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    US Continues Discriminatory Voting Practices Based on Skin Color, Race

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    On August 6 the US celebrated the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act. The Act, which passed in 1965, had an immediate positive influence across the country and contributed to a decrease in voter discrimination based on race or skin color.

    However, discriminatory practices are now returning.  Between 1965 and 2013, the US Justice Department and federal courts blocked more than 3,000 discriminatory voting charges, which occurred thanks to the Voting Rights Act.  Section 5 of the Act, which was responsible for targeting areas of the country which denied blacks and other minorities the right to vote, was gutted by the US Supreme Court in 2013.

    “The Voting Rights Act made a huge, huge difference,” Brad Friedman from radio Sputnik's BradCast said while discussing the current pre-election campaign in the United States and the ongoing battle for voting rights.

    “The Impact of the Act was immediate and dramatic when it was passed in 1965,” he added.

    Indeed, nearly one million black voters were registered to vote within four years of when the Act was signed. The number of black elected officials in the southern states almost doubled as a direct result of the 1966 elections.

    The Act was supposed to eliminate discrimination based on race or color, and it was successful in its task. While in 1956, 11% of eligible African American voters were registered to vote Alabama, by 1966 this number had reached 51.2%.

    The new battle for voting rights has unfolded across the country after the US Supreme Court gutted the most important part of the Act, namely Section 5. The section targeted jurisdictions specified by the "coverage formula" prescribed in Section 4(b). The coverage formula determined which jurisdictions regularly practiced voting discrimination.

    In Shelby County v. Holder (2013), the US Supreme Court struck down the coverage formula as unconstitutional, and stated that it was no longer applicable to current conditions. Although the Court did not strike down Section 5 itself, without a coverage formula, Section 5 is unenforceable.

    Friedman noted that the 2016 elections will be the first presidential elections in 50 years when voters will not been able to rely on the full protection of the Voting Rights Act. New voting restrictions will be in place and old discriminative practices may come back with renewed force.

    Related:

    US Voting Rights Being Eroded, Protections Weakened – Obama
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    discrimination, Voting Rights Act, United States
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