Voting Rights Act of 1965

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 ( German Voting Rights Act of 1965) is a U.S. federal law designed to ensure the equal participation of minorities, especially African Americans, in U.S. elections.

Specifically managed discriminatory literacy tests for potential voters from, ban gerrymandering when disadvantaged minorities, centralized voter registration at the federal level in areas where less than 50% of the population are registered voters and gave the U.S. Department of Justice various rights of control over the election law in areas where African Americans make up more than five percent of the population.

The law passed both houses of Congress by a large majority, was signed by then President Lyndon B. Johnson on August 6, 1965 and 1970, 1975, 1982 and 2006 renewed by Congress.

In June 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States lifted Paragraph 4b of the Act, which defines the states and counties whose right to vote requires a prior authorization under section 4a of the Act. That decision led to the U.S. public to controversial discussions.

  • 4.1 areas that needed a release


The law responded to the fact that illiteracy tests and other local measures have been used mainly in the southern states to systematically exclude on average poorer and poorer educated African American of the election. Since the election laws are not regulated in the United States generally at the federal level and often racial segregation favorable Southern Democrats in the South had stable majorities in the state organs, had this many opportunities to circumvent the provisions of the Constitution or soften that of a discrimination African Americans prohibited. Ensure the equality of suffrage, was one of the main demands of the American civil rights movement.

Generally there are in the United States is no " right to choose " the right to vote is a legally assigned by the State privilege. Together with three additional articles of the Constitution has led to the Supreme Court a fundamental right (fundamental right) has been found to have the voting rights Voting Rights Act. Restrictions on the right to vote are not ruled out, but require detailed constitutional analysis.


Johnson gave the law to Congress on March 17, 1965. After an unsuccessful attempt to filibuster in the Senate adopted it on 25 May this year, the House of Representatives on July 10. Since U.S. law by both chambers of Congress must be adopted verbatim and in both chambers of various amendments were brought, the law went to the Conciliation Committee, which drew up a consensus version. The House of Representatives passed the bill on August 3, 1965, the Senate on August 4. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed it on August 6 at a ceremony to which numerous African-American civil rights activists like Martin Luther King had appeared.


Original draft:

Senate: 77-19

  • Democrats: 47-17
  • Republicans: 30-2

House: 333-85

  • Democrats: 221-61
  • Republicans: 112-24

Consensus version:

Senate: 79-18

  • Democrats: 49-17
  • Republicans: 30-1

House: 328-74

  • Democrats: 217-54
  • Republicans: 111-20


Congress passed the Voting Rights Act only temporary, so he had to renew it in 1970, 1975 and 1982. 1982 and 2006 he extended it for another 25 years, respectively. A paragraph hereof, however, was in 2013 declared by the Supreme Court canceled ( see below).


Under Section 5 of the Act, the United States Department of Justice has any attempt voting rights in designated areas ( covered jurisdictions ) to change, release ( preclear ). It has to the organization that wants to change the electoral law, prove that this change is not intended to exclude minorities from voting.

Areas that needed a release

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Georgia
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Virginia, except Fairfax, Frederick County and Shenandoah County
  • Individual counties in California, Florida, New York, North Carolina, and South Dakota, and some cities in Michigan and New Hampshire.

Repeal of Section 4 by the Supreme Court

The regulation which states, counties and municipalities require a release was declared void on June 24, 2013 by the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Shelby County v. Holder. In the five- denominated against four judges votes judgment, the Court argued that the determination of which administrative units require a release of the Federal Government, is no longer appropriate. The conditions in those regions have changed greatly since the 1960s, so the scheme is no longer justified. In fact, this allocation was not renewed since the extension of 1975. The verdict was met with civil rights activists with strong criticism, including U.S. President Barack Obama expressed his disappointment in the verdict. Other voices, however, see the rights of individual states strengthened by the judgment. However, the court also made ​​it clear that the state supervision of the electoral law, as determined by the Voting Rights Act, to be still be valid. The decision to touch " in no way permanent nationwide ban on racial discrimination in voting ," the Supreme Court, the judges called in their judgment Congress to set out to find a new contemporary arrangements for the supervision of the electoral law. In a dissenting opinion that overruled Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg described the judgment as hubris, because it violated the separation of powers massively. It is for the Congress to make the laws and the Voting Rights Act have regularly confirmed zuletzte only in 2006., The Court is not entitled to set aside a part of the law because it put itself in place of the Congress and would decide, how the law would need to be adjusted.

As a result of the judgment in early 2014 brought a bipartisan group of Members of a draft in the Congress, which again introduces a preliminary examination for election laws of such states and regions that have gotten canceled in the past 15 years, an electoral law by a court. Other violations of the Voting Rights Act can lead to a state of prior testing is subjected.