By Toby Lyles, CNN Editorial Research
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was enacted because of voter suppression by state governments, local governments and law enforcement. Over the 56-year period of its existence, it has helped Americans reinforce the citizens right to vote. It addresses the levels of disenfranchisement in existence after ratification of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution.
Here is a look at voting rights, by the numbers:
152 — The number of years since the 15th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, on February 3, 1870, prohibiting states from taking away a man’s right to vote “on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude.”
101 — The number of years since the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified August 18, 1920, granting women the right to vote nationwide.
95 — The number of years of continued voter disenfranchisement based on race following ratification of the 15th Amendment in 1870 and the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
57 — The number of years since “Bloody Sunday,” March 7, 1965, when non-violent voting rights marchers heading to the state capital of Montgomery, Alabama, were attacked by state troopers in Selma.
50 — The number of years between ratification of the 15th Amendment and the 19th Amendment, acknowledging the right to vote for both men and women regardless of race.
34 — From January 2021 through May 2022, thirty-four new laws that make it harder to vote were enacted by eighteen states, according to a tally by the liberal-leaning Brennan Center for Justice.
19 — The 19th Amendment to the Constitution states: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
15 — The number of states that had “Covered jurisdictions,” which, because of their voting rights history, needed to be pre-cleared before making changes to their voting procedures (prior to the June 25, 2013, US Supreme Court decision). Included were nine states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia; some counties within California, Florida, New York, North Carolina, and South Dakota; and two townships in Michigan.
15 — The 15th Amendment to the Constitution states: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” This applied to men only.
9 — The number of states that offered briefs in support of Shelby County v. Holder, which questioned the renewal of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. A brief in support of retaining “covered jurisdictions” was filed by California, Mississippi, New York and North Carolina.
9 — The number of years since June 25, 2013, when the US Supreme Court decided (5-4) in Shelby County v. Holder that formulated jurisdictions under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act no longer have to have new voting laws pre-cleared by the attorney general or the federal district court in the District of Columbia.
8 — The number of days after “Bloody Sunday,” in which President Lyndon Johnson, in a March 15, 1965, speech before a joint session of Congress, said:
“There is no constitutional issue here. The command of the Constitution is plain. There is no moral issue. It is wrong–deadly wrong–to deny any of your fellow Americans the right to vote in this country. There is no issue of states’ rights or national rights. There is only the struggle for human rights.”
5 — The number of years between the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, February 1, 1865, when most forms of legal slavery ended in the United States, and February 3, 1870, when the 15th Amendment to the Constitution was added.
5 — The number of months after “Bloody Sunday,” that Johnson, on August 6, 1965, signs the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law as an “act to enforce the 15th Amendment to the Constitution.”
5 — Originally, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act froze “election practices or procedures in certain states until the new procedures have been subjected to review, either after an administrative review by the United States Attorney General, or after a lawsuit before the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.”
4 — The number of times that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act has been extended or renewed: In 1970, 1975, 1982, and 2006.
4 — The number of years between decisions in the US Supreme Court cases Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder (June 22, 2009) and Shelby County v. Holder (June 25, 2013). Both cases addressed, among other issues, enforcement of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act regarding “covered jurisdictions,” but the decisions differed. The question of “covered jurisdiction” was left unanswered in the 2009 case. It was decided that pre-clearance was no longer necessary for “covered jurisdictions” in the 2013 case.
4 — Almost four years since the September 12, 2018, report “An Assessment of Minority Voting Rights Access in the United States,” was released by the US Commission on Civil Rights. New state laws are making it more difficult for minorities to vote, according to the bipartisan agency.
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