it would now be appropriate to expand the protection of the Act to all citizens of the United States.
I strongly believe that the right to vote is the foundation of freedom, and that this right must be protected.
That is why, when this issue was first being considered in 1965, I co-sponsored with Representative William McCulloch of Ohio a voting rights bill which would have effectively guaranteed voting rights to eligible citizens throughout the whole country.
After it became clear at that time that the McCulloch-Ford bill would not pass, I voted for the most practical alternative, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In 1970, I supported extending the Act.
Last January, when this issue first came before me as President, I proposed that Congress again extend for five years the temporary provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The House of Representatives, in H.R. 6219, has broadened this important law in this way: (1) The House bill would extend the temporary provisions of the Act for ten years, instead of five; and (2) the House bill would extend the temporary provisions of the Act so as to include discrimination against language minorities, thereby extending application of the Act from the present seven States to eight additional States, in whole or in part.
In light of the House extension of the Voting Rights Act for ten years and to eight more States, I believe this is the appropriate time and opportunity to extend the Voting Rights Act nationwide.
This is one nation, and this is a case where what is right for fifteen States is right for fifty States.
Numerous civil rights leaders have pointed out that substantial numbers of Black citizens have been denied the right to vote in many of our large cities in areas other than the seven Southern states where the present temporary provisions apply. Discrimination in voting in any part of this nation is equally undesirable.
As I said in 1965, when I introduced legislation on this subject, a responsible, comprehensive voting rights bill should "correct voting discrimination wherever it occurs throughout the length and breadth of this great land."
I urge the Senate to move promptly--first, to assure that the temporary provisions of the Voting Rights Act do not lapse. As amendments are taken up, I urge you to make the Voting Rights Act applicable nationwide. Should the Senate extend the Act to American voters in all 50 states, I am confident the House of Representatives would concur.
I shall be grateful if you will convey to the members of the Senate my views on this important matter.
GERALD R. FORD
[The Honorable Hugh Scott, United States Senate, Washington, D.C. 20510]
Note: The President sent similar letters on July 21, 1975, to Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield, Assistant Senate Minority Leader Robert P. Griffin, and Senator Roman L. Hruska, ranking Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Gerald R. Ford, Letter to the Senate Minority Leader Urging Extension of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/256305