In a landmark piece of American legislation, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed to prohibit racial discrimination in voting, guaranteeing equal access to the ballot for all citizens. Enacted during the height of the civil rights movement, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the bill into law on August 6, 1965.
The Act enforces voting rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and has been amended five times since 1965 to expand voting protections.
Prior to the Voting Rights Act, many Southern states employed discriminatory practices to prevent African Americans from exercising their right to vote, including literacy tests, poll taxes, and intimidation techniques. These strategies, which were intended to preserve white political power, adversely affected minority communities.
By establishing federal oversight and enforcement mechanisms, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 aimed to stop these discriminatory practices. The act’s main clauses are as follows:
1. Section 2: This clause forbids any voting practices or procedures that are biased against minorities, including minorities in race or language.
2. Section 5: In accordance with this provision, the U.S. Department of Justice or the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia had to approve any changes to a covered jurisdiction’s voting laws or procedures. Preventing the implementation of discriminatory changes was the goal of this preclearance requirement.
3. Section 203: This section addressed the language barriers that minority voters encounter by requiring some jurisdictions to offer bilingual election materials and assistance in regions with a sizable population of non-English speakers.
At the signing of the Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965, American President Lyndon B. Johnson was joined by Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and other notable figures.
The 1965 Voting Rights Act had a significant influence on American democracy. It assisted in removing numerous obstacles and discriminatory practices that had kept African Americans from exercising their right to vote. Over time, the law has undergone changes and additions, and its protections for minority groups who face voting discrimination have been broadened.