Will You Lose Your Right to Vote? Confusion over Voting Rights Act Has Many Blacks Believing They May Lose the Privilege

By Williams-Harold, Bevolyn | Black Enterprise, July 1997 | Go to article overview

Will You Lose Your Right to Vote? Confusion over Voting Rights Act Has Many Blacks Believing They May Lose the Privilege


Williams-Harold, Bevolyn, Black Enterprise


A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Case in point speculation has been running rampant across the Internet and radio airwaves regarding the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and conjecture that blacks will lose their right to vote if the act is not renewed in the year 2007. In the offices of BLACK ENTERPRISE alone, we've received numerous angry and concerned letters from readers demanding to know if the possibility is true or not.

Well, relax. While the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is indeed up for vote in 10 years, there is absolutely no chance that blacks will lose their right to vote. None. But there is another danger on the horizon.

To clarify what's at stake, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-California) issued a fact sheet explaining the legal issues involved, which she hopes will clear up a large misunderstanding. "African American voting rights were granted by the 15th Amendment. Expiration of the Voting Rights Act will not terminate the rights granted under that amendment."

The 15th Amendment, enacted shortly after the Civil War, guaranteed African Americans the right to vote. But since the amendment is dependent on judicial interpretation, many Southern states at the time used unreasonable measures such as poll taxes, literacy tests or grandfather clauses to hinder newly emancipated slaves from voting. These tactics often escalated into violence.

Several decades later, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which made such procedures unconstitutional. In fact, Section Five of the statute requires pre-clearance by the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department before any local government could impose such bully tactics. …

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