Voting Rights Act

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{language, word, form}
{mi², represent, 1st}
{area, part, region}
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The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (42 U.S.C. § 19731973aa-6)[1] 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.[2]

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."[3] 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.[2] 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.[2][4]

The Act established extensive federal oversight of elections administration, providing that states with a history of discriminatory voting practices (so-called "covered jurisdictions") could not implement any change affecting voting without first obtaining the approval of the Department of Justice, a process known as preclearance.[5] These enforcement provisions applied to states and political subdivisions (mostly in the South) that had used a "device" to limit voting and in which less than 50 percent of the population was registered to vote in 1964.[5] The Act has been renewed and amended by Congress four times, the most recent being a 25-year extension signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2006.[6]

The Act is widely considered a landmark in civil-rights legislation,[7] though some of its provisions have sparked political controversy. During the debate over the 2006 extension, some Republican members of Congress objected to renewing the preclearance requirement (the Act's primary enforcement provision), arguing that it represents an overreach of federal power and places unwarranted bureaucratic demands on Southern states that have long since abandoned the discriminatory practices the Act was meant to eradicate.[8] Conservative legislators also opposed requiring states with large Spanish-speaking populations to provide bilingual ballots.[9] Congress nonetheless voted to extend the Act for twenty-five years with its original enforcement provisions left intact.[10]

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