Voting and the Constitution
Students will learn about the Constitution’s many provisions for voting. Students will participate in an informal discussion of the election process, including the Electoral College, the evolution of voting rights, and how the Constitution has been amended to keep up with the times.
History: Understands patterns of change and continuity in the historical succession of related events; Understands that specific ideas had an impact on history; Analyzes the influence specific ideas and beliefs had on a period of history
Civics: Knows the fundamental values of American democracy; Knows the fundamental principles of American democracy; Knows that a constitutional government is a fundamental principle of American democracy; Understands the meaning of civic responsibilities as distinguished from personal responsibilities, and understands contemporary issues that involve civic responsibilities; Understands how citizens’ responsibilities as Americans could require the subordination of their personal rights and interests to the public good
Language Arts: (Listening and Speaking) Listens in order to understand topic, purpose, and perspective in spoken texts; (Reading) Draws conclusions and makes inferences based on explicit and implicit information in texts; Summarizes and paraphrases information in texts; (Writing) Uses a variety of resource materials to gather information for research topics;
Life Skills: Understands that personal values influence the types of conclusions people make
1. Explain to students that one of the foundations of the Constitution was the right of the citizen to vote. Point out that voting is the first step in running a democratic government; nