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This amendment was ratified in 1870. It guarantees all citizens the right to vote regardless of race, color, or prior condition of servitude.


The right to vote freely for the candidate of one's choice is of the essence of a democratic society. The Fifteenth Amendment promised unequivocally that “[t]he right of citizens of the United States to vote” no longer would be “denied or abridged . . . by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” U.S. Const., Amdt. 15, § 1. But “[a] number of states . . . refused to take no for an answer and continued to circumvent the fifteenth amendment's prohibition through the use of both subtle and blunt instruments, perpetuating ugly patterns of pervasive racial discrimination.” Blumstein, Defining and Proving Race Discrimination: Perspectives on the Purpose vs. Results Approach from the Voting Rights Act, 69 Va. L. Rev. 633, 637 (1983). Ostensibly race-neutral devices such as literacy tests with “grandfather” clauses and “good character” provisos were devised to deprive black voters of the franchise. Another of the weapons in the States' arsenal was the racial gerrymander - “the deliberate and arbitrary distortion of district boundaries . . . ...

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