High School Students (Grades 7-12)
The Expansion of Voting Rights
The Right to Vote Handout
Assume the United States Congress passed the following law: "The right to vote shall not be denied." The report accompanying the legislation explains that Congress wanted to encourage the greatest amount of voter turnout and to eliminate discrimination on the basis of race and gender, since blacks and women had been denied the right to vote in the past. Moreover, the right to vote is a fundamental principle in our democratic form of government.
Directions: For each of the following examples, decide whether the law has been violated or not. Briefly explain your answer.
- A state requires a person to be at least 21 years old to vote. Sandy Kent is 20 years old and is told she cannot vote.
- A city charges a $5.00 poll tax on all persons of voting age. Those who do not pay the tax cannot vote. The tax money is used to improve the school system in the city. Steve Eller does not pay the $5.00 and is not allowed to vote.
- A state passes a law that denies convicted felons the right to vote until five years after completion of their full sentences. Anita Jackson, serving a ten-year sentence for committing a felony, is told she cannot vote.
- A state requires everyone who registers to vote to pass a literacy test. More difficult tests are given to blacks than to whites. 55% of the blacks fail the tests while only 10% of the whites fail. David Anderson, an African-American man who failed the test, is not allowed to vote.
- A state requires a person to be a resident for at least a year before he or she can vote. Dana Brown has been a resident for six months and is not allowed to vote.
(download this handout as a word document)
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