Voting Rights Act of 1965: Background and Overview [July 1, 2014]   [open pdf - 398KB]

"The Voting Rights Act (VRA) was successfully challenged in a June 2013 case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder. The suit challenged the constitutionality of Sections 4 and 5 of the VRA, under which certain jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination in voting--mostly in the South--were required to 'pre-clear' changes to the election process with the Justice Department (the U.S. Attorney General) or the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The preclearance provision (Section 5) was based on a formula (Section 4) that considered voting practices and patterns in 1964, 1968, or 1972. At issue in Shelby County was whether Congress exceeded its constitutional authority when it reauthorized the VRA in 2006--with the existing formula--thereby infringing on the rights of the states. In its ruling, the Court struck down Section 4 as outdated and not 'grounded in current conditions.' As a consequence, Section 5 is intact, but inoperable, unless or until Congress prescribes a new Section 4 formula."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, R43626
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