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.
● 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?
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?