Sections Four and Five of the Voting Rights Act of 1965

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America is one of the most progressive and democratic nations in the world. It is also a global leader in the observance of fundamental human rights. One such right is the freedom to vote without being discriminated against based on race, gender, or ethnicity. The US is one of the most diverse countries in the world as it has allowed millions of people from different nationalities to gain American citizenship through the rightful channels (Schuit & Rogowski, 2017). However, the country has experienced and still experiences numerous challenges in implementing equality laws. President Lyndon B. Johnson’s regime, which started in 1963 and lasted until 1969, was the most eventful with regards to civil rights

On March 15, 1965, President Johnson, in a joint session of Congress, urged members to expedite legislation that guaranteed equal rights for all American citizens irrespective of race and ethnicity (Bullock et al., 2016). The legislative process culminated in the passing of Sections Four and Five of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Racial discrimination in voting had previously been a norm throughout the country. It was particularly rife in southern states, most of which had state laws that explicitly prevented African-Americans from participating in the political process. For example, there was legislation that had made it mandatory for people to take a literacy test as a condition for them to be allowed to vote.

The scope and structure of the legislation that guaranteed equal voting rights in Sections Four and Five of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were futuristic and aimed at making the United States a beacon of democracy in the years to come (Schuit & Rogowski, 2017). The voting legislation made it clear that no proficiency tests had to be conducted for a person to be allowed to participate in the electoral process, clarifying that its purpose was “To assure that the right of citizens of the United States to vote is not denied or abridged on account of race or color…” (Voting Rights Act of 1965).

The reason why President Johnson and the authors of the Act felt the need to adopt the new model that guaranteed equal voting can be explained through Johnson’s doctrine. Even before ascending to the presidency after the assassination of President JF Kennedy, he was a civil rights activist. Part of the reason that necessitated President Johnson and the authors of the Act in this case the United States Congress was to make a ‘Great Society’ for America (Coleman & Library of Congress, 2015). This vision the one that the slain President Kennedy had been assassinated shared with President Johnson who deputized him. President Johnson was determined to see this happen, and that motivated his ambition and resolve to end racial injustice and poverty in America.

It is for this reason that he felt that Congress owed the late President Kennedy a debt of gratitude in seeing sections four and five of the voting rights bill passed and made into law.

Before the law was amended in 1965, very few African –Americans were registered voters. They, therefore, had little or no political power locally and nationally (Hasen, 2018). This is one of the problems that necessitated the amendment of the voting rights legislation. People needed political power and rights to the people to vote irrespective of their race. Political power rests with the people by virtue of participating in the electoral process and exercising their democratic rights.

Overcoming the legal barriers at the state and federal level for the African Americans that had been created to deny them the right to participate in the electoral process the necessitated 15th amendment of the US constitution. This amendment was the Voting Act in 1965 which President Johnson asked a joint sitting of the Congress to support his rallying call. The net effect of the guaranteeing of equal voting prior to secluding the African-Americans from voting was that the numbers of African- Americans that were registered voters increased from twenty-three percent before 1965 to sixty-one percent in 1969 (Bullock et al., 2016).

The resultant effect of the passing of the voting rights legislation is that it gave the minority communities in the United States such as the African –American motivation a new resolve to fight for their rights on different fronts. Civil rights movements grew increasingly influential, and the government of the day had to listen to them keenly. The legislation and enactment of the voting rights Act in 1965 were regarded as the most comprehensive civil rights win due to the goodwill from a section of the political class (Schuit & Rogowski, 2017). The battle to fight racial discrimination and segregation gained momentum when equal voting rights were granted to all American citizens.

American society became more cohesive as the pursuit for democracy and basic fundamental rights gained more following as the issue of racial discrimination was fought on a new frontier that was the constitution. The society became more integrated and united, and racial equality on matters of political and social nature were discussed openly without restricting the contribution of minorities. African-Americans became increasingly aggressive in their quest to be recognized and granted equal status as Whites.


  1. Bullock, C. S., Gaddie, R. K., & Wert, J. J. (2016). The rise and fall of the Voting Rights Act (Vol. 2). University of Oklahoma Press.
  2. Coleman, K. J., & Library of Congress. (2015). The Voting Rights Act of 1965: Background and overview.
  3. Hasen, R. L. (2018). Civil Right No. 1: Dr. King’s unfinished voting rights revolution. U. Mem. L. Rev., 49, 137.
  4. Schuit, S., & Rogowski, J. C. (2017). Race, representation, and the voting rights act. American Journal of Political Science, 61(3), 513-526.
  5. Voting Rights Act of 1965, 42 U. S. C. § 1973, 79 U. S. Statutes At Large, 437. (1973)

Cite this paper

Sections Four and Five of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. (2021, Apr 08). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/sections-four-and-five-of-the-voting-rights-act-of-1965/

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