This lesson provides students with a brief overview of the historical evolution and expansion of voting rights in the United States. Students will discuss examples of previous “voting qualifications” used by states in the past to deny minorities the right to vote. They will reflect on why the right to vote is important, and appreciate the outcomes of constitutional amendments, Supreme Court decisions, and the Voting Rights Act in the expansion of this right.
On August 6, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law. This landmark piece of legislation made discrimination based on race illegal. This law protected the right to vote for all citizens; forced states to obey the Constitution; and reinforced the 15th Amendment. The Share My Lesson team has curated a collection of free lesson plans, activities, and classroom materials that educators can use to teach students about the Voting Rights Act.
Using this resource, students will view short C-SPAN video clips exploring the background and different arguments surrounding the question over the current voting age. This deliberation has students learn about the history of lowering the voting age and explore the question: Should the voting age be lowered to 16?
On August 28, 1963, approximately 250,000 people participated in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which is considered to be one of the largest peaceful political rallies for human rights in history. Among other events, the march participants gathered at the Lincoln Memorial to hear Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech. Many consider The Great March on Washington to be the event that encouraged the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Share My Lesson team has created this collection of free lessons and classroom materials to help middle and high school educators teach their students about this historic event.
In this lesson, students will discuss what qualifications are necessary to vote. The activity presents a series of potential voters for a student council election, and asks that students either allow or prohibit each person from voting. After reflecting on their justifications, they will learn that states and the federal government have very few restrictions on voting. The instructor might then lead a discussion on the importance of voting to the democratic process
Explore the evolution of voting rights in the United States through an interactive PowerPoint presentation highlighting landmark changes. Following the presentation and class discussion, students apply the new knowledge of voting legislation to individual scenarios through a class activity. This lesson is one in a series called “Civil Rights.”
The history of the amendments to the Constitution is, in one sense, a history of the expansion of certain political freedoms, including voting. At the Founding of the United States, many groups, including landless white men, slaves, free blacks, and women, could not vote. Much has changed since then. Almost a third of the amendments added to the Constitution after the Bill of Rights was ratified concern the ability to vote. The Nineteenth Amendment gave the vote to women, while the Twenty-third, Twenty-fourth, and Twenty-sixth amendments gave representation to the District of Columbia, forbid poll taxes, and lowered the voting age to 18, respectively. The passage of each of these Amendments reflected a shift towards making voting a right of all citizens, and indeed a fundamental part of citizenship.
Google Cultural Institute exhibit by Constitutional Rights Foundation & Barat Education Foundation’s Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources Program. Long before the pilgrims landed, voting and elections were taking place in America. For example, the Five Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, a powerful alliance of Native American tribes who inhabited territory west of the Colonies, had established a system of representative government sometime around 1500 that lasted until the Revolutionary War. Women played a prominent role in choosing its political leaders.
On August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the United State Constitution was ratified, thus granting women the right to vote. The ratification of this amendment was a result of the powerful, unwavering momentum of hundreds of women who first convened a women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York. This collection provides free lessons that will help students learn more about this important time in history, highlighting important developments in not only Women’s Rights, but U.S. Civil Rights and other amendments to the Constitution.
In this activity, students will explore the struggle for universal suffrage long after both men and women constitutionally had the right to vote. Following a progressive timeline, primary sources highlight voting problems that arose for minority groups throughout the 20th century. Students will answer questions as they work through the documents to reflect on if and when universal suffrage was ultimately achieved.