The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (42 U.S.C. §§ 1973–1973bb-1) is a landmark piece of federal legislation in the United States that prohibits discrimination in voting. It was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson during the height of the American Civil Rights Movement, and Congress later amended the Act five times to expand its protections. Designed to enforce the voting rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, the Act allowed for a mass enfranchisement of racial minorities throughout the country, especially in the South. It is widely considered one of the most effective pieces of civil rights legislation ever enacted in the United States.
The Act establishes extensive federal oversight over elections. Echoing the language of the Fifteenth Amendment, Section 2 of the Act prohibits any state or local government from imposing any “voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure … in a manner which results in a denial or abridgement of the right to vote on account of” race or language minority status. In addition to this general prohibition, the Act specifically outlaws literacy tests and similar devices that were historically used to disfranchise minorities.