What is the Voting Rights Act?

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The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was adopted under President Lyndon B. Johnson as legislation designed to reaffirm the 15th Amendment and ensure the freedom of all citizens regardless of race, language or background to participate in the voting process without fear of discrimination. It bans the use of measures such as poll taxes and literacy tests previously enforced against African-Americans and many other minority groups.

In 2006, the Supreme Court ruled in LULAC v. Texas that legislators had unconstitutionally gerrymandered in redrawing District 23 to favor a Republican vote. The state’s dubious reputation with the Voting Rights Act continues to precede it.

Dr. Bruce Buchanan, professor of American policy at the University of Texas, said Texas’ proposed Voter ID law will be hard for legislators to reconcile with the Justice Department amidst the legitimate fear that it suppresses those at the low end of the socio-economic ladder. “It privileges Republicans in the eyes of Democratic opponents,” Buchanan said.

Although less obvious to legislators, Buchanan said the bill could potentially alienate student voters and the elderly, who face barriers when procuring documentation.
“Young people are hardest to get to the polls to begin with,” Buchanan said. “There’s a likelihood that a cer- tain percentage won’t go through the trouble at all.”

 

SECTION 5

Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is a provision requiring states with a history of discriminatory practices to submit any change to state voting laws to the Department of Justice for preclearance. These states have the burden to prove any amendments to voting laws are nondiscriminatory: Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and certain areas of Virginia.

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