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Give Us the Vote: 50 Years After the Voting Rights Act

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President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act of 1965 while Martin Luther King and others look on

It’s been 50 years since the Voting Rights Act was signed into law. Author and investigative journalist Ari Berman says the legislation was supposed to serve as an enforcement mechanism for the 15th Amendment.

“We passed prohibition on racial discrimination on voting, but we didn’t enforce it. The Voting Rights Act first abolished literacy tests and poll taxes in states they had been used most frequently. Then it sent federal officials to the south to register voters. In places like Selma, only 2% of people were registered to vote.”

The result was a huge increase in voter registration and consequently voter turnout.

“In two weeks after it was passed, 25,000 people were registered. That was a four-fold increase in some places,” Berman explains.

His book “Give Us The Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America” is out this month. During this River to River interview, he talks with host Ben Kieffer about the book and the 2013 Supreme Court Decision that stripped the Voting Rights Act of its enforcement mechanism and its potential impact on the upcoming Presidential election. 

Lindsey Moon is IPR's Senior Digital Producer
Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River