Free «How Did the Voting Rights Act of 1965 Affect Society at That Time and Its Relevance Today?» Essay Sample

How Did the Voting Rights Act of 1965 Affect Society at That Time and Its Relevance Today?

The author Sue Monk Kidd describes the effects of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in his book The Secret Life of Bees. In the novel, Rosaleen, the housekeeper of Lily, watches anxiously on television that the President of America, Johnson, signed the Civil Rights Act. Rosaleen makes up her mind that she would vote in the coming elections. The Voting Rights Act was signed to become law on August 6, 1965 by the United States President Lyndon Johnson (Mills). The main objective of this law was to remove legal barriers which existed within the country and local authorities restricting the African Americans from exercising their right to vote (Montogomentry). The restriction from voting came up as a result of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. The enactment of the Voting Rights Act played a significant role in the transformation of the United States’ society, and it remains relevant even to date. After the Voting Rights Act of 1965 signed into law at that time, it affected the society significantly since minority community, that were not allowed to vote before, was given this right. It is still relevant even today because in America, democracy allows people from all races to participate in elections.

In 1965, the pressure from the civil rights movement piled up forcing the United States government to pass the Voting Rights Act into law, which required the southern states to remove the legal barriers that prevented the minority groups from voting with immediate effect from Chief Justice Roberts. The law required the specific states and districts that had a history of racial discrimination to submit the changes in their voting laws and election procedures that conformed with the provisions of the new Act to the Justice Department of the United States. They were also compelled to provide sufficient prove that the changes in the voting laws and the election procedures would not affect the African Americans and other minority groups in a negative way.

The signing of the Voting Rights Act into law had a significant impact on the society, because the African Americans and other minority groups from southern states were saved from the harassment, intimidation, and physical violence that they experienced when they tried to register as voters or try to vote before the enactment of this law. Therefore, it removed the many obstacles to voting which barred the African Americans from exercising their right to vote (Montogomentry). The law also removed the specific barriers that were set by these states to disqualify the minority groups from voting such as literacy tests, poll taxes, and other bureaucratic restrictions that were common in the southern states.

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The enactment of the Voting Rights Act had an immediate impact in the entire society of the United States. By the end of 1965, when the Act was signed into law, many black voters were already registered by the federal examiners (Montogomentry). The tremendous turn-up of the African Americans to register as voters after the enactment of the law was a clear indicator of the relief that came along with the law. All the Americans are now entitled to register as voters and participate in both national and local voting process without any fear of intimidation, harassment, or discrimination by the state authorities ("Voting Rights Act").

Upon President’s Johnson signing the legislation into law, all the literacy tests conducted by the southern states to prevent the African Americans from registering as voters were outlawed, and federal examiners were appointed immediately to conduct the voter registration test processes. The federal examiners were granted with the mandate and power to register qualified citizens to vote without any form of discrimination. Therefore, all the African Americans and other minority groups who were qualified for voting had the chance to register as voters without any discrimination (Button 44). The abolition of the poll taxes in the national elections by the 24th Amendment to the Constitution in 1964 gained more meaning after the enactment of the Voting Rights Act into law because all the African Americans qualified for voting were able to register without paying any poll taxes as it was required before (Montogomentry).

 
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The enactment of the Voting Right Act of 1965 has transformed the American society indeed in many dimensions. The minority groups have been empowered to participate in the nation building activities through exercising their voting rights. Their involvement in the voting process has opened some opportunities for the African Americans to vie for elective positions and be part of either the state or federal government (Montogomentry). The Voting Rights Act has been very instrumental in ensuring that all the Americans have the same chances in acquiring leadership positions since they are all allowed to vote for the people they prefer best to match those positions (May 109). The American society has drastically changed since the enactment of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 as more African Americans have been entrusted for leadership positions to an extent of becoming of a black American, Barrack Obama, the President of the US.

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The enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has been the turning point for the American society. The law has necessitated numerous reforms in other sectors in order to boost the level of involvement of all the Americans in matters relating to their welfare (“Why Did there Need to Be a Voting Rights Act”). The issue of discrimination has been completely dealt with since the African Americans and other minority groups have had a chance to elect their representatives in the leadership positions. The law has created a fair ground for competing for the elective seats and opened the opportunity for the African Americans to showcase their leadership capabilities ("Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act”). It has won the trust of every American, and the elections are currently conducted on the basis of the policies of the leaders but not on the basis of their skin color. It has built the democracy of the nation that makes the United States of America one of the most democratic countries in the world.

