updated 3/7/2006 9:50:47 PM ET 2006-03-08T02:50:47

The Voting Rights Act would be severely weakened if provisions such as federal clearance of some local election changes and protections for voters who do not speak English are not renewed, the American Civil Liberties Union said Tuesday.

The organization is involved in a nationwide campaign to raise public awareness about the importance of the historic act, passed in 1965, and to encourage Congress to reauthorize expiring sections of the law. The provisions in the law expire in the summer of 2007, but Congress is already starting to consider the reauthorization.

“If there’s not a major push for the renewal of the Voting Rights Act, many of the advances we’ve seen in the past two decades will be severely undermined,” LaShawn Warren, legislative council for the ACLU, said Tuesday.

Some conservative lawmakers have voiced opposition to renewing the clearance provision of the Voting Rights Act.

That provision requires local officials in nine states to get any changes to voting practices or procedures cleared beforehand by federal officials to ensure that local officials do not try to discriminate against minorities.

Those nine states are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Virginia and Texas, said Daniel Levitas, who is with the ACLU Voting Rights project. Parts of seven other states are affected — California, Florida, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina and South Dakota, he said.

The ACLU released a report with 293 cases in 31 states that it says illustrate the importance of renewing all expiring provisions of the act.

The group plans to present findings from their research to a House subcommittee on Wednesday and expects legislation to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act to be introduced in the coming weeks.

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