Voting Rights Act


ANNCR: The Voting Rights Act – Today on Congressional Moment.

The right to vote has always been fundamental to our system of representative democracy, yet most African–American voters in southern states were denied this right for almost a hundred years, despite the ratification of the 15th Amendment in 1870. Southern voter registration boards imposed overwhelming bureaucratic impediments to qualified black voters and subjected them to harassment, economic reprisals and physical violence. With their voices unheard, they had little, if any, political power.

In early 1965, during the Civil Rights Movement, peaceful demonstrators in Birmingham and Selma, Alabama were met with violent police resistance, including nightsticks, water hoses, tear gas, attack dogs, and imprisonment.

Televised newscast images of these events outraged Americans, and persuaded President Lyndon B. Johnson and Congress to make voting rights legislation a priority.

The Voting Rights Bill passed quickly in both houses, and was signed into law on August 6th, 1965. It gave the Federal government power to oversee the registration and election process in problematic counties.

The Voting Rights Act was amended in 1970, '75, and '82, extending protection to other minorities and disenfranchised voters. Though the voting process in America continues to spark debate, the Voting Rights Act remains a significant piece of legislation, guaranteeing that no citizen will be denied the right to vote on account of race, color, or disability.

STANDARD CLOSING: This is Lee Hamilton. Congressional decisions impact all our lives. To find out more about how Congress works, or to get involved in your government, visit the Center On Congress Web site at