The Right to Vote and Discrimination: FAQ

Below are the answers to the most frequently asked questions about the right to vote and the relevant laws.

What federal law protects me from discrimination in voting?

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 protects every american against racial discrimination in voting. This law also protects the voting rights of many people who have a limited proficiency in English. Defends the principle that all votes are equal and that neither race nor language barriers should leave no one out of the political process. You can search for the Voting Rights Act in the united States Code, title 42, section 1973 to 1973aa-6.

How does the Voting Rights Act?

Congress passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965, at the apex of the civil rights movement in the south, a movement committed to ensuring the right to equal right to vote for african americans. This was the immediate result of one of the most important events of the movement: a collision between the protestants the civil rights of the black race with the white police in Selma, Alabama. The protestants were at a distance of 50 miles of Montgomery, the state capital, to demand the right to equal voting, when police used violence to disperse them. What happened that day in Selma shocked the entire nation and led president Johnson to ask for the immediate passage of a strong federal law to vote.

What role does the Voting Rights Act?

The Voting Rights Act prohibits all types of racial discrimination in matters of voting. For years, many states had laws that served only to avoid a vote of minority citizens. Some of these laws required that, in order to vote, people should take a reading test or interpret some piece of the Constitution, or that those who are registered to vote to bring someone already registered to show that it was “a good person”. The Voting Rights Act prescribed as unlawful these and other discriminatory practices, and gave private citizens the right to sue in federal court to bring them to an end. Recently, the courts applied the law to end racial discrimination prevailing in the method of election of legislative bodies and state and local managers of the votes.

What will expire on the Voting Rights Act?

No. The Voting Rights Act is a federal law permanent. Also, the right to equal vote regardless of race or color is protected by the fifth amendment of the Constitution of the united States, which has been part of our law since the end of the Civil War. In addition, in case after case, our courts have held that the right to vote is fundamental. The right to vote does not expire, but has had some changes through the years.

Most notable is that the Supreme Court of the united States argued that article 4 of the law is unconstitutional. This article determined which states had to obtain approval before enacting new laws for voting. Because section 5 describes actual requirement for prior approval, is essentially inactive in the light of the judgment of the Court.

What is the article 5 of the Voting Rights Act?

Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is currently under suspension pursuant to the judgment of the Supreme Court in 2013. Article 5 is a special provision of the law that requires governments state and local in certain parts of the country to get federal approval (known as “prior authorization”) before you implement changes you wish to make in their voting procedures: from moving a polling place to change the boundaries of district in the county. However, due to that was proclaimed unconstitutional the formula used to determine which districts are subject to the rules set forth in article 5, this will not have real effects unless the Congress take up the issue.

Pursuant to article 5, a state government entity, local or county must demonstrate to federal authorities that the change of voting in question (1) does not have an end racially discriminatory, and that (2) will not worsen the situation of minorities, election in respect of how it was before the change (the change will not be “retroactive”).

Before the ruling of the court, the article 5 will be applied to all or part of the territory of the following states (as determined by the formula in article 4 which no longer form part of the law):

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Louisiana
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • New Hampshire
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • Virginia

What types of racial discrimination exist in the matter of the vote, and what does the Voting Rights Act to address them?

The Voting Rights Act is not limited to discrimination that literally excludes minority electoral elections. Article 2 (title 42, section 1973 of the Code of the united States) prescribed as illegal for a state or local government to use election processes that are not equally open to minority electoral or that will give these minorities a chance less than other voters to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice to public office. In particular, the article 2 prescribes as unlawful for state and local governments to “dilute” the votes of racial minority, that is to say, that to have an electoral system which considers the vote of minorities as less valuable than that of other voters. One of the many ways to dilute the vote of the minority is to draw direct lines that divide minority communities and prevent to gather a number of votes sufficient to elect the representatives of their choice to public office. Depending on the circumstances, the dilution may also result from a majority vote to government agencies. Along with a pattern of entrenched discrimination in the community, these and other scams can deprive the minority election a fair chance to elect their preferred candidates.

