Minority Voting Rights

February 28, 1975

Report Outline
Impact of Voting Tights Act of 1965
Struggle of Negroes for Right to Vote
Ways to Increase Minority Leverage
Special Focus

Impact of Voting Tights Act of 1965

Shift of Black Demands from Street to Ballot

The voting rights ACT of 1965, often heralded as the most important civil rights legislation ever enacted, is due to expire this year unless Congress votes to extend it. The debate over extension will be conducted in a political climate far removed from the one in which President Johnson on March 17, 1965, asked Congress to guarantee the franchise to blacks and other minority men and women who were being denied that most fundamental of American rights—the right to vote. Civil rights marchers had been attacked only a few days earlier as they carried their protests against Negro disenfranchisement from Selma to Montgomery. Moreover, the old civil rights movement was beginning to give way to a new black militancy that found expression in street demonstrations and urban riots.

In more recent years, blacks have turned in greater numbers to the ballot box, often electing their own candidates and finding in the political process a means of voicing their hopes and hostilities. It is generally agreed that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was instrumental in bringing about this change. During the past 10 years, an estimated 2 million blacks have been added to the voting rolls in the South, bringing total registration to about 3.5 million. The number cannot be determined with any degree of precision because many of the states covered by the act do not maintain current voting and registration records by race. Proportionally fewer registration and voting gains have been made by the other minorities—Mexican-Americans, Puerto Ricans and American Indians—covered by the act.

The 1965 law suspended literacy tests and other qualification devices and gave the Attorney General the power to appoint federal examiners to supervise voter registration in states or political subdivisions where such devices were in force on Nov. 1, 1964, and where fewer than 50 per cent of the voting-age residents were registered to vote on that date. Section 5 of the act stipulated that any new voting law enacted in an area covered by the act required the approval of the Attorney General or a three-judge district court for the District of Columbia. The areas affected were Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Virginia, 39 counties in North Carolina, Yuma County, Ariz., and Honolulu County, Hawaii.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Voting Rights
Oct. 02, 2015  Young Voters
Apr. 03, 2015  Latino Voters
Feb. 21, 2014  Voting Controversies
May 18, 2012  Voter Rights
Sep. 15, 2006  Voting Controversies
Oct. 29, 2004  Voting Rights
Feb. 28, 1975  Minority Voting Rights
Apr. 18, 1962  Protection of Voting Rights
Mar. 19, 1958  Right to Vote
Feb. 24, 1954  Eighteen-Year-Old and Soldier Voting
Sep. 13, 1932  The Solid South and Political Sectionalism
Jun. 18, 1928  Voting and Non-Voting in Elections
Civil Rights: African Americans
Domestic Issues
Voting and Suffrage