Public Law 88-352 was approved by Congress in 1964. (78 Stat. 241). Discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, or national origin is prohibited by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It also increased voting rights enforcement and school desegregation.
Voting rights were already protected under the Fifteenth Amendment (which prohibits discrimination in the vote based on race), but there had been no effective enforcement of this amendment. The Voting Rights Act is an example of Congress taking action to prevent violations of constitutional rights with its power under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.
The act provided for federal oversight of state and local elections in areas with a history of racial discrimination in voting. And it established a Commission on Racial Equality to study issues related to racial discrimination in voting practices and to make recommendations on how to improve election procedures. The commission's findings and proposals were used by Congress when it revised the act in 1975, 1982, and 1993. In addition, the act created the position of attorney general at the Department of Justice to enforce provisions of the act.
In summary, the Voting Rights Act of 1964 aimed to eliminate racial discrimination in voting by requiring certain states with a history of discrimination to obtain federal approval for any changes to their election laws. This legislation was necessary because after decades of racial discrimination in voting practices, many African-Americans still did not have the right to vote.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Pub. L. 88-352, 78 Stat. 241, enacted July 2, 1964) is a major civil rights and labor law in the United States that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, national origin, and, eventually, sexual orientation and gender identity. It also provides for equal employment opportunities for women, an important goal at the time. The act was introduced into Congress by President Johnson and developed over several months as he sought to address racial tensions following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in April 1968.
It included provisions intended to protect the right to vote, especially for African Americans who had been prevented from doing so in previous elections. Other sections banned discrimination in places of public accommodation (such as restaurants, hotels, and theaters), imposed antidiscrimination requirements on federal contractors, and created a new federal agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which was given authority to enforce the act's provisions.
In addition to these provisions, the act also included a section known as the "Johnson Amendment" (Public Law 88-272). Originally introduced into Congress as an amendment to the tax code, it prohibited any religious organization or institution from refusing to hire someone because they were Catholic or Jewish, for example. Although not specifically mentioned by name, this provision was widely understood to be a response to concerns raised by Southern Baptist leaders about efforts by some Catholics to obtain employment with churches in the South during the era of segregation.
President Lyndon B. Johnson signed this measure into law on August 6, 1965. It prohibited the discriminatory voting practices that several southern states implemented following the Civil War, such as literacy tests as a requirement to vote. The act also required that certain changes be made to increase African American access to the ballot box.
The first section of the act banned discrimination in voter registration lists. This prevented states from rejecting potential voters for fraudulent reasons (such as if they had debts or were in jail).
The second section provided federal funds to support "citizen action" programs in select states with histories of discrimination. These programs included education campaigns about elections and voting procedures led by nonprofit organizations; training opportunities for community leaders who wanted to organize around issues related to voting; and funding for low-income individuals to pay for their own ballots. States were required to submit plans for receiving these funds, which were reviewed by civil rights groups.
The third section amended the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause so that it would apply to state governments when they acted like private parties in relation to voting. Previously, only citizens were guaranteed equal protection under the law. By including states within its scope, the amendment allowed for lawsuits to be filed against them based on their actions toward racial minorities regarding voting laws.