Voting Matters

CLP Current Event: November 6, 2018

Today is Election Day! Help students understand why voting matters with this week’s CLP Current Event.

Brought to teachers by Susie Marcus, CLP consultant, with CLP staff.

News Sources

Trust in democracy, Dean tells crowd, by Patricia LeBoeuf, Bennington Banner, October 28, 2018
“There’s also a price to pay if one wants to live in a democratic society — ‘if you don’t vote, you lose,’ he said. And voting is the bare minimum ‘passing grade’ — political involvement on some level is important too, he said. ‘You’d be surprised by how powerful you can be,’ he said.”

Gun Violence and Pipe Bombs Jolt Voters as Election Season Ends. ‘Again?’ One Asks., by Elizabeth Dias, The New York Times, October 28, 2018
“With nine days left in an already divisive election season, the campaign’s finale is unfolding amid a cascade of horrors and rounds of finger-pointing that reflect the deep fault lines in dozens of competitive House races and a handful of Senate races nationwide. If many voters appear set to back politicians from their own parties, according to interviews and polling, they also often defended or blamed politicians — particularly Mr. Trump — based on the same partisan lines.”

Vote Like It Matters. Because Then It Will, by Nancy Gibbs, Time Magazine, October 25, 2018
“Vote because it is the one absolutely necessary step toward any better place. It reminds public servants about the public they serve. It dilutes the power of big donors and narrow interests. It builds civic muscles we need all through the year to serve our neighbors and strengthen our communities. And it confounds the experts who insist on predicting outcomes as though the election were a formality. Voting is an act of faith in the possibility that in a true democracy, anything can happen.”

The geography of voting – and not voting, by Ted Mellnik, Lauren Tierney, and Kevin Uhrmacher, The Washington Post, October 23, 2018
“There are demographic traits that consistently set apart places where people don’t vote. The most well-known is education. In more than 700 low-turnout counties, a majority of people had attained only a high school diploma or less schooling. In comparison, education beyond high school is far more common among high-voting counties.”
CLP: Excellent graphics (maps & charts)

Interactive Voting Booth Asks Students Why Voting Matters, by Hub staff report, John Hopkins University, October 17, 2018
“Johns Hopkins students are sharing how they feel about casting ballots in the midterm elections by stepping into a custom-built voter booth—a roving interactive display popping up across the university’s Homewood campus over the next two weeks.”

A better argument for why every vote matters, by Hunter Campbell, The Daily Princetonian, October 11, 2018
“Studies show that social pressure is an effective means of encouraging people to vote if they were previously not intending to do so. A study by Alan Gerber from Yale and Todd Rogers from the Analyst Institute found that a potential voter’s expectation of high election turnout actually increases the likelihood that they would show up to vote. It may seem counterintuitive, but people do attempt to conform to their “beliefs about what people actually do in a given situation.” If you think a lot of people will show up to vote, you may feel like you are supposed to as well.”

All the Information You Need to Vote in the 2018 Midterm Elections, by Alicia Adamczyk, lifehacker, September 27, 2018
CLP: Lists voter information for every state and Washington, DC.

The State of Voting 2018 – Updated, by Max Feldman and Wendy R. Weiser, Brennan Center for Justice, August 3, 2018
“Americans’ voting rights remain in flux in advance of the 2018 election. In June, we published The State of Voting 2018 — a comprehensive summary of new laws, bills, lawsuits, and other developments that could impact Americans’ ability to cast a ballot that counts this November. A lot has happened since then.”

Questions to Consider

  • Is voting important? Why or why not?
  • How do hateful events affect our voting? Does voting provide an outlet to define who we are as American citizens?
  • Is voting an obligation of citizenship?
  • Is low voter turnout a problem? Who votes? Who does not vote? Are young voters encouraged to participate?
  • What knowledge should voters have before voting?
  • What is the history of voting rights in the United States? Which groups paved the way for voting equality? Women, African Americans and more
  • Do midterm elections predict presidential elections?
  • What are the impediments to voting in the United States?
  • What is gerrymandering? How do the shapes of voting districts affect voting?
  • What is voter suppression?
  • Is a voter identification requirement helpful or hurtful to voter turnout?
  • Should election day be a national holiday? Should elections be on a non-work day?
  • Should states consider vote by mail? Are elections secure? How could we improve election security?
  • Should there be a right to vote enshrined in the Constitution? What are the voting amendments?
  • What is the history of the struggle for voting rights? What does this history suggest about the importance of voting?
  • How might restrictions on campaign financing impact elections?
  • What are the voting statistics in other countries? What can we learn from the way elections are handled in other countries? Should voting be compulsory? Why or why not?

