The Courts: Challenge to 4(e)

With an eye to tens of thousands of Spanish-speaking Puerto Ricans in New York City who were disenfranchised by a 44-year-old state law requiring that voters demonstrate literacy in English, New York Senator Robert Kennedy last spring pinned a shirttail amendment on the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Labeled Section 4(e), it provided that no U.S. citizen could be denied the vote through a literacy test if he could prove he had a sixth-grade education in any "American flag school"—including the Spanish-language schools in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, where residents have long elected their own Governor and legislature.

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