Voting Rights Act Section 2: Racially Polarized Voting and the Minority Community’s Representative of Choice

A much needed congressional effort to give substance to African-American suffrage resulted in the enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (the Act). Although the fifteenth amendment gave African-American men the right to vote in 1870, almost a hundred years later they were still largely unable to exercise the right. This condition did not result from apathy on the part of African-American voters, but rather from their inability to overcome barriers set up by white racists. Practices whites instituted, such as “[l]iteracy and ‘understanding’ tests, poll taxes, the white primary, intimidation, [and] violence,” prevented African-Americans from realizing their constitutional right to vote.

Part I analyzes the case law, beginning with the first Supreme Court interpretation of section 2 and then examining the three general ways the lower courts have responded. Part II explores the legislative history of the amendment to section 2 in order to uncover congressional intent. Part III then proposes a solution based on congressional intent and a theory of civic inclusion for minorities. Finally, Part III concludes by testing the proposed solution against the concerns which originally created the debate and shows that the solution meets the concerns voiced on both sides of the issue.