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


8 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.

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