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
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.”
Tribal leaders welcome Holder’s voting access plan
Tuesday, 10 June 2014 15:28 by RACHEL D’ORO, Associated Press
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Attorney General Eric Holder said Monday his office will consult with tribes across the country to develop ways to increase voting access for American Indians and Alaska Natives.
Holder said the goal is to require state and local election officials to place at least one polling site in a location chosen by tribal governments in parts of the nation that include tribal lands. Barriers to voting, he said, include English-only ballots and inaccessible polling places.
In Alaska, for example, the village of Kasigluk is separated into two parts by a river with no bridge. On election day, people on one side have just a few hours to vote before a ballot machine is taken by boat to the other side. Several other Alaska villages have been designated as permanent absentee voting areas, which is something allowed by regulation, according to Gail Fenumiai, director of the state Division of Elections.
In Montana, a voting rights lawsuit is pending from tribal members on the Crow, Northern Cheyenne and Fort Belknap reservations. They want county officials to set up satellite voting offices to make up for the long distances they must travel to reach courthouses for early voting or late registration.
“These conditions are not only unacceptable, they’re outrageous,” Holder said. “As a nation, we cannot — and we will not — simply stand by as the voices of Native Americans are shut out of the democratic process.”
After consulting with tribal leaders, his office will seek to work with Congress on a potential legislative proposal, Holder said.
Republicans slam brakes on voting rights bill
8/01/15 By Mike Lillis – TheHill
House Republican leaders are slamming the brakes on voting rights legislation, insisting that any movement on the issue go through a key Republican committee chairman who opposes the proposal.
House Democrats are pressing hard on GOP leaders to bring the new voter protections directly to the floor.
That would sidestep consideration in the House Judiciary Committee, where Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) has rejected a bipartisan proposal to update the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA) in the wake of a 2013 Supreme Court decision that gutted a central provision of that law.Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other Republican leaders say the bill must go through Judiciary.“Speaker Boehner has said that he believes that the Voting Rights Act has been an effective tool in protecting a right that is fundamental to our democracy. That’s why we reauthorized the law for 25 years in 2006,” a Boehner spokesperson said Friday in an email. “He also believes that if members want to change the law, those discussions will have to begin at the Judiciary Committee.”That position effectively kills the legislation, as Goodlatte, after staging a hearing on the issue in 2013, has maintained that a congressional response is unnecessary because the Court left intact other parts of the VRA ensuring voters are protected –– a message his office reiterated on Friday.
“The Voting Rights Act is alive and well and protecting the freedom to vote,” a Judiciary aide said in an email.
House Democrats believed that Republicans were open to moving the legislation directly to the floor.
Rep. Jim Clyburn (S.C.), the third-ranking House Democrat, said he spoke with Boehner last week, and that Boehner had made Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) “the point man” on the issue.
“He [Boehner] didn’t mention Judiciary to me,” Clyburn said Tuesday. “When I spoke to him, he mentioned Kevin McCarthy being the point person on this and, quite frankly, I’m assuming [he] is the person we would be dealing with.”
On Thursday, Clyburn amplified those remarks, saying he expects the discussion to proceed through McCarthy, though he hasn’t talked to the majority leader recently.
“He is still the point man, but I have not discussed it with him,” Clyburn said. “The Speaker led me to believe that he [McCarthy] would reach out to me when he wanted to talk.”
But McCarthy’s office on Friday disputed those claims, suggesting the only pathway supported by GOP leaders is through the Judiciary panel.
US Minorities Civil Rights Timeline 1863-1963 (ProPresObama.org Civil Rights Timelines ™)
US Minorities Civil Rights Timeline 1964-2009 (ProPresObama.org Civil Rights Timelines ™)
President Obama is joined by Attorney General Loretta Lynch
and U.S. House of Representative John Lewis
in calling for the restoration of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.