Tags: Voting Rights | Voting Rights Act | changes

5 Changes Made to the Voting Rights Act Since it Passed in 1965

By    |   Saturday, 07 Nov 2015 09:05 PM

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was historic for its removal of many voting barriers that African-Americans and other minorities had faced for years in the U.S. It came on the heels of “Bloody Sunday,” in which a peaceful protest march in Selma, Alabama, ended with the attack by state troopers on the largely African-American crowd.

The Voting Rights Act has remained in place since President Lyndon B. Johnson signed it into law; however, several alterations and amendments have been made to it over the ensuing decades.

The following is a brief timeline:

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1. 1966
In 1966, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Section 5 of the act, which had originally been included as a measure to prevent states (and areas within states) that had a history of voter discrimination from changing their voting laws without first obtaining approval from Congress. The Supreme Court’s decision is excerpted on the U.S. Department of Justice website:

“Congress had found that case-by-case litigation was inadequate to combat widespread and persistent discrimination in voting, because of the inordinate amount of time and energy required to overcome the obstructionist tactics invariably encountered in these lawsuits. After enduring nearly a century of systematic resistance to the Fifteenth Amendment, Congress might well decide to shift the advantage of time and inertia from the perpetrators of the evil to its victims.”

2. 1970 & 1975
In 1970 the Voting Rights Act was extended for five years and for seven more years in 1975. 1975’s amendment included provisions requiring that voting materials be made available to minorities eligible to vote, but for whom English was not their primary language.

The rights of American Indian, Asian American, Alaskan natives or people of Spanish heritage were also added to the Voting Rights Act in 1975, CNN reported.

3. 1982
Another amendment to the act was added in 1982. This one provided voting assistance for individuals who were blind, disabled, or illiterate. Also, “the special provisions of the Act, triggered by coverage under section 4” was extended for 25 years, the Justice Department said. “Congress also adopted a new standard, which went into effect in 1985, providing how jurisdictions could terminate (or "bail out" from) coverage under the provisions of Section 4. Furthermore, after extensive hearings, Congress amended Section 2 to provide that a plaintiff could establish a violation of the Section without having to prove discriminatory purpose.”

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4. 2006
The provision for voting examiners was eliminated and the Voting Rights Act was extended for another 25 years in 2006, according to The Connecticut Post.

5. 2013
In 2013, in a 5-4 vote, it was ruled that Section 5 was unconstitutional. “The Supreme Court ruled ... that the coverage formula in Section 4(b) of the VRA, which was used to determine the states and political subdivisions subject to Section 5 pre clearance, was unconstitutional. Thus, while the Court did not invalidate the pre clearance mechanism in the VRA per se, it effectively halted its use by invalidating the formula that determined which places were subject to the pre clearance obligation,” The Leadership Conference said.

Many minorities and support groups have since voiced their outrage over the ruling on Section 5, and maintain that the door to voter discrimination was reopened with the Supreme Court’s controversial ruling.

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The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was historic for its removal of many voting barriers that African-Americans and other minorities had faced for years in the U.S.
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