To demonstrate the dilution of votes in these cases, there must be a population and the voting minority are geographically concentrated, which is polarized by race; that is to say, a pattern in which the minority election and white voters tend to vote to different groups. It must also be demonstrated that white voters, by voting as a bloc against candidates preferred by the minority, usually due to those candidates even if the minority electoral join or vote consistently in the polls.

Any that are affected by a dilution of the votes, the minority can file a federal lawsuit to put an end to it. If the court decides that the effect of an electoral system, in combination with all the local circumstances, is to make the votes minority to have less value than the votes of the white, may order a change in the electoral system. For example, courts have ordered states and localities to adopt stringent changes to replace the voting is disproportionate, or to redraw the boundaries of electoral districts so as to give minorities electoral the same opportunity as other voters to elect representatives of their choice.

What is forbidden to draw districts, majority and minority?

No. More than 30 years ago, the Supreme Court stated that the jurisdictions have the freedom to draw electoral districts, majority and minority that comply with the considerations of traditional and non-racial division of districts, such as geographic compactness and unity of communities of interest. Most recent decisions of the Supreme Court have declared that drawing districts, majority and minority may be necessary to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act.

While it remains legal jurisdictions to take account of race to draw electoral districts, the Supreme Court has determined that the Constitution requires a justification justified if the considerations of racial predominate over the traditional principles of division of districts. One of those justifications may be the need to correct for a violation of section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Although such a resource may include limits to the electoral districts that compromise the traditional principles of division of districts, such districts shall be divided where the occurrence of the violation of article 2 and should not compromise the traditional principles more than what is necessary to correct the violation.

What other laws are there about the right to vote?

The National Law on Voter Registration of 1993 (commonly known as the act of “voting engines”) requires states to provide opportunities for voter registration when people apply for or receive services in a variety of governmental agencies, from offices driver licenses to social service agencies and offices of public benefits. The law stipulates that states must not remove voters from the lists simply because they have not voted, and requires states to maintain the electoral rolls up to date by removing the names of voters who have died or who have moved. You can find the law in the articles 1973gg to 1973gg-10 of title 42 of the Code of the united States.

The Law of Absentee Voting for Citizens Uniformed and Overseas of 1986 (sections 1973ff to 1973ff-6 of title 42 of the united States Code) requires states to ensure that our armed forces deployed outside the country and citizens living abroad can register and vote absentee in federal elections.

The Act Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and the Disabled of 1984 (articles 1973ee to 1973ee-6 of title 42 of the united States Code) requires that the voting points around the country to be physically accessible to people with disabilities.

What the Voting Rights Act protects minority language?

Yes and no. The Voting Rights Act prescribes as unlawful discrimination on the basis of membership in a minority language, but its effect in the light of the judgment of the Supreme Court of 2013 has not yet been observed. The idea behind the provisions of the Voting Rights Act on minority language was to eliminate language as a barrier to political participation and to prevent discrimination election against people who speak minority languages.

Many jurisdictions with people of hispanic origin, american indian and Alaska natives were covered by article 5 of the law prior to the ruling of 2013.

Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act also protected the members of minority language by requiring particular jurisdictions to print the paper ballots and other election materials in the minority language in addition to English, and have an oral interpretation available at the polls when necessary.

How can I Get the Help of a Lawyer?

If you believe you have been the victim of a violation of civil rights, the first step is to talk with a lawyer who specializes in civil rights. Important decisions related to your case can be complicated: you must know what laws apply in your situation and who may be at fault for the damages you suffered. A lawyer who specializes in civil rights will evaluate all aspects of your case and explain the options you have at your disposal to ensure the best possible outcome.

Watch video The Right to Vote: How Do Elections Work?

Whether you support political parties or not, one thing we should all agree on is that the public election process should serve voters.
Over the course of our history, voter discrimination has taken many forms. Today, both parties have engaged in a “voting rights” debate related to “voter access” and “voter fraud.” But rarely do we ask fundamental questions about the process itself, like why do our representatives seem to serve their party more than the voters in the first place?