Commemorating the 1965 Voting Rights Act

voter-rights_1The City Tech Library is commemorating the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a landmark piece of legislation that prohibits racial discrimination in voting.  The act was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on August 6, 1965. The primary purpose was to eliminate state and local laws that prevented large numbers of African Americans from exercising their constitutional right to vote.  
The impact of the act was immediate and sharply increased the number of registered African American voters.  The political impact was so far reaching that even the Democratic and Republican parties became realigned. After the act was signed racial minorities tended to vote for liberal democratic candidates and many southern white conservatives changed their party affiliation to Republican.  The parties began to polarize with the Democratic party becoming more liberal and the Republican party becoming more conservative.
It is important recognize this act in our contemporary society, as the Supreme Court rescinded a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in 2013 in a contentious 5-4 decision.  The court struck down a requirement that if any of 9 southern states were to change their election laws, that they would first need federal approval.  The court determined that there were no longer adequate barriers to African Americans voting in those states to justify the law.  Shortly after this provision regulating local election laws was deemed unconstitutional a flurry of new laws were created and district maps redrawn.
The importance of the 1965 Voting Rights Act can not be understated.  It enfranchised millions of people and these voices changed the political landscape. Even if key provisions have been struck down, it has forever influenced our society.