The Voting Rights Act: A Resource Page
The Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965 to ensure state and local governments do not pass laws or policies that deny American citizens the equal right to vote based on race. As the leading democracy of the world, the U.S. should work to keep voting free, fair, and accessible. That’s why the Voting Rights Act is so important. It makes sure every citizen, regardless of their race, has an equal opportunity to have a say and participate in our great democracy.
On June 25, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, removing a critical tool to combat racial discrimination in voting. Under Section 5 of the landmark civil rights law, jurisdictions with a history of discrimination must seek pre-approval of changes in voting rules that could affect minorities. This process, known as “preclearance,” blocks discrimination before it occurs. In Shelby County v. Holder, the Court invalidated Section 4 — which determines the states and localities covered by Section 5 — arguing that current conditions require a new coverage formula.
On January 16, 2014, Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), with Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and others, introduced a bill to strengthen the Voting Rights Act. The bill would, among other changes:
- Require jurisdictions with a recent record of repeated Voting Rights Act violations to pre-clear election law changes.
- Expand the current “bail-in” procedures, which allow courts to subject jurisdictions to preclearance.
- Create a uniform requirement to inform voters of certain pending voting changes.
- Enhance the ability of lawyers to halt discriminatory election measures before they can harm citizens.
- Allow federal observers to monitor elections to ensure compliance with laws protecting the rights of Americans who speak limited English.
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This page compiles all of the Brennan Center’s recent resources on the Voting Rights Act and ideas on how to move forward after the Supreme Court’s decision.
- Senate Testimony: Working Together to Restore Protections of the Voting Rights Act (July 17, 2013)
- If Section 5 Falls: New Voting Implications (June 12, 2013)
- Fact Sheet: The Voting Rights Act, Protecting Voters for Nearly Five Decades (February 26, 2013)
- Finally, There's Reason for Optimism on Voting Laws (Wendy Weiser, The Atlantic, January 23, 2014)
- After 'Shelby County' Ruling, Are Voting Rights Endangered? (Myrna Pérez and Jerry H. Goldfeder, New York Law Journal, September 23, 2013)
- A Broken Promise on the Voting Rights Act (Nicole Austin-Hillery, BillMoyers.com, June 26, 2013)
- After Supreme Court, Congress Must Move on Voting Rights Act (Myrna Pérez, The Christian Science Monitor, June 25, 2013)
- On Voting Rights, a Decision as Lamentable as Plessy or Dred Scott (Andrew Cohen, The Atlantic, June 25, 2013)
- Life After the Voting Rights Act (Andrew Cohen, Brennan Center, June 19, 2013)
- U.S. Supreme Court Examines Voting Rights in Two Cases (Myrna Perez, New York Law Journal, May 15, 2013)
- The Voting Rights Act Becomes More Vital by the Day (Andrew Cohen, Brennan Center, April 9, 2013)
- Not Yet Section 5’s Time to Die (Andrew Cohen, Brennan Center, March 1, 2013)
- To Protect Democracy, Supreme Court Must Fully Uphold Voting Rights Act (Myrna Pérez and Lucy Zhou, The Christian Science Monitor, February 27, 2013)
- Section 5 is Still Crucial to Maintaining Americans’ Right to Vote (Wendy Weiser, U.S. News & World Report, February 27, 2013)
- A Devastating Setback for Civil Rights (Myrna Pérez, Boston Review, June 27, 2013)
- Sad Day for Democracy, But Tomorrow Need Not Be (Wendy Weiser, Brennan Center, June 25, 2013)
- Why Latinos Must Weigh in on Current Voting Rights Case (Myrna Pérez, Vida Vibrante, March 14, 2013)
- Why the Predictions Could be Wrong in Shelby County (Myrna Pérez, Brennan Center, March 1, 2013)
- Voting Rights Act is an Important Moral Statement (Myrna Pérez, Sojourners, February 25, 2013)
- Congress Makes Bipartisan Push to Restore Parts of Voting Rights Act (The Guardian, January 16, 2014)
- Bipartisan Group Introduces New Voting Rights Act Bill (Time, January 16, 2014)
- Fix for Voting Rights Act Goes Easy on Voter ID (MSNBC, January 16, 2014)
- North Carolina Governor Vows to Fight Justice Department Voter ID Lawsuit (The Guardian, October 1, 2013)
- The March at 50: Voting Rights (PBS Black Culture Connection, September 4, 2013)
- Editorial: Voting Rights vs. 'Whac-A-Mole' Discrimination (USA Today, August 29, 2013)
- On the Anniversary of the March on Washington, a New Fight for Voting Rights (The Nation, August 28, 2013)
- Republican Urges Congressional Action on Voting Rights Act (U.S. News & World Report, August 26, 2013)
- Obama Administration Declares New Voter Rights Strategy (Reuters, July 25, 2013)
- Senate Tackles Voting Rights Act (MSNBC, July 17, 2013)
- After Ruling, States Rush to Enact Voting Laws (The New York Times, July 6, 2013)
- Decisions, Decisions at the Supreme Court (NPR Latino USA, June 28, 2013)
- 12 Very Real Voter-Suppression Tactics Experts Worry Will Come Back (The Atlantic Cities, June 28, 2013)
- Michael Waldman on the Voting Rights Act (MSNBC's "Now with Alex Wagner," June 26, 2013)
- What Would a 2013 Voting Rights Act (Section 4) Look Like? (NPR, June 26, 2013)
- Supreme Court Ruling Sets Stage for Voter ID Battle (Politico, June 26, 2013)
- Voting Rights Ruling Could Open Lawsuit Floodgates (NPR, June 25, 2013)
- Explainer: The Supreme Court, Voting Rights, and New York (WNYC, June 25, 2013)
- Editorial: Voting Rights Act Wasn’t Broken (USA Today, June 25, 2013)
- Supreme Court Strikes Down Heart of Voting Rights Act (Yahoo News, June 25, 2013)
- Supreme Court Gives Big Boost to “War on Voting” (The Washington Post, June 25, 2013)
- States Reined In by 1965 Voting Act Await a Decision (The New York Times, June 24, 2013)
- Do We Still Need the Government to End Racial Discrimination? (MSNBC Melissa Harris-Perry, June 16, 2013)
- Awaiting the Court’s Ruling, Voter Advocates Prepare for Life After Section 5 (MSNBC, June 12, 2013)
- High Court Poised to Upend Civil Rights Policies (Associated Press, March 31, 2013)