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The Voting Rights Act: Disfranchisement, Dilution, and Alternative Election Systems

  • Richard L. Engstrom (a1)

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The Voting Rights Act (VRA) (79 Stat. 667) is widely regarded as the most effective piece of civil rights legislation enacted in the United States. Adopted initially in 1965 to protect the voting rights of African Americans, it was expanded in 1975 to protect the voting rights of specified language minorities: Hispanice, Native Americans, Native Alaskans, and Asian Americans.

A number of important changes in American politics can be traced directly to the VRA. The first is the dramatic increase in the number of minority voters. The major barriers to minority group members registering to vote and casting ballots have been removed as a result of the Act; consequently, minority disfranchisement is only rarely an issue today.

The expansion of the minority electorate was critical to another important change, the increase in the number of minority elected officials. Minority voter support has usually been essential to the electoral success of minority candidates. Growth in the minority electorate in the United States was followed by an increase in minority officeholders. The magnitude of this increase, however, has been dependent on additional VRA provisions.

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References

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Alt, James E. 1994. “The Impact of the Voting Rights Act on Black and White Voter Registration in the South.” In Quiet Revolution in the South, ed. Davidson, Chandler and Grofman, Bernard. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Derfner, Armand. 1981. “The Implications of the City of Mobile Case for Extension of the Voting Rights Act.” In The Right to Vote. New York: The Rockefeller Foundation.
Engstrom, Richard L. 1992. “Modified Multi-Seat Election Systems as Remedies for Minority Vote Dilution.” Stetson Law Review 21:743–70.
Engstrom, Richard L., Still, Edward, and Kirksey, Jason F. Forthcoming. “Limited and Cumulative Voting in Alabama.” National Political Science Review.
Garrow, David J. 1978. Protest at Selma. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Grofman, Bernard, and Davidson, Chandler. 1994. “The Effect of Municipal Election Structure on Black Representation in Eight Southern States.” In Quiet Revolution in the South, ed. Davidson, Chandler and Grofman, Bernard. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Handley, Lisa, and Grofman, Bernard. 1994. “The Impact of the Voting Rights Act on Minority Representation.” In Quiet Revolution in the South. Davidson, Chandler and Grofman, Bernard, eds. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. 1993. National Roster of Black Elected Officials: 1993. Washington, DC: Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.
NALEO Education Fund. 1993. 1993 National Roster of Hispanic Elected Officials. Washington, DC: NALEO Education Fund.
U.S. Bureau of the Census. 1993. Voting and Registration in the Election of November 1992. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office.
U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. 1968. Political Participation. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office.

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The Voting Rights Act: Disfranchisement, Dilution, and Alternative Election Systems

  • Richard L. Engstrom (a1)

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