Last updated on: 10/5/2007 | Author:

Is the Voting Rights Act Still Necessary?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

The United States Department of Justice (USDOJ) Civil Rights Division, Voting Section, provided the following information about the Voting Rights Act on their website (accessed Oct. 14, 2010):

“[T]he unprovoked attack on March 7, 1965, by state troopers on peaceful marchers crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, en route to the state capitol in Montgomery, persuaded the President and Congress to overcome Southern legislators’ resistance to effective voting rights legislation. President Johnson issued a call for a strong voting rights law and hearings began soon thereafter on the bill that would become the Voting Rights Act…

President Johnson signed the resulting legislation into law on August 6, 1965. Section 2 of the Act, which closely followed the language of the 15th amendment, applied a nationwide prohibition against the denial or abridgment of the right to vote on the literacy tests on a nationwide basis… Under Section 5, jurisdictions covered by… special provisions could not implement any change affecting voting until the Attorney General or the United States District Court for the District of Columbia determined that the change did not have a discriminatory purpose and would not have a discriminatory effect.”

Oct. 14, 2010

PRO (yes)


The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) posted on its web site (accessed Mar. 7, 2006) a document titled “ACLU Voting Rights – About the VRA,” which stated:

“[T]he Voting Rights Act of 1965 was designed to make the right to vote a reality for all Americans. And the Voting Rights Act has made giant strides toward that goal. Without exaggeration, it has been one of the most effective civil rights laws passed by Congress…

Equal opportunity in voting still does not exist in many places. Discrimination on the basis of race still denies many Americans their basic democratic rights. Although such discrimination today is more subtle than it used to be, it must still be remedied to ensure the healthy functioning of our democracy… It is the obligation of the government to see that the constitutionally protected right to vote is guaranteed. This is what the Voting Rights Act is designed to do.”

Mar. 7, 2006


The New York Times wrote in its Jan. 25, 2009 editorial titled “Uphold the Voting Rights Act”:

“Some people claim that Barack Obama’s election has ushered in a ‘postracial’ America, but the truth is that race, and radical discrimination, are still very much with us… The [Voting Rights] act is constitutional – and clearly still needed.

Section 5, often called the heart of the Voting Rights Act, requires some states and smaller jurisdictions to ‘preclear’ new voting rules with the Justice Department or a federal court… When Congress enacted Section 5 in 1965, officials in the South were creating all kinds of rules to stop blacks form voting or being elected to office. Discrimination against minority voters may not be as blatant as it was then, but it still exists. District lines are drawn to prevent minorities from winning; polling places are located in places hard for minority voters to get to; voter ID requirements are imposed with the purpose of suppressing the minority vote…

If the Supreme Court… strikes down Section 5, it would be breaking radically with its own precedents… It would also be an extreme case of conservative judicial activism, since the 14th and 15th Amendments expressly authorize Congress to enact laws of this sort to prevent discrimination in voting.”

Jan. 25, 2009


James Sensenbrenner, JD, (R-WI), was quoted in a July 10, 2005 article titled “A Push to Extend Voting Rights Act,” published in the Washington Post as having stated to a plenary session at the NAACP’s 96th annual convention in Milwaukee, that:

“While we have made progress and curtailed injustices thanks to the Voting Rights Act, our work is not yet complete… We cannot let discriminatory practices of the past resurface to threaten future gains. The Voting Rights Act must continue to exist — and exist in its current form.”

July 10, 2005


Jesse L. Jackson, MDiv, Reverend and President of the Rainbow/Push Coalition, wrote in a Mar. 10, 2005 article titled “Republicans Maneuvering to Get Voting Rights Act Killed,” in The Free Press:

“In 2007, the Voting Rights Act must be reauthorized. This requires congressional hearings on the evolving history of racial discrimination in the South. By demonstrating the reality that minorities still face discrimination — from voter intimidation, racially motivated redistricting, racially biased disqualification standards, racially biased distribution of voting machines and much more — Congress can re-establish the precedent for maintaining strict scrutiny over those states with a history of legalized discrimination.”

Mar. 10, 2005

CON (no)


Clarence Thomas, JD, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, wrote in his June 22, 2009 dissenting opinion in Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One v. Holder, Attorney General, et al (245KB) :

“The extensive pattern of discrimination that led the Court to previously uphold Section 5 [of the Voting Rights Act] as enforcing the Fifteenth Amendment no longer exists. Covered jurisdictions are not now engaged in a systematic campaign to deny black citizens access to the ballot through intimidation and violence… Punishment for long past sins is not a legitimate basis for imposing a forward-looking preventative measure that has already served its purpose…

The current statistical evidence confirms that the emergency that prompted the enactment of Section 5 has long since passed. By 2006, the voter registration rates for blacks in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi had jumped to 71.8%, 66.9%, and 72.2%, respectively…

This is not to say that voter discrimination is extinct… But the existence of discrete and isolated incidents of interference with the right to vote has never been sufficient justification for the imposition of Section 5’s extraordinary requirements.”

June 22, 2009 - Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One v. Holder, Attorney General, et al


Abigail Thernstrom, PhD, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, and Edward Blum, JD, wrote in their July 17, 2005 article titled “Do the Right Thing,” in the Wall Street Journal:

“The immediate issue is the reauthorization of the ’emergency’ provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act – provisions such as preclearance that constitute such a radical, unprecedented intrusion into state electoral prerogatives that they were originally designed to expire in 1970. Repeatedly extended, they are now due to die on Aug. 6, 2007…

[‘Max-black’ districts were created] to protect black (and after 1975, Hispanic) candidates from white competition, to promote minority office-holding in proportion to the minority population – which was viewed as racially ‘fair.’ The result: racial gerrymandering so egregious as to create bug-splat districts that, in the words of the Supreme Court, reinforced ‘the perception that members of the same racial group – regardless of their age, education, economic status, or the community in which they live – think alike.’…

If the preclearance provision is extended once again, the unelected Justice Department attorneys will retain their extraordinary and, by now, constitutionally questionable power to insist on race-conscious districting… Preclearance is no longer defensible…

[T]he opportunities for mischief using the Voting Rights Act are only growing… In coming years, the statute is… likely to become a handy tool to push partisan as well as racial redistricting.”

July 17, 2005


Mark A. Levin, JD, Director of the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, wrote in his Jan. 13, 2004 article titled “Ruling Justly; Texas Case a Victory for Equal Rights,” in the Washington Times:

“[T]he purpose of the Voting Rights Act was to ensure that minorities, and in particular blacks, were not denied the right to vote either through prohibition or thinly veiled discriminatory measures such as poll taxes and literacy tests. Unfortunately, the act has been misconstrued by some federal courts to guarantee that racial minorities live in districts where the candidate of their choice will always be elected…

No one should have a right, by virtue of their race or ethnicity, to live in a district in which the candidate of their choice always wins. No such special treatment has been accorded to religious minorities, gays, or other types of minorities. At most, the Voting Rights Act sought to give blacks this special right temporarily to compensate for years of disenfranchisement, but Jim Crow laws are history and the act should be clarified to reflect societal progress on civil rights.”

Jan. 13, 2004