The racial discrimination in voting still remains a real threat in United States despite the enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which has been perceived to have ended the voting discrimination (“Why Did There Need to Be a Voting Rights Act”). The racial discrimination in the present United States is quite different from the one experienced a few decades ago when the Voting Rights Act became law. It was suggested that the law should be changed to match the changing nature of voter discrimination in modern America. It shows that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is not relevant to some extent in the current United States. However, it sets the background for formulating other laws or amending the already existing laws to suit to modern situation and address the emerging issues within current discrimination in the United States ("Voting Rights Act").

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The ruling of Shelby County v. Holder has sparked a debate in the whole country about the status of race and discrimination in modern America (Rhodes). The ruling observed some of the protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, such as the banning of the literacy tests and affirmed that the law is still relevant in America. The ruling of the court also challenged the Congress to require some states with a history of racial discrimination to submit their voting changes regularly for scrutiny purposes. It conforms to the provisions of the 1965 law, which required the southern states to present any changes of the voter registration and the voting process to the United States Department of Justice for scrutiny and authorization before they are implemented ("Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act”).

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The court’s majority has challenged the United States’ Congress to amend the voting laws to fit the current voter discrimination in the United States. However, the Congress should use different formula when coming up with new laws rather than using the same formula used four decades ago. It shows that despite the 1965 law losing relevance in modern America, it sheds some light for the lawmakers to follow in the process of making new laws addressing the modern discrimination in America. In 1982, Congress strengthened the Voting Right Act of 1965 after the ruling of City of Mobile v. Bolden (Jackson). Supposing that the United States’ Congress started from a scratch in 2006, it would not have enacted the present coverage formula for voter registration. It would have been difficult for the Congress to distinguish between states on the basis of 40-year-old data, while current statistics present completely different numbers. It is an indicator of the relevance of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 since it provides a strong background for the law enactment and development in the United States. In June 2013, Congress overturned some of the provisions of Voting Rights Act in order to eliminate racial discrimination during voting process (“The Voting Rights Act”)

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In January 16, 2014, a new bill was introduced in the Congress by Republicans John Conyers and James Sensenbrenner with Senator Patrick Leahy, who sought for strengthening the Voting Rights Act of 1965 ("Sensenbrenner, Leahy & Conyers”). The bill was introduced to make changes to the law by requiring the jurisdictions with recent records of repeated violations of the 1965 law to present election law changes for approval and to expand the current court procedures to subject such states to preclearance. In addition, the bill proposed the creation of uniform requirement of informing voters of certain pending voting changes, enable the lawyers to deal with discriminatory election matters before doing harm to the citizens, and allow federal observers to monitor both local and national elections in order to ensure full compliance with the laws protecting the rights of African Americans and other minority groups (Berman). The proposed amendments to the 1965 law show that it is still relevant in modern America, and it only need to be updated to suit to the changing patterns of voter discrimination and democracy.

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Some of the modern laws enacted to streamline the voter registration and the voting processes that have been declared unconstitutional. For instance, the Texas voter ID law has been ruled out by the federal courts because it violated the Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Texas had a history of discrimination against American Indians, Hispanics, and African Americans. The Section 2 prevents election procedures that are perceived to discriminate voters on the basis of their race, combat new voter identification laws, prevent early voting, and eliminate the same day registration ("Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act”). It also protected against minority dilution ("Voting Rights Act"). It is a clear indicator that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is still relevant in the voter registration process and the development of democracy in general.

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To conclude, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 affected the society positively at that time because it has awakened democracy in the United States and enabled the African Americans and other minority groups to participate freely in both national and local elections. The law has transformed leadership in the United States and enabled the representation of all the Americans in state and federal government positions. On the other hand, the 1965 law is still relevant today because the provisions of the law are still used to prevent racial discrimination in voting processes up to date. The 1965 law still remains active because it provides a strong background for enactment and development of new laws for fitting up-to-date voter discrimination mechanisms in modern America.

 

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