Loading

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights  & The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

Voting Rights Act

 

Connect

Facebook placeholder  Twitter placeholder  LCCR bookmark placeholder  Wordpress  Youtube placeholder  Subscribe to our News Feed

Printer Friendly

A group of people at a voting rights march in the 1960s, with arms linked together.

The Voting Rights Act (VRA) bans racial discrimination in voting practices by the federal government as well as by state and local governments.

Passed in 1965 after a century of deliberate and violent denial of the vote to African-Americans in the South and Latinos in the Southwest – as well as many years of entrenched electoral systems that shut out citizens with limited fluency in English – the VRA is often held up as the most effective civil rights law ever enacted. It is widely regarded as enabling the enfranchisement of millions of minority voters and diversifying the electorate and legislative bodies at all levels of American government.

Congress has reauthorized the VRA four times, most recently in 2006, when both the House and the Senate approved the measure overwhelmingly in a bipartisan manner. Congress conducted more than 20 hearings, heard from more than 90 expert witnesses, and collected more than 15,000 pages of testimony documenting the continued need for and constitutionality of the statute.

The 2006 reauthorization renewed several key protections, providing for language assistance, Election Day monitors, and Justice Department pre-approval of voting changes. The protections are currently set to expire in 2031.

About the Voting Rights Act

Effects of the Voting Rights Act

Shelby County v. Holder

On June 25, 2013, the Supreme Court ruled in Shelby County v. Holder that the coverage formula in Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), which was used to determine the states and political subdivisions subject to Section 5 preclearance, was unconstitutional. Thus, while the Court did not invalidate the Section 5 preclearance mechanism in the Voting Rights Act per se, it effectively halted its use by invalidating the formula that determined which places were subject to the preclearance obligation. The Leadership Conference and The Education Fund filed an Amicus Curiae Brief in the U.S. Supreme Court for this case.

Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder

In June 2009, the Supreme Court ruled in Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder that all individual jurisdictions should have the opportunity to bail out of a provision in the Voting Rights Act that requires federal preclearance for changes in election procedures. However, the Court did not rule on the constitutionality of the provision itself. The Leadership Conference and The Education Fund filed an Amicus Curiae Brief in the U.S. Supreme Court for this case.

Renew the VRA Campaign (2006)

In July 2006, Congress passed and President Bush signed a bill renewing for 25 years the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act. The Leadership Conference led the legislative campaign to renew and reauthorize expiring protections in the VRA.

In the days leading up to the vote, more than 100,000 reauthorization petitions were collected and 15,000 calls for renewal were made to Congressional offices from voters in all 50 states. The coalition activated and trained thousands of community leaders who held voting rights activities in nearly 30 states - educating and energizing thousands of voters about the importance of the law in the months leading up to the vote.

Our Members