Voting Rights Act Fast Facts

Here is a look at The Voting Rights Act of 1965, which serves to protect and enforce the contents of the 14th and 15th Amendments. It was a response to voter suppression in the 1960s by state and local governments and law enforcement.

Important sections:
Original jurisdictions: Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Virginia. Also, subdivisions, mostly counties, in Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho and North Carolina.

Jurisdictions are made based on a formula containing two elements: uses tests to thwart voting and less than 50% of the voting age population is registered to vote by November 1, 1964 or if less that 50% voted in the 1964 presidential election. It also guarantees the right to register and vote to citizens with "limited English proficiency."

Section 2: States the right to vote cannot be denied on basis of race or color.

Section 3: Upholds the ability to enforce the 15th Amendment.

Section 4: Says citizen cannot be denied right to vote for failed compliance with devices such as literacy tests. It also designates the formulated jurisdictions outlined in Section 5 and provides a procedure to terminate this coverage.

Section 5: This section "freezes (new) election practices or procedures in certain states until the new procedures have been subjected to review." Review can only be done by the U.S. Attorney General or by filing a lawsuit before the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

March 7, 1965 -
Bloody Sunday - 600 non-violent voting rights marchers heading to Montgomery, Alabama's state capital, are attacked by state troopers in Selma.

March 15, 1965 - President Lyndon Johnson, in a speech before a joint session of Congress says: "There is no constitutional issue here. The command of the Constitution is plain. There is no moral issue. It is wrong, deadly wrong, to deny any of your fellow Americans the right to vote in this country."

August 6, 1965 - Is signed into law by President Johnson to protect and enforce the 15th Amendment.

1970 - Congress extends provisions for five years, changing the formula in Section 4 to reflect 1968 (instead of 1964). Coverage is added in jurisdictions within 10 more states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Idaho, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Wyoming. Connecticut, Idaho, Maine, Massachusetts and Wyoming win "bailout" lawsuits.

1975 - Congress extends provisions for seven years, changes the formula to 1972 and broadens the discrimination description as also encompassing American Indian, Asian American, Alaskan Natives or people of Spanish heritage. This addition to the formula essentially covers Alaska, Arizona and Texas, and includes parts of California, Florida, Michigan, New York, North Carolina and South Dakota.

1982 - Congress extends the special provisions in Section 4 for 25 years, but makes no changes.

2006 - Congress renews special provisions and extends until 2031.

June 25, 2013 - The Supreme Court decides (5-4) that formulated jurisdictions under Section 5 no longer have to have new voting laws pre-cleared by the attorney general or the federal district court in the District of Columbia. Chief Justice John Roberts explains that "our country has changed" and the formula "no longer characterize(s) voting in the covered jurisdictions."