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Important Laws: Voting Rights Act of 1965

The Obama administration is establishing more oversight to the way states are conducting elections after the Supreme Court invalidated part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. With voting rights issues being a common topic in the news lately, it is important to look at the Voting Rights Act to understand why the problem exists.

The Voting Right Act of 1965 outlawed discriminatory voting practices that have been used to disenfranchise African Americans since the Civil War. The act was made to enforce the 15th Amendment of the Constitution, which prohibits federal and state governments from denying citizens the right to vote, and was ratified almost a century before the Voting Rights Act.

Despite the 15th Amendment, African Americans in the South were prevented from voting through means of literacy tests, poll taxes, harassment and violence. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act on August 6th, 1965 during a ceremony with many Civil Rights leaders, including Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. The act ensured to outlaw literacy tests, and federal examiners were given the power to oversee voting practices in states that had a patterns of refusing voting rights.

In recent times, Texas has received judicial scrutiny for voting procedures within the state; South Carolina, North Carolina and Alaska are also expected to be investigated from the Justice Department as well. Although the act has been enforced to protect voting rights of all people for decades, there are still challenges.

Over time, the act has resisted multiple challenges to its constitutionality, and frequently sustained by the Supreme Court in the following years. The 15th Amendment and Voting Rights Act are designed to not punish for past actions, such as denying people the right to vote because of race, religion, beliefs, etc., but to enhance a better future for voters.

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