The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (42 U.S.C.§§1973–1973aa-6) is a landmark piece of national legislation in the United States that outlawed discriminatory voting practices that had been responsible for the widespread disenfranchisement of African Americans in the U.S.
Echoing the language of the 15th Amendment, the Act prohibits states from imposing any “voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure … to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.”Specifically Congress intended the Act to outlaw the practice of requiring otherwise qualified voters to pass literacy tests in order to register to vote, a principal means by which Southern states had prevented African-Americans from exercising the franchise. The Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, a Democrat, who had earlier signed the landmark; Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law.
History of Federal Voting Rights Laws
- Introduction To Federal Voting Rights Laws
- Before the Voting Rights Act
- The Voting Rights Act of 1965
- The Effect of the Voting Rights Act
“The 1965 Voting Rights Act, one of the most historic and groundbreaking pieces of legislation in our nation’s history. For those who marched bravely; who worked tirelessly; who shed their blood and gave their lives in the pursuit of freedom for every American, the Act served as the culmination of decades of work to fulfill America’s promise. And for the members of the Moses Generation – including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks, who stood alongside President Johnson when he signed the bill into law – it was an affirmation that although the arc of the moral universe may be long, it bends toward justice.
The Voting Rights Act guaranteed African Americans the right to vote at a time when thousands were being disenfranchised across the country. It extended the protection of our Constitution to every citizen regardless of race or religion; color or creed. And in the 45 years since it was passed, the Act has been reaffirmed four times – each one a reminder that we must remain vigilant in guaranteeing access to the ballot box.
As we pause to reflect on the anniversary of that historic moment, I encourage every American to honor the legacy of the brave men and women who came before us – from the foot soldiers to the Freedom Riders – by exercising the rights they fought so hard to guarantee. And together let us recommit ourselves, in ways large and small, to continuing their journey to promote equality and perfect our union.”‘
President Barack Obama – August 06, 2010
Where Tuesday’s Voting Rights Act ruling matters, in one map
June 25, 2013 at 11:37 By Dylan Matthews – washingtonpost
Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which outlines how the government is to determine which states, counties, towns, and other jurisdictions have to have their voting laws “precleared” by the Justice Department, is unconstitutional. But which jurisdictions currently face preclearance, and, barring Congressional action, are now freed from that requirement?
Holder to black leaders: ‘Sacred’ right to vote under attack
5/30/12 11:28 AM EDT By JOSEPH WILLIAMS – POLITICO
Attorney General Eric Holder told a council of African American church leaders Wednesday that the “sacred” right to vote is under assault nationwide, with federal lawsuits and at least a dozen state laws that could weaken — or block — minority access to the ballot box this fall.
Forty-seven years after President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, “overt and subtle forms of discrimination still exists,” Holder said in a speech before the Council of Black Churches. The twin factors of lingering bias and systematic assaults from the right, he said, means that “for the first time in our [lifetimes], we are failing to live up to one of our most noble ideals” – the right to equal access to the vote.
The brief speech was a call to arms for the black church, which since the days of the civil rights movement has been active in fighting for equal voting right for minorities. Holder, who was warmly received by the audience, told them his office is “aggressively” taking on the task of protecting that right, including challenging several state lawsuits that would overturn key provisions of the Voting Rights Act involving redistricting in Southern states and strict new voter I’d laws that could keep minorities, the elderly and young people of all races from casting ballots in the 2012 election – which analysts expect will be decided by a narrow margin.
Ensuring that everyone who is qualified can vote “is one of our highest priorities,” Holder told the council, adding that during his watch the Justice Department has taken on more than 100 cases involving voting within the past year, “a record number.” Since President Bush re-authorized the Section 5 provision of the Voting Rights Act, which requires some Southern states to get federal approval before making broad changes to laws involving voting, “it has consistently come under attack by those who say it is no longer needed.”
Holder also rejected conservatives’ contention that making it easier to vote invites fraud, a key argument in calling for tougher voter I’d laws. Recalling that protesters and faith leaders faced violence and death to gain that right during the 1960s civil rights movement, Holder called on black churches to mobilize as an ally of the Justice Department, informing the larger community and pushing back against restrictive proposals.
“We have to honor the generations that took extraordinary risks” to guarantee equal access to the polls, Holder said. The nation has made tremendous progress, he added, but “this fight must go on.”