What Did the Voting Rights Act of 1965 Accomplish?

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The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) banned discrimination against voters at the local, state and federal levels of government. The VRA passed in 1965 following a long and tumultuous history of discriminatory treatment against minorities in the United States, particularly African-Americans. The VRA served as an important milestone in improving rights for all citizens of the U.S. by giving all documented citizens the opportunity to participate in elections.

The VRA received praise for being one of the most significant pieces of legislation ever passed by Congress to make all citizens equal. It allowed minorities in all parts of the U.S., including those whose first language is not English, the opportunity to engage in the voting process and choose candidates for office. In doing so, the VRA helped to diversify the candidate pool for offices at all levels of government.

The VRA established key fundamental rights during the 1960s, and it received four reauthorizations since its enactment. In 2006, Congress reauthorized the VRA, prompted by bipartisan support from the House of Representatives. The House and Congress decided to extend the VRA for another 25 years following a series of hearings, collecting thousands of pages of testimony and listening to expert witnesses.