The Voting Rights Act was ratified by Congress and signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965 to address discrimination at voting and registration booths that made it difficult for blacks to vote. Some states were requiring blacks to pass literacy tests and answer questions on complex points of law, while white citizens weren't required to meet any literacy requirements. The Voting Rights Act put the federal government -- rather than individual states -- in charge of monitoring and establishing voting procedures. In 2013, two sections of the act were overturned.
During the 1950s and '60s, many politicians and legislators in Southern states refused to enact voting-rights legislation to ensure blacks retained their civil liberties. As a result, Congress and President Johnson pushed for a federal voting-rights law to address discrimination at voting and registration booths. Existing anti-discrimination laws weren't influential enough to back the 15th Amendment and ensure that all U.S. citizens had the right to vote. Individual lawsuits couldn't successfully eradicate all discriminatory voting practices. The Voting Rights Act addressed these discriminatory practices and was signed into law on Aug. 6, 1965.
No More Literacy Tests
The Voting Rights Act meant state officials and voting registration committees no longer could require that black citizens meet literacy and socioeconomic requirements to vote. The act banned literacy tests. It also demanded that state election boards abolish poll taxes as a means to discriminate against poor black voters. State administrators weren't trusted to follow the Voting Rights Act, so federal officials supervised registration, polling and voting practices in those communities.
Nine States Targeted
Even though all states were legally required to comply with statutes spelled out in the Voting Rights Act, eight Southern states and one Northern state were listed by name in Section 4 of the Act. Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, Arizona and Alaska had a history and a reputation for discriminatory voting practices. Federal officials kept a close eye on voting procedures in those states to ensure blacks received the same voting privileges as whites.
Supreme Court Ruling
In 2013, the Supreme Court overturned two sections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act with a 5-4 vote. The court determined that Sections 4 and 5 violated state rights to govern and establish their own voting regulations. Five justices agreed that voter discrimination was no longer the problem it was over 45 years prior. The other four Supreme Court justices and a number of politicians and civil rights activists opposed the 2013 ruling. They argued that the Voting Rights Act, including Sections 4 and 5, was still needed to protect civil liberties and ensure voting discrimination didn't occur.