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.