Lesson 2: The Constitution, Federal Law, and Voting Rights
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Lesson 2: The Constitution, Federal Law, and Voting Rights

The right to vote has been won for different groups throughout U.S. history. (45 minutes)


View the pie chart “2016 Eligible Voters.” (citation).  

  • What observations can you make?
  • Who did the plurality of eligible voters choose? 

Have a brief discussion about the popular vote and the Electoral College, the difference between a majority and a plurality, and the impact that nonvoters and minor party voters can have on elections.

Review Key Terms

Franchise/disenfranchise, suffrage, voter suppression, plurality (vs. majority), popular vote, Electoral College

Discuss in Groups 

Students analyze a clause in the US Constitution or a federal law. Group discussion question: Does the clause or law extend voter rights to, or disenfranchise a group of people? Assign one group member to report back to whole class.

Whole class activity

On Padlet, Jamboard, or Google Doc, create a horizontal timeline with 25-year increments from 1750 to 2050. Students first place their clause or law from the above activity on the timeline. If it advances voting rights, place it above the timeline. If it restricts voting rights, place it below the line. If it does both, place it directly on the line.

Individual Work/Homework

Students use selected resources to analyze other clauses, laws and events that impacted voting rights. Then they place 3 to 5 items on their T-charts and explain why it advances or restricts voting rights.

Optional Activity

Give students a sample literacy test given to Black residents attempting to vote
in the late 1950s or early 1960s. Tests collected by the Bay Area Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement.