The Voting Rights Act (Give Us the Ballot by Ari Berman)
The 1965 enactment marked a major turning point the implementation of the voting rights act which involved the signing of the resulting legislation by President Johnson. Concerted efforts were made for purposes of disruption of the state disfranchisement. The legislative hearings that were presented mainly focused on maximum electoral effectiveness by eliminating the election practices that involved discrimination. Millions of Americans especially the African Americans and other minority groups were given the right to participate in the electoral process by casting their votes. This process was inaugurated as an achievement for the civil rights movements. As Berman wrote, "The voting rights act did not end the debate over voting rights, it started a new one."
Efforts That Emerged During the 1970s and 1980s to Undercut the Voting Rights Act
The Selma march on March 7, 1965, was the main reason why the federal government passed legislation for purposes of allowing the African Americans the right to vote. The violence at Selma was regarded as one of the most crippling legacies of bigotry and injustice by President Johnson. As a result, the president introduced the voting rights act which was presented in a joint session of Congress. This act suspended literacy and other tests that showed proof of voter discrimination which was carried out in different counties and states. The right voting act played an important role in guaranteeing the African Americans the right to vote as well as pursuing various qualifications as a political candidate.
Various factors such as poll taxes, literacy tests, mistreatment and violence among others which contributed to the denial of the right to vote for African Americans, were outlawed by the bill. These new implementations authorized the attorney general to address registration of African American voters by the federal government. Furthermore, elections were also supervised among districts that had suppressed African Americans the right to vote. However, despite the achievement, the state governments in the south which were mostly controlled by the Republicans were hardly perfect. The reason for this is because of over taxation and outright corruption which affected most of the citizens.
The expansion of the law proved only to be significant for the opposition. In Mississippi, federal troops had withdrawn from protecting the rights of African American citizens which in turn revived the rise of white supremacy. White supremacy groups like Ku Klux Klan returned to the Confederate states and posed threats to black voting through violence. During the 1980's, the civil rights law resistance of the 1960's made people like John Roberts more ambitious towards criticizing the voting rights act while serving in the Reagan Justice Department. His belief that the act should only restrain the intentional discrimination in voting was considered impossible. This made him lose the fight due to the reauthorization of the act by Congress.
Changes That Were Made by the Local and State Officials and Their Impact on Voting
The voting rights act played an important role in transforming the African Americans right to vote and participate in elections. After the signing of the act, many changes were implemented along the way by the United States Department of Justice and court orders. This process was done through the section 5 objections. The section 5 enforcement cases are usually concluded by three-judge district court panels. Under this section, their main role is to examine the occurrence of a covered voting change. Moreover, if this change has occurred, the requirements of section 5 have to meet the preclearance that has been obtained. Also, if not, the court will look for a relief that would be considered appropriate.
The elected local African American officials in the state only occupied mayor and city council seats during 1965. However, since its implementation, the voting rights act has changed considering that now the majority of the black population has more county supervisors. Some of the counties with section 5 objections during the same period also managed to implement the litigation successfully. As a result, African American supervisors became increasingly popular due to the current plans that were underway for the elections in Mississippi. The act made it possible to directly enforce the legacy specifically in the section 5 preclearance position. Furthermore, this legacy was also put into effect for the counties that lacked the section 5 objection which in turn helped to design their plans lawfully.
The state legislature of Mississippi significantly resulted in integration in comparison to other states. Plans were adopted by the state in 1979 which constituted to the division of the legislature into single-member districts. As a result, the house elected fifteen African Americans together with two to the previously all-white Senate. The adoption of the new plan in 1982 resulted in preclearance and after that additional three African Americans were elected to the house in 1983 and two more in 1987 elections.
Later on, in 1991, other plans were adopted for the new house and senate by the legislature, however, during this period, the preclearance was denied by the Department of Justice. The objection letter that was handed out showed that black-majority districts did not receive any decline regarding the retrogressive effect, though racial discrimination was still underway as they were present through significant indications. These indications included the disapproval of the legislature to seek alternatives under which the Department of Justice objected.
The new law that was implemented is constantly being challenged by the Justice Department and civil rights movement groups. North Carolina is among the states that are making arguments based on a familiar response regarding the amounts of lawsuits that have been filed. These arguments relate to the equivalence represented by the election law affirmative action. The amendments that were implemented in 1982 by the Congress contained provisions of section 4 which stated how jurisdictions could terminate or bail out from coverage. Furthermore, these provisions also enabled the adoption of effective new standards regarding section 4 in 1985.
Berman, Ari. Give us the ballot: The modern struggle for voting rights in America. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015.
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