The Voting Rights Act: A Resource Page

Congress introduced a bipartisan bill to strengthen the Voting Rights Act after the Supreme Court eliminated its key protection last year. See all of the Center's recent resources on the VRA.

August 4, 2015

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.

The U.S. Supreme Court overturned a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, 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. Since the ruling, several states previously covered under preclearance moved to restrict voting rights.

In the years since the Shelby County decision, a bipartisan group of lawmakers — led by Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), with Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) — have introduced multiple bills to strengthen the Voting Rights Act and restore its core protections. 

Read more background here.


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.

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