The Voting Rights Act was enacted in 1965 by the U.S. Congress to assure that the right of citizens to vote is not denied or abridged due to race or color.

There are two major provisions of the Voting Rights Act. One is referred to as Section 2. This section prohibits racial discrimination in voting nationwide. A voter may bring an action in federal court under this provision if they feel their right to vote has been denied or in any way affected due to race.

The other major provision is referred to as Section 5. This portion of the Act affects only covered states, including South Carolina. Under the provision of this section, no change affecting voting may be implemented without prior clearance from the United States Justice Department in Washington, D.C. or a three-judge court in the District of Columbia. Examples of the types of changes covered by the Act are reapportionment or the changes in an elected officials' constituency district, a change in an office from elective to appointive or appointive to elective, changes in precinct lines, and changes in a term of office.

Any change in the election procedure from that currently in effect must be cleared before it is implemented. That means that actions affecting voting rights enacted by the State or a county, city, school district or any other political subdivision of the State must be submitted for approval prior to having that proposed change go into effect.

If the submission is made to the Justice Department, as opposed to the courts, the Justice Department has up to 60 days before they must enter an objection or no objection to the proposed change. If they enter no objection the act may be implemented. If they object the law cannot go into effect.

The Voting Rights Act was extended in 1982 for another 25 years and will expire in the year 2007 unless it is again extended by the U.S. Congress.

This information was prepared to give you some general information on the law. It is not intended as legal advice about any particular problem. If you have questions about the law you should consult a lawyer. If you do not know a lawyer, you can call the South Carolina Bar Lawyer Referral Service weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. The number is 799-7100 in Richland or Lexington Counties, and 1-800-868-2284 from other parts of the state.