· Congress enacted the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) to protect the voting rights of all Americans and President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law on August 6, 1965
· Major provisions of the act prohibit enactment of any election law that would deny or abridge voting rights based on race, color or membership in a language minority
· The act creates a right of action for private citizens or the government to challenge discriminatory voting practices and procedures
· The following jurisdictions were covered by the "triggering" provisions of Section 4(b) in 1965: Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Virginia, 39 counties in North Carolina, and specified counties in Texas, Arizona and Hawaii
· The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is permanent federal law, but it also contains some temporary provisions in response to concerns regarding the constitutionality of the “preclearance” and the bilingual provisions of the act (the latest extension for the reporting and preclearance sections lasted 25 years – enacted in 1982 to expire in 2007)
Temporary sections that require renewal
· For jurisdictions covered under its provisions the VRA:
- prohibits the use of any test or device as a condition of voter registration and includes protection for language minorities (Section 4);
- requires federal review of any change in law affecting elections before putting such a law into effect (Section 5); and
- enables the Department of Justice to send federal examiners to list eligible voters for registration (Section 6) and federal election observers to any jurisdiction where a federal examiner has been assigned (Section 8)
· Also, the VRA provides that under certain conditions a state or political subdivision must provide bilingual election materials and assistance to limited-English speaking residents (Section 203)
· Congress extended the expiration dates of the preclearance provisions in 1970, 1975 and 1982 and the bilingual provisions in 1982
Current legislative efforts
· Congressman Scott is a lead cosponsor of the Voting Rights Act Reauthorization Act of 2006.
· Beginning October 18, 2005, Congressman David Scott participated in all ten hearings of the House Judiciary Committee’s series to examine the Voting Rights Act. Testimony in these hearings presented overwhelming evidence that discrimination in voting laws and practices, in fact, persists.