The Voting Rights Act of 1965

The VRA is (and has been) under attack ever since it was signed into law fifty years ago.  As a teacher, you can use the law as an introduction to many themes in social studies including the current presidential election cycle.  As an introduction, have your students research the law’s history in the American History II (and Basic American History II) Tutorial: Rebirth of the Civil Rights Movement, as well as elsewhere in the program — use the Search feature to find more instances.  The VRA is also mentioned in several places in Civics and U.S. Government.

Once your students have the background, challenge them to make sense of the spate of new laws that restrict access to voting (click on the map for a link to the Brennan Center):

What is the justification for these new laws? What evidence is cited? And what is the effect of these laws? Are specific groups of people disenfranchised?  Do these laws change voting patterns in elections and referendum campaigns?  To whose benefit?

For a deeper dive, investigate the voting laws in your state, asking questions like how many times has voter fraud been committed or alleged to have been committed? What about in a particular location?  Was there an investigation, and if so, what was the result of the investigation?  It may also be a good idea to start discussing what to do about what you find ahead of time.  Is this information widely known in your community? Should the class publicize it, and how? What would likely reactions be to positive or negative news?

BulbgraphOnOffProjects and Internet Projects are ideally suited to flipped classrooms — students can read and research on their own, while doing the cumulative activity in class.

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Dr. Annelies Kamran is V.P. for Content and Product Development at WorldView Software, Inc.

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