As the Presidential election quickly approaches, the reminder to vote is everywhere and a very important part of our civic duty. As secondary students, your students probably aren’t old enough to vote yet, but it is so important to instill a desire and duty to vote while teaching them how to become informed voters.’
It is important to discuss the history of voting and who has had the right and privilege throughout history. Your students would not have been allowed to vote when the rights were first established by the Constitution in 1789 unless they are white males over the age of 21. In 1869, African American men were added to the ranks of those allowed to vote, but there were many Jim Crow laws that required literacy tests, special taxes, and Grandfather clauses that prevented those from a slave ancestry from voting. These laws prevented African Americans from voting until 1965 when the Voting Rights Act was passed preventing voting discrimination based on race or ethnicity. In 1920, women were granted the right to vote through the 19th amendment. In 1924, Native Americans were granted the right to vote through the Indian Citizenship Act, but it was 1948 until all states had extended full voting rights to all Native Americans. In 1943, Chinese American immigrants were granted the right to vote by the Magnuson Act.
In 1971, the 26th Amendment allowed adults aged 18-21 the right to vote because of the military action in Vietnam. Protesters advocating for the right said that if you were old enough at 18 to be drafted into the military, you were old enough to vote. The laws around voting have evolved since the right was initially granted and they continue to evolve today. Dive into the history of voting in the United States with your students to help them understand the arduous journey our country has been through to get to where we are and allow everyone over 18 to vote.
Below I have added a few electronic resources to explore the history of voting in our country. Check them out!
The other major thing to teach your students in the voting process is how to be a well-informed voter. Today, more than ever, the country is deeply divided over the Presidential candidates.
How I teach voting and controversial issues?
- Set guidelines for conversations. Encourage your students to look at the facts and remind them that there are at least two sides to every argument and to keep an open mind.
- Have your students watch or read about a candidate from a news source that does not support their current opinions on the candidates. For example, watch FOX News instead of CNN or vice versa to get a different perspective.
- Have students write a few paragraphs on how the position of each candidate can be strengthened. Encourage them to be impartial and look at the issues that the candidates stand for.
- Ask them to teach their classmates about the candidates in a way that does not put them down or build them up. Just the facts. Instead of looking at the man behind the mask the media portrays, perhaps your students will learn something about which candidate would be better for our nation.
Get this amazing three-day lesson on the importance of voting. Every year when I teach my government class my students are super excited to learn about voting in America. I teach them about the voting process and how important it is to our democracy through this voting lesson. I can’t think of a better way to get them civically engaged than to teach my students about the importance of voting, reasons why people do and do not cast their ballots, why low voter turnout is a problem, and how voting is essential to our democracy.
In teaching about the voting process, encourage your students to learn about the history of voting in our country and who was granted rights and when. Most of our country has only been allowed to vote for the last 100 years or even less. Encourage your students to understand the issues and not to make a decision based upon the media’s portrayal of the candidates. They may be surprised by what they find. The more information you learn about the candidates, the more they will understand the power they wield as voters with the electoral college.