Voting Rights Act:

Enforcement Needs Strengthening

GGD-78-19: Published: Feb 6, 1978. Publicly Released: Feb 6, 1978.

Additional Materials:


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

The 1965 Voting Rights Act was designed to alleviate racial and language discrimination in voting, thereby securing the franchise for U.S. citizens of all races. The act's general provisions apply throughout the United States; special provisions apply in States and localities that meet certain conditions. The 1975 amendments added minority language provisions which apply in some States and localities.

The Department of Justice's program for enforcing the act has contributed toward greater political participation by citizens of all races. However, the act's purposes have not been fully realized because: (1) the Department has not adequately monitored jurisdictions covered by special provisions to determine whether these jurisdictions submit their proposed election law changes for review; (2) sufficient data are lacking to adequately assess the effectiveness of the act's examiner and observer programs; (3) litigative efforts have been limited; (4) language provisions do not cover all language minorities needing assistance; (5) implementation of minority language provisions is hampered by vague guidelines and lack of Department assistance; and (6) the Bureau of the Census has a congressional mandate to perform biennial minority voter participation surveys which are costly and of little value.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: The Attorney General should improve compliance by developing procedures for: informing States and localities periodically of their responsibilities, identifying States and localities not submitting voting law changes, and monitoring whether States and localities are implementing election law changes over the Department's objections. He should also: reassess current guidelines to determine what documentation States and localities should submit; develop costs, minority participation, and other data on the examiner and observer programs and perform a thorough evaluation of their operation; and develop a systematic approach to identifying litigative matters in the voting rights area. Congress should consider amending the act to establish a coverage requirement based on a jurisdiction's needs rather than just a percentage coverage formula.


Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »