Who should be able to vote – 2020 is both an election year


2020 is both an election year and the 150th anniversary of the passage of the 15th Amendment, making it an important time to consider the history of voting rights in the United States. The struggle for the ballot is emblematic of the struggle to make real the democratic promises of this country’s founding narrative. As we have seen historically, the right to vote has always been incomplete, contested, and compromised by the racism, sexism, classism, and xenophobia of policymakers and the interests they act to protect. Voting rights have expanded in the last 400 years, but they have also been taken away, requiring activists to rise up, again and again, to restore the achievements of prior generations. The fight for the ballot is ongoing. Recent elections have brought forth the old problem of voter suppression in a new guise — voter ID laws, voter roll purges, polling places shuttered. This assignment is broken into several sections related to the way in which people take part in the electoral system and the struggles that have existed at local and national levels.

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Source Materials:

Watch: ? Suppressed: The Fight to Vote documentary (35m), involving the 2018

Georgia gubernatorial election


Part A. In a paragraph or so each, answer the questions below. Be descriptive in your discussion of your answer and make sure to back it up with info from the materials or from the interactive websites.

1. Look at the US Government Voter Information Website

Links to an external site.



. What are voting restrictions that exist today in your state? Make a short list below. Out of that list, what do you think is stepping over the line/not harsh enough/should be changed?

2. Pay particular attention to the sections “Who Can’t Vote”.

Links to an external site.

What is the description of voting rights for those currently incarcerated or former incarcerated persons in your state? What is you opinion on this aspect of the discussion of voter rights?

3. Some discussion of voting laws focus on who people are, their national origin, education, etc. What of the following descriptors do you accept as limits or expansions on voting? What is your critique of these limitations? Pick 3 of the 10 issues below that you find most reasonable to the creation of an informed electorate. Write a few sentences on each and why you picked these as either necessary, or the lesser evil in this case.

? Lower the voting age ? Require completion of a certain year/level of schooling ? Know something about the Constitution ? Know something about the candidates/issues being voted on ? Know how to read ? Not be a felon ? Expand voting rights to Green Card holders ? Be able to pay a poll tax to vote ? Pass a mental competency test ? Ownership of land or $20,000 in assets

How do these limitations above reflect historical limitations based on voting that you are aware of?

Part B.

4. Create a 1-page write-up/300 words, (double-spaced, Times New Roman 12pt font) of your overall findings in this research.



Watch the short documentary Suppressed: The Fight to Vote (35m). This is about the governor’s election in Georgia in 2018 and many of the ways people were left out of the voting process. It also discusses issues nationwide that disproportionately affect lower economic areas and people of color in the United States.

Answer these questions in your write up: What historical parallels do you see between the fight to gain the right to vote throughout the time period of our class and the issues going on in Georgia in 2018? How do these relate to the 15th Amendment and what suggestions do you have to rectify this issue of contentious access to voting?

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