Congress enacted major amendments to the Voting Rights Act of 1965
in 1970, 1975, 1982, 1992, and 2006. Each of these amendments coincided with an impending expiration of some of the Act's special provisions, which originally were set to expire by 1970. However, in recognition of the voting discrimination that continued despite the Act, Congress repeatedly amended the Act to reauthorize the special provisions. In each of these amendments except for the 1992 amendments, Congress extended the special provisions that were tied to the coverage formula, such as the preclearance requirement. These provisions were extended for five years in 1970, seven years in 1975, and 25 years in both 1982 and 2006. In 1970 and 1975, Congress also expanded the coverage formula, supplementing it with new 1968 and 1972 trigger dates. Coverage was further enlarged in 1975 when Congress expanded the meaning of "tests or devices" to encompass any jurisdiction that provided English-only election information, such as ballots, if the jurisdiction had a single language minority group that constituted more than five percent of the jurisdiction's voting-age citizens. These expansions brought numerous jurisdictions into coverage, including many located outside of the South. To ease the burdens of the reauthorized special provisions, Congress liberalized the bailout procedure in 1982, allowing covered jurisdictions to escape coverage by upholding the voting rights of protected minorities and affirmatively acting to expand minority political participation.
In addition to reauthorizing the special provisions and expanding coverage, Congress amended and added several other provisions to the Act. For instance, Congress expanded the original ban on "tests or devices" to apply nationwide in 1970, and in 1975, Congress made the ban permanent. Separately, in 1975 Congress expanded the Act's scope to protect language minorities from voting discrimination. Congress defined "language minority" to include "persons who are American Indian, Asian American, Alaskan Natives or of Spanish heritage." Congress amended various provisions, such as the Section 5 preclearance requirement and Section 2 general prohibition of discriminatory voting laws, to prohibit discrimination against language minorities. Congress also enacted a bilingual election requirement in Section 203, which requires election officials in certain jurisdictions with large numbers of English-illiterate language minorities to provide ballots and voting information in the language of the language minority group. Originally set to expire after 10 years, Congress reauthorized Section 203 in 1982 for seven years, expanded and reauthorized it in 1992 for 15 years, and reauthorized it in 2006 for 25 years. The bilingual election requirements have remained controversial, with proponents arguing that bilingual assistance is necessary to enable recently naturalized citizens to vote and opponents arguing that the bilingual election requirements constitute costly unfunded mandates.
Several of the amendments responded to judicial rulings that Congress disagreed with. In 1982, amended the Section 2 general prohibition of discriminatory voting laws to overturn the Supreme Court case Mobile v. Bolden
(1980), which held that Section 2 prohibited only purposeful
discrimination. Congress expanded Section 2 to explicitly ban any voting practice that had a discriminatory effect, irrespective of whether the practice was enacted or operated for a discriminatory purpose. The creation of this "results test" shifted the majority of litigation brought under the Voting Rights Act from claims of Section 5 violations to claims of Section 2 violations. In 2006, Congress amended the Act to overturn two Supreme Court cases: Reno v. Bossier Parish School Board
(2000), which interpreted Section 5 to prohibit voting changes that were enacted or maintained for a "retrogressive" discriminatory purpose instead of any discriminatory purpose, and Georgia v. Ashcroft
(2003), which established a broader test for determining whether a redistricting plan had an impermissible effect under Section 5 than assessing only whether a minority group could elect its preferred candidates. In 2014, the Voting Rights Amendments Act was introduced in Congress to create a new coverage formula and amend various other provisions in response to the Supreme Court case Shelby County v. Holder
(2013), which struck down the current coverage formula as unconstitutional.