(Episode 36) What the Fact? The 15th Amendment

Welcome back, Listeners! In this episode, we discuss the 15th Amendment, which prohibits the United States and the States from denying or abridging the right of citizens to vote "on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."  You might be surprised to learn this is the first provision expressly guaranteeing the right to vote, either in the Constitution or any prior Amendments. But this post-Civil-War amendment seems pretty clear to us.

Despite the clear language of the 15th Amendment, States almost immediately enacted voting restrictions designed to disenfranchise black voters, including literacy tests, proving good character (whatever that means), or paying voting taxes. When the Supreme Court was first asked to hold laws like these unconstitutional, the Supreme Court refused on the basis that it did not have any enforcement power against the States. But SCOTUS starts to come around in the 1940s - but based on the 14th Amendment, not the 15th.  Ultimately, more dramatic changes didn't come about until Congress enacted the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

What does the 15th Amendment right to vote mean today? What about laws which indirectly impact minority voting? Join us for this, and more, in our episode!

Additional Resources:
-Some more history leading up to the 15th Amendment
-15th Amendment case law, like Gomillion v. Lightfoot
-14th Amendment due process case law regarding voting, including Smith v. Allwright,
-Non-answers by SCOTUS on voting issues, like in Baker v. Carr and Mobile v. Bolden