American Democracy Is Only 55 Years Old—And Hanging by a Thread

The federal Voting Rights Act required states to ensure access to the polls for Black voters and created federal enforcement mechanisms. The law worked well in the Jim Crow South, but it wasn't built to deal with racial disenfranchisement more broadly. Congress and the courts have stripped important provisions from the bill over time, like those ensuring enforcement. A 2013 Supreme Court ruling dismissed the need for preemptive measures to protect Black voters, which created an opening for states to pass more restrictive voting laws that have created unfair burdens for Black, Latino, and Indigenous voters.

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