Voting Rights Laws

Various federal laws passed over the years help protect Americans’ right to vote and make it easier for citizens to exercise that right:

  • The Civil Rights Acts provide some of the early federal statutory protections against discrimination in voting (42 U.S.C. 1971 & 1974). These protections originated in the Civil Rights Act of 1870, and were later amended by the Civil Rights Acts of 1957, 1960 and 1964.
  • Voting Rights Act of 1965 – This law prohibits voting practices and procedures that discriminate based on race, color or membership in a language minority group. It also requires certain jurisdictions to provide election materials in languages other than English.
  • Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act of 1984 – This law generally requires polling places to be accessible to people with disabilities.
  • Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) of 1986 – This law allows members of the U.S. Armed Forces and overseas voters to both register to vote and vote by mail.
  • National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) of 1993 – This law increases opportunities to register to vote and creates procedures for maintaining voter registration lists, making it easier for people to stay registered.
  • Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 – This law authorized federal funds for election administration and created the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. It also required states to adopt minimum standards on  voting systems, provisional ballots, voter information posters on election days, first time voters who register to vote by mail and statewide voter registration databases. The EAC helps states to comply with these requirements.
  • Military and Overseas Voting Empowerment (MOVE) Act of 2009 – This law amended the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act to improve access to voting by military and overseas voters. It required states to provide electronic access to various parts of the election process, mail absentee ballots to certain voters at least 45 days before an election, and develop a free access system to inform military and overseas voters about whether their voted ballots were received and counted.