From Voting Rights in America, Bill of Right Institute

  • To which groups did the Fifteenth, Nineteenth, Twenty-third, Twenty-fourth, and Twenty-sixth Amendments extend the right to vote?*
  • What are some of the grievances that (Elizabeth Cady) Stanton names in the Declaration of Sentiments? What are some of the similarities between the Declaration of Sentiments and the Declaration of Independence?*
  • Poll taxes, literacy tests, and other tests were used a barriers to voting. What, in theory, justified these tests? What, in practice, were these tests meant to accomplish?*
  • Recently, there has been debate over whether voter ID laws are constitutional, as some people who vote do not currently have driver’s licenses or other forms of acceptable identification. Do you believe that voter ID laws could be beneficial? Do you believe that voter ID laws are constitutional?*
  • The voting age was lowered in response to Vietnam War, as many young people who were drafted were still unable to vote. Why do you think this was an issue? How does objection to being sent to war without the right to vote relate to the objections of the Founding Fathers to rule by Great Britain?*
  • People who are not citizens are legally barred from voting in federal elections. In many states, felons are not allowed to vote. Do you think these restrictions are appropriate? Why or why not? Are there any other factors that should prevent individuals from having legal access to the ballot box?*
  • When a person has the legal right to vote, are there any circumstances under which he or she should choose not to vote? For example, what if the person does not follow current events or is poorly informed about the candidates or the issues?*

Background and More

Election Sayings and Quotes, Wise Old Sayings

Expand, Don’t Restrict, Voters’ Access to the Polls, by Lee H. Hamilton, Indiana University Center on Representative Democracy
“I don’t mean to dismiss the idea that we need to protect the integrity of the ballot and ensure that people who vote are entitled to do so. We do. But I believe representative democracy is strengthened by expanded voting through public marketing campaigns, registration drives and even automatic registration when you get a driver’s license, through longer hours, early voting or voting by mail.”

Not voting is a vote against democracy, by Deborah Beck, My San Antonio, October 14, 2018
“Staying home because “my vote doesn’t matter” is the worst reason not to vote, because it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Not voting is still a vote — for government that doesn’t care about its constituents. Politicians know how important voting is. That’s why they argue so bitterly about who can vote, and how, and where.”

Florida, Georgia, North Carolina Still Purging Voters at High Rates, by Kevin Morris, Myrna Perez, Brennan Center for Justice, October 1, 2018
“Purges in and of themselves aren’t bad. They’re commonly used to clean up voter lists when someone has moved, passed away, and more. But too often, names identified for removal are determined by faulty criteria that wrongly suggests a voter be deleted from the rolls. When flawed, the process threatens to silence eligible voters on Election Day — especially in states where purge rates are high.”

9 ways to make voting better, by German Lopez, Vox, November 7, 2016
“Beyond possibly improving the voting experience, these changes could help address a serious problem: The US has relatively low voter turnout for a wealthy nation — meaning much of the population isn’t having its voice heard.”

Lesson Plans

Every Vote Counts, The Dirksen Congressional Center
CLP: Grades 8-12

Democracy Class 2018, Teaching Tolerance, September 24, 2018
CLP: Middle, high school

Teach the Vote: A Unit Plan for Teachers, Close Up Foundation
CLP: High school

Constitutional and Legal Connections

Voting and Election Laws,

What Does the Constitution Actually Say About Voting Rights?, by Garrett Epps, The Atlantic, August 19, 2013
“But whatever Section Two of the Fourteenth Amendment means, it really can’t mean that everyone must be allowed to vote. It penalizes states that withhold the ballot but does not require them to grant it. The Fifteenth Amendment, however, does speak specifically of ‘the right of citizens of the United States to vote.’”

The Missing Right: A Constitutional Right to Vote, by Jonathan Soros, Mark Schmitt, Democracy Journal, Spring, 2013
“Just as the Constitution once countenanced slavery, it also allowed voting to be restricted to property-holding white men. The Thirteenth Amendment expunged the stain of slavery from our basic law, but the Constitution has never fulfilled the democratic promise we associate with it. Put simply—and this is surprising to many people—there is no constitutional guarantee of the right to vote.”

Oregon Connections

Chloe Eudaly Has Portland Workers Getting Out The Vote – Is That Legal?, by Amelia Templeton, OPB, October 30, 2018
“While public officials often encourage people to vote online or during debates, the door-knocking campaign is unusual and likely the first of its kind in Oregon. The fact that it is, in effect, funded by taxpayers has raised legal and ethical questions.”

The Knight Stuff: What Phil Knight’s Enormous Donations Means In Oregon Governor’s Race, by Dirk VanderHart, OPB, October 25, 2018
“Knight’s money is a big part of the reason this year’s gubernatorial race is the most expensive in state history. It has been seized on by campaign finance watchdogs, who’ve long warned Oregon’s permissive election laws permit wealthy interests to have too great a say in political outcomes.”

Oregon State Social Science Standards

8.8 Evaluate information from a variety of sources and perspectives.
8.17 Examine the development activities of political parties and interest groups and their affect on events, issues, and ideas.
8.26 Examine a controversial event, issue, or problem from more than one perspective.
HS.28 Evaluate how governments interact at the local, state, tribal, national, and global levels.
HS.29 Examine the structures and functions of Oregon’s state, county, local and regional governments.
HS.30 Analyze the roles and activities of political parties, interest groups and mass media and how they affect the beliefs and behaviors of local, state, and national constituencies.
HS.33 Explain the role of government in various current events.
HS.35 Examine the pluralistic realities of society (e.g., race, poverty, gender and age), recognizing issues of equity, and evaluating need for change.
HS.59 Demonstrate the skills and dispositions needed to be a critical consumer of information.
HS.60. Analyze an event, issue, problem, or phenomenon from varied or opposing perspectives or points of view.

We the People Lesson Connections

Middle School, Level 2

  • Unit 6, Lesson 29: What are the rights and responsibilities of citizenship?
  • Unit 6, Lesson 30: How might citizens participate in civic affairs?

High School, Level 3

  • Unit 6, Lesson 33: What does it mean to be a citizen?
  • Unit 6, Lesson 34: What is the importance of civic engagement to American constitutional democracy?