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5 Facts About the Voting Rights Act of 1965

By    |   Monday, 02 Nov 2015 05:10 PM

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was a landmark piece of legislation enacted by the U.S. government aimed at ending discrimination at the polls:

President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the resulting legislation into law on Aug. 6, 1965. Section 2 of the Act, which closely followed the language of the 15th Amendment, applied a nationwide prohibition against the denial or abridgment of the right to vote.

Here are five facts about the Voting Rights Act of 1965:

1. Traces Back to the Civil War

The 14th and 15th Amendments were passed after the Civil War in order to protect the voting rights of newly freed slaves. However, a century after the end of the Civil War, African-American citizens' voting rights were still being circumvented.

VOTE NOW: Should Convicted Felons Be Allowed to Vote?

The Jim Crow laws prevented black people from voting by imposing literacy tests, poll taxes, property ownership requirements, moral character tests, document interpretation tests, and ancestral barriers.

2. Selma, Alabama, Set the Act Into Motion

On March 7, 1965, a group of African-Americans marched into Selma, Alabama, as a peaceful protest against voter suppression, but the marchers were attacked by state troopers in what became known as “Bloody Sunday.”

This series of events prompted congress to draw up the Voting Rights Act, which President Johnson signed into law five days after the bill was introduced.

According to History.com, “Along with the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act was one of the most expansive pieces of civil rights legislation in American history.”

3. Inclusion of Other Minorities

Though the Act was directly related to African-Americans, other minorities also shared in its provisions. In 1975, “American Indian, Asian American, Alaskan Natives or people of Spanish heritage” were included, according to CNN.

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4. Revisions

There have been three significant revisions to the original legislation. In 1975, the Voting Rights Act was amended to include provisions requiring voting materials be made available to minorities eligible to vote but for whom English was not their primary language.

A second amendment to the act was added in 1982, providing voting assistance for voters who were blind, disabled, or illiterate.

In 2013, in a 5-to-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 preclearance mechanism in the VRA per se, it effectively halted its use by invalidating the formula that determined which places were subject to the preclearance obligation,” according to The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

5. Controversy Still Today

When Section 5 was declared unconstitutional in 2013, many minorities and support groups voiced their outrage. Meanwhile, a new controversy has arisen with the requirement by certain states that voters present a valid photo ID in order to vote.

Those in favor of this measure claim that it is a check against voter fraud, while those against it claim that such measures infringe on voters rights.

“Voting rights advocates say that statutes that limit early voting and registration, require voters to show photo ID, and purge voter rolls still disproportionately affect poor and minority voters,” according to Pro Publica.

VOTE NOW: Do You Think Convicted Felons Should Be Allowed to Vote?

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The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was a landmark piece of legislation enacted by the U.S. government aimed at ending discrimination at the polls. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the resulting legislation into law on Aug. 6, 1965. Here are five facts about the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
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2015-10-02
Monday, 02 Nov 2015 05:10 PM
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