Voting in a Democracy- Lessons on Voter Suppression

People vote in cardboard voting booths at a polling station in Boise, Idaho, USA. - Image ID: D1R3NB

Dr. David Childs, Ph.D
Northern Kentucky University

15th Amendment
Section 1- The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

24th Amendment
Section 1- The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.

The above amendments ostensibly guaranteed the right of Americans to vote regardless of their race or class. These amendments were passed in an effort to stop the disenfranchisement of African Americans, especially in the south. The 15th amendment guaranteed black men the right to vote and the 24th amendment made the poll tax illegal.  The amendments were written to stop voter suppression.

Voter suppression is a variety of methods used to change election results by stopping and disrupting the voting of specific groups of people. Voter suppression is different from political campaigning. With political campaigning candidates attempt to change the opinions and practices of their voting of through persuasion and organization. However, the goal of voter suppression is to reduce the number of voters who might vote against a candidate or proposition.

“The tactics of voter suppression range from minor changes to make voting less convenient, to physically intimidating and even physically attacking prospective voters, which is illegal. Voter suppression can be effective if a significant number of voters are intimidated or disenfranchised.”



Lesson Plans and Resources on Voter Suppression
Teaching the Truth About Voter Suppression
The Voting Rights Act, 1965 and beyond
Voter Suppression Lesson Plan
Barriers to Voting
Lesson Plan: To Vote or Not to Vote
Lesson Activity- Who gets to Vote?
Voter Fraud? Or Voter Suppression?
Election Resources

References
Fighting Voter Suppression
Voter-Suppression Tactics in the Age of Trump
Voter Suppression
Voter Oppression in the United States


24 Comments

  1. It is unfortunate that we had to create two separate amendments in order to prevent voter suppression. From the beginning of time, society has found ways to place certain groups of people above others as a way to suffice selfish motives (whether subconsciously or consciously known to the individual or group). Although these amendments have helped with this particular suppression, I believe our society is just finding ways around it to continue to suppress voters (seen in this articles reference “Voter-Suppression Tactics in the Age of Trump).

  2. Similar to what Ana has said, it is very unfortunate that the suppression got so bad to the point where we had to implement two amendments to fight the issue. However, it is good that in America we are able to pass such amendments to help prevent more future issues from occurring. This being said, I believe there are still many tactics being used today that people are able to get away with. For example, denying the right to vote because of a missing hyphen in their surname (Voter-Suppression Tactics in the Age of Trump).

  3. Voter suppression is extremely disheartening because it violates one of the key principles of this country which is that it’s a democracy where everyone has a say in our politics. Although amendments have been passed, like the two mentioned in this article, there are still factors that contribute to not everyone participating in voting. For example, not everyone can take the day off work to get into the polls to vote. In my opinion, election day should be a national holiday and everyone should be allowed to take off work to vote. Doing this would hopefully stop the suppression of poor people from voting and would allow us to get better representation of all Americans and what or who they want in our government.

  4. This was an interesting article that puts light on the fifteenth and twenty-fourth amendment and why they were put into place. It is crazy to think not that long ago not every citizen of the United States was able to vote. it is good that we have moved in the right direction but I think there will always be some type of voter suppression tactics used in politics.

  5. I feel like the word “intimidation” is key when it comes to discussing voter supression. Even though many of us now enjoy the liberty to vote and voice our opinions, there are still those who are willing to disrupt these amendments and threaten the votes of others. Today, this topic of voter supression can be seen in the political debates around illegal immigrants and their right to a vote. Intimidation can be seen from both sides, and while immigration might seem like an entirely topic, it’s one and the same when they are feeling disenfranchized. There may not be a simple answer in this case, but I find the connections interesting.

  6. The United States has a long history of voter suppression, as does democracy itself, anyone of color, women, even poor white men have all at one point been unable to vote in the U.S at one point or another, this is an unfortunate truth and to say we have completely fixed this voting suppression is an unfortunate lie, it is only more stubble and less blatant, it is still happening and it is still an infringement on our democracy. Even having polls close at 6pm is a huge form of voter suppression as an overwhelming number of Americans work 9-5 and cannot afford to miss work, and are likely to commute 30mins to an hour to work every day. I have also read articles about voter suppression for people who are disabled, the elderly, and the issue of not having an I.D (as the U.S is one of the few countries that don’t require you to have one, but still make it mandatory for voting purposes). Despite the two amendments we have already passed to limit voter suppression and the amendments we have made to allow black people and women to vote we still witness voter suppression, and as a democratic country we should always keep striving to limit this suppression to the best of our abilities.

