Lesson Plans

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Lesson Plans


These teaching ideas appear throughout this issue of Insights on Law & Society as “Learning Gateways.”

Download handouts and other resources from these links:

Voter ID Laws

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During recent legislative sessions, many states passed or revised voter identification laws, often with the stated rationale of preventing voter fraud. This lesson asks students to analyze a political cartoon, consider multiple perspectives on the issue, and form their own opinion about the issue.

Ask students to examine the cartoon and read the captions.

Discuss the meaning of the cartoon with students:

  1. What do you think this cartoon suggests? How might you complete the last frame?
  2. Do you think the cartoonist is making a fair comparison? Why or why not?
  3. Do you agree with the statement that the cartoonist is making? Why or why not?

Extended Activities

  • Have students look up voter identification requirements for their state. Is identification needed to vote? What forms of identification are acceptable? Do you think these requirements are adequate? Why or why not? Students might write letters to state legislators outlining their arguments for or against laws in place.
  • Students might conduct research on voter fraud cases in their state, and if and how they were prosecuted. They might develop a public service announcement about the effects of voter fraud on elections and the need to prevent such incidents.
1. Download a copy of the cartoon
2. Find out Voter ID requirements in your state

Could You Vote?

Students take an actual Alabama literacy test, grade it in class, and use the results to determine if they would have been eligible to vote prior to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. They also analyze excerpts of the act and learn about voting requirements in their own state.

Procedure:

  1. Distribute the “Constitution Test” handout, and ask students to complete the test in 10 minutes. If students ask if the test will count, or how scores will be determined, tell them you haven’t decided yet.
  2. After 10 minutes, ask students to trade papers. As you read the answers, students should grade their classmates’ papers. Once papers are returned to students, explain that they just took an actual literacy test that was used in the state of Alabama for voting prior to 1965.
  3. Discuss the following questions with students:
        - Do you think that you passed the test?
        - Do you think this test is fair? Should it determine whether or not you are able to vote?
        - What do you think happened if you could not pass the test? Could not read the test? What effect would this have on American democracy?
  4. Distribute the “Excerpts from the Voting Rights Act of 1965” handout, and discuss the highlighted sections with students:
        - Would the test you just took be allowed under this act?
        - What kind of protections does this act offer to Americans?
  5. Conclude the lesson by asking students to research, or sharing with students, voting requirements in their state. Students might discuss how voting laws in their state relate to the Voting Rights Act, if laws are fair or need to be changed, or alternative laws that might be enacted.
1. Constitution Test and Voting Rights Handouts
2. Learn more about voting requirements in your state

Challenged Ballots: You Be the Judge!

Representatives from both Norm Coleman and Al Franken’s campaigns challenged ballots from across the state during the Minnesota Senate recount in 2008. Every single vote for the U.S. Senate candidate was recounted by hand for a total of almost three million ballots. The recount process was challenging, as many ballots were unclear. Recount officials had to examine these ballots, and with Minnesota state law as a reference, decide first whether or not the ballots were valid and then which candidate the voters were intending to select. The following suggestions offer students opportunities to learn more about how ballots are counted, not only in Minnesota, but in their own state.

  1. In this activity, students have the same opportunity to become recount officials, determining how each ballot should be counted, or not, under state law. Minnesota Public Radio has assembled approximately 50 ballots online that were challenged during the 2008 Minnesota Senate recount. Students must examine the ballot, use the provided Minnesota state law to determine how it should be counted, and vote accordingly. Upon voting, students may see poll results, and compare their vote to all of the votes received.
  2. Students could research ballot counting and election recount laws in their state. What mechanisms are in place to ensure that ballots are counted accurately and fairly? Are the laws in place adequate? Students might write op-eds explaining why or why not. If laws are not adequate, students might write new laws for their state, or work with lawmakers to develop new laws.
  3. Students might research recent and historic election recounts in U.S. history or their own state’s history. How did laws govern or courts influence the recount process? Did the process seem fair? Why or why not? Students could present their findings in a classroom museum exhibit about the courts and election recounts.

1. Contested Ballots from Minnesota Public Radio
2. Find out what recount laws are in place in your state

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Insights on Law and Society is edited by Tiffany Middleton. She can be reached at tiffany.middleton@americanbar.org.