Study Guide

Voting Rights Act Quotes

By U.S. Congress

  • Principles

    To assure that the right of citizens of the United States to vote is not denied or abridged on account of race or color, no citizen shall be denied the right to vote in any Federal, State, or local election because of his failure to comply with any test or device in any State…. (4.a.1)

    The law is there to assure basic rights, after all. It's not frequent, but language discussing rights is present in this bill.

    No person acting under color of law shall fail or refuse to permit any person to vote who is entitled to vote under any provision of this Act or is otherwise qualified to vote, or willfully fail or refuse to tabulate, count, and report such person's vote. (11.a.1)

    Here, the law calls out any private citizen that would work to suppress votes. That kind of nonsense is definitely against the principles laid out in the Constitution.

  • Equality

    No voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure shall be imposed or applied by any State or political subdivision to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color. (1.1)

    This is the main ideological thrust of the document, as well as its most apt summary. It seeks to demolish any racially based discrimination in American voting.

    If in a proceeding instituted by the Attorney General under any statute to enforce the guarantees of the fifteenth amendment in any State or political subdivision the court finds that a test or device has been used for the purpose or with the effect of denying or abridging the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color, it shall suspend the use of tests and devices in such State or political subdivisions as the court shall determine is appropriate and for such period as it deems necessary. (3.b.1)

    This punishment is the most direct tool of enforcing equality the bill provides. Equal access is completely ensured if every restriction is forcibly removed.

  • Rules and Order

    No person acting under color of law shall fail or refuse to permit any person to vote who is entitled to vote under any provision of this Act or is otherwise qualified to vote, or willfully fail or refuse to tabulate, count, and report such person's vote. (11.a.1)

    A redundant—albeit necessary—provision. Say it louder for the people in the back: you can't go around ignoring laws whenever you want.

    Whoever knowingly or willfully gives false information as to his name, address, or period of residence in the voting district for the purpose of establishing his eligibility to register or vote, or conspires with another individual for the purpose of encouraging his false registration to vote or illegal voting, or pays or offers to pay or accepts payment either for registration to vote or for voting shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned not more than five years, or both…. (11.c.1)

    This bill, right here, cuts both ways. It not only legislates against those who would prevent access to voting, but also people who would vote illegally. The idea that—let's say for a hypothetical random number's sake--three million voters could have voted illegally is kind of preposterous thanks to this provision.

    Whoever, within a year following an election in a political subdivision in which an examiner has been appointed (1) destroys, defaces, mutilates, or otherwise alters the marking of a paper ballot which has been cast in such election, or (2) alters any official record of voting in such election tabulated from a voting machine or otherwise, shall be fined not more than $5,000, or imprisoned not more than five years, or both. (11.b.1-2)

    Tampering with ballots is a federal offense, folks—paper, digital, or otherwise.

    No court other than the District Court for the District of Columbia or a court of appeals in any proceeding under section 9 shall have jurisdiction to issue any declaratory judgment pursuant to section 4 or section 5 or any restraining order or temporary or permanent injunction against the execution or enforcement of any provision of this Act or any action of any Federal officer or employee pursuant hereto. (13.b.1)

    This bill is off-limits to state courts. Only Federal courts can have anything to do with modifying it.

    Whenever in any political subdivision in which there are examiners appointed pursuant to this Act any persons allege to such an examiner within forty-eight hours after the closing of the polls that notwithstanding (1) their listing under this Act or registration by an appropriate election official and (2) their eligibility to vote, they have not been permitted to vote in such election, the examiner shall forthwith notify the Attorney General if such allegations in his opinion appear to be well founded. Upon receipt of such notification, the Attorney General may forthwith file with the district court an application for an order providing for the marking, casting, and counting of the ballots of such persons and requiring the inclusion of their votes in the total vote before the results of such election shall be deemed final and any force or effect given thereto. The district court shall hear and determine such matters immediately after the filing of such application. The remedy provided in this subsection shall not preclude any remedy available under State or Federal law. (12.e.1-2)

    Stalling out voters from being able to vote isn't a tactic, either; the Attorney General can circumvent local deadlines, so long as the delay isn't too great.

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