  7. It is mind-blowing to me how something that some of the most pivotal amendments that guarantee equality in voting came so late. It’s pretty upsetting to learn the history about all the different ways that people were prohibited and oppressed in voting. A lot of the rules and regulations proposed that kept minorities from voting were very stealthy and sneaky. It is also mind-blowing that people had thoughts in their minds of “let’s think of how we can keep people from voting to benefit us.” To keep people from that right is very inhumane and selfish. I am very thankful though that necessary actions took place as said in the fifteenth and twenty-fourth amendments. Even though it’s awful, it is really interesting to learn about the different ways people were suppressed and how different that is from now. I think it would be interesting to learn the differences between voter suppression and political campaigning. Overall, it’s good to look back and remember this time in history and to learn the extent of how minorities were suppressed.

  8. Voting in a Democracy- Lessons on Voter Suppression
    Voter Suppression is something that unfortunately is still seen today. While it may not be apparent to voters privileged enough to travel to their poll during the time provided for them it is a sad reality. Many people lack the means to make it to their voting place. Also I have witnessed a large portion of our lower class that is uneducated on why voting is so important and how to vote. Without this knowledge there is often a lack of motivation to vote. We, as educators, should strive to share this information with students and their families to encourage voter participation.

  9. Voter suppression is something that used to be more obvious but just not allowing certain minorities to vote. Of course the government made these amendments to change this, but now we see voter suppression in a different sense. It is not necessarily a simple task as some people do no have the transportation or means to get there. On top of that quite a few people may not have a proper education on making an educated decision on whether or not they should vote and for whom they should. Overall these amendments were a step in the right direction but we are still far away from getting to where we need to be. I just think it is important to educate everyone on voting and make sure that everyone can have a way to get in and vote.

  10. The 15th and 24th amendment are put in place to stop voter’s suppression. It’s good that these amendments are in places to give people the equal opportunities to vote. I think it’s disappointing when people do not exercise their right to vote, epically in larger elections.

  11. It’s sad that voter suppression exists in our world today. Especially that there has to be two different amendments protecting voter rights. The right to vote is for anyone no matter race, gender, religion, etc. Progress over the years allowing African Americans and women to vote has made a huge impact for the better in the US. We must keep our minds open to get rid of any type of suppression when it comes to voting.

  12. Voter suppression is still going on today and it is very sad to say that. In today’s world we need people out voting but there are those that are too scared to because they may have others threatening them or taunting them because of their political beliefs. Voting should be something that all Americans do no matter gender, political party, or skin color should stop them from voting. It is good that the laws are in the constitution but the fact that we still have to use them really just sucks.

  13. Voter suppression is definitely still a major problem in the United States. One of the best examples that this subject brings to mind is that some imprisoned people cannot vote even if they are a United States citizen. This process is called disfranchisement and simply takes away the voting rights of an imprisoned person. The catch though is that whether or not an imprisoned criminal is disfranchised is dependent on what state that they are imprisoned in. For example a prisoner in Texas cannot vote whereas a prisoner in Ohio can vote. Currently in the United States there are twenty nine states where prisoners can vote and in the other 21 states prisoners can’t vote. My argument is not on whether or not prisoners should or should not be allowed to vote but that this right to vote should at least be the same across a country in order to diminish the advantages some states get from this.
    Another possible source of voter suppression is socio economic issues. For example someone who has a car is certainly more likely to vote in comparison to someone who can’t afford a car and lives miles from the nearest polling station. Not to mention these people may have to work Election Day. Many businesses close but others that employ many of the people in an urban area such as a large hospital can’t close on a holiday therefore furthering voter suppression.

  14. It’s crazy to me that we had to add 2 amendments to our Constitution and set laws in place so that every person could vote equally and in a fair way, and yet there is still voter suppression going on in today’s age. Intimidation is still in-play when elections come up, with many extremists on either wing. As a future educator, I’m going to make it my goal to educate students as best as I can on this topic.

  15. Even though we live in a “free” country, suppression, when it comes to voting, is still apparent in our country. With the 15th and 24th amendment the amount of suppression is taken down dramatically. There are still lots of limits to who can and can’t vote, in some states if you’re in prison in the US and are incarcerated you can vote, while in others you can’t. There are things that can be done the almost completely eliminate voters suppression and these two amendments are a great start. More can be done, starting with unify voting laws across all the states.

  16. I think that voter suppression is something that isn’t talked about often but should be discussed more. Just thinking about my own self, I have moved many times since I’ve been old enough to vote and every time I get so annoyed with having to change my voters registration. I have even showed up to vote and I wasn’t able to because I hadn’t changed it yet. I think that all of this could be so much easier but our politicians know how lazy American’s are so fewer people will be voting against them when they make things harder.

  17. It is sad that we had to create amendments to combat voter suppression. I feel like today it is easy for people to realize how far we have come especially when it relates to voting.People also do not realize that voter suppression is still happening today.For example it is very difficult, nearly impossible, to vote if someone has a felony on their record. Not to mention the recent voting issues in Georgia that are linked directly to race.But there are Americans who do not vote because they do not see the need for it.It is honestly sad that our voting system is still messed up and that suppression is still occurring even though steps have been taken to prevent it.

  18. I have never heard the term, “Voter Suppression” before. Initially, I thought this would mean people not going to exercise their right to vote because personally, they did not want to. After reading this article, I have a better understanding that voting suppression is methods used to change the election results by stopping the voting of specific groups. The difference between campaigning and suppression is campaigning tries to change peoples views rather than reducing the number of votes who might vote against.

  19. Voter suppression is a term that we still have going on today, despite the two amendments that were passed through congress. The fact that we had to pass the amendments in the first place is sad to me, the country was founded on the premise that all men were created equal, not just some. However it is even worse to me that voter suppression is still happening, but under a variety of other tactics. I Have heard stories of voters today who had their registration revoked for “inactive voter” even though they go to the polls every year. Voter suppression is a topic that needs to be discussed again, even though it shouldn’t have to be because of the two amendments mentioned in the article.

  20. Voter suppression is an underhanded tactic that is used to keep people from voting. I think that this is still a problem today, even with the 15th and 24th amendments. In 2018 there was an event in Georgia where African American Seniors were prohibited from taking the bus to go vote. It made it extremely difficult for them to vote. It’s terrible that voter suppression is continuing to happen in this day and age. I think that more people should be made aware of voter suppression and it should be treated more seriously as it is an infringement on our rights as US citizens.

  21. It’s hard to believe there was a time in our country where everyone was not given the right to vote. Even though we are all given the right to vote, we don’t always feel like our votes count. We are sometimes even coerced and pressured by various factors to vote in a particular way. We often feel pressures from our family and peers. We encounter influences on our political views everyday. Even though we have the freedom to vote, we are sometimes limited in our freedom. It’s shocking that voter suppression is still an occurrence in today’s society. If we have the right to vote, we should be allowed to vote our way. There should be no infringements.

  22. Although there are  two Amendments directed towards voter suppression, I think it’s still an issue that can be seen throughout America. In the article, intimidation is discussed. This suppression was definitely a much larger problem before the 24th amendment was ratified, but people still face hidden tactics used to make voting less convenient or frightening. There are people willing to break the law to intimidate groups of people from voting.  It’s very disheartening to imagine the lengths these people go to in order to make others feel unsafe to carry out their rights. I hope one day everyone will be able to vote without fear or hatred from other groups.

  23. America has come so far since voting was first introduced. At first you had to be a white man who owned land or paid taxes. Then black males earned the right to vote. Then lastly women earned the right to vote. No matter how far you go, there will always be more room for growth. I feel as if that is the case with voter suppression. Voter suppression is trying to prevent groups of people into not voting in order to attempt to control the fate of an election.
    It is sad that we are trying to prevent something from happening that was once fought so hard for. Voter suppression goes beyond harassing by other citizens, which is bad enough. The fact that voting is made less accessible for certain groups of people is extremely disheartening. We are supposed to all be given equal opportunities to vote, and if some people have easier access than others, that is not fair. Regardless of your views, background, color, or gender you deserve the right to vote, the same way that everyone else does. We have passed these amendments on voting for a reason and we as American’s need to remember that.

  24. With the state and local election coming up, I think voting has become a common topic lately. I got to teach second-grade students on this valuable right and responsibility we have as citizens to have a say in our government. They were surprised and some upset that it wasn’t always a possibility in America and that other places in the world don’t get to have this contribution and voice in their government and laws. I agree with what several other commenters have mentioned: It is saddening to consider the number of times someone in our history has been denied the right to vote and that we’ve had to make more than one federal law regarding this issue.

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