The 2020 elections may be over, but in both houses of Congress, the For the People Act (H.R. 1 in the House and S. 1 in the Senate) was designated as the first bill, a top priority this session. This historic piece of legislation brings the issues of voting rights to the forefront as it seeks to abolish hurdles to voting, reform the role of money in politics, and tighten federal ethics rules. Among the key tenets of the bill are: allowing for no-excuse mail voting, at least 15 days of early voting, automatic voter registration, and restoration of voting rights to felons who have completed their prison sentences.
Also this month, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a pair of voting rights cases from one of last year’s key battleground states, and the eventual outcome may determine how courts will assess allegedly discriminatory voting rules for years to come.
The cases challenge two Arizona voting provisions: a policy that requires an entire ballot to be thrown out if the ballot was cast at the wrong precinct, and a state law that bans the collection of ballots by third parties, sometimes called “ballot harvesting.” The challengers argue that both the policy and the law discriminate against racial minorities in Arizona, and the justices’ eventual ruling obviously could affect how the state carries out its elections going forward. More broadly, though, the justices could also weigh in on the proper test for evaluating voting-rights claims like these, which could have a sweeping effect nationwide.
Georgia’s controversial overhaul of state elections, passed last week, places restrictions on voting by mail and gives the legislature more control over how elections are run. The new law requires a photo ID when mailing in an absentee ballot as well as when requesting a ballot. It also cuts the time people have to request an absentee ballot. Georgia’s new law is one of more than 250 pieces of legislation filed in 43 states aimed at limiting ballot access.
Emotions are high in Georgia, where Democrats over the past few months won the presidential election and both U.S. Senate runoffs by extremely narrow margins. Former President Trump falsely insisted that voting fraud led to his 2020 defeat against Joe Biden, singling out Georgia, among others, for widespread voter fraud. Democrats and voting rights groups said the new law will disproportionately affect voters of color. The Georgia chapter of the NAACP and other voting rights groups on Sunday filed a federal lawsuit against state election officials, saying the new law is politically motivated to suppress the minority vote.
In this Current Event, we will explore the future of voting rights in America with many resources you can use to foster meaningful discussion with your students about who gets access to the polls.
- Which states are changing their voting laws, and how?
- What did the Voting Rights Act of 1965 do, and how has this changed in recent years?
- Why are voting rights being politicized now, especially in places like Georgia?
- Who will be most affected by the changing laws?
- What does H.R.1 For the People Act of 2021 attempt to do in terms of voting rights and restrictions?
- How is the Supreme Court likely to rule on new attempts at voter suppression? What will be the repercussion of this?
The ‘For The People Act’ And The Future Of Voting In America (44 mins)
Background & History:
- Voting Rights: A Short History — Carnegie Corporation of New York
A More Modest Version of H.R. 1 Is Still Not Quite Modest Enough —The National Review, Mar. 17, 2021
Voting rights cases make this Supreme Court squeamish —The Seattle Times, Mar. 4, 2021
The Supreme Court Might Kill Voting Rights—Quietly —The Atlantic, Mar. 7, 2021
Opinion: Corporations will oppose voting rights unless they pay a price — Washington Post, Mar. 30, 2021
- Voting Rights Act of 1965
- Shelby County, AL v. Holder (2013)
- TEXT OF H.R. 1, THE FOR THE PEOPLE ACT OF 2021
- U.S. Voting Rights Timeline — KQED
- Our Vote is Our Power: A Brief History of Voting Rights in America–– ChangeWire
- Voting Rights Act: Major Dates in History — Interactive Timeline — ACLU
- Voting Rights History: Interactive Timeline — The Lowdown
Resources for using Political Cartoons in the Classroom:
- Cartoons for the Classroom– Understanding Political Cartoons
- How To Analyze a Political Cartoon
- Political Cartoon Analysis
Articles for Younger Grades:
Georgia Governor Kemp signs GOP election bill amid outcry over voter suppression — Newsela, April 5, 2021
- Voting Rights in the United States — Facing History and Ourselves, high school
- Lesson Plan: Voting Rights Then and Now — The Lowdown
- Who Gets to Vote? Teaching About the Struggle for Voting Rights in the United States — Zinn Education Project
- Voting Rights — Civil Rights Teaching
- The Right to Vote — Scholastic, grades 3-8
Lesson Plans regarding Media & News Literacy (general):
Media Literacy Resources – Newseum
News & Media Literacy Lessons – Common Sense
Media Misinformation, Viral Deception, and «Fake News» – University of Wyoming
Evaluating Sources in a ‘Post-Truth’ World: Ideas for Teaching and Learning About Fake News – New York Times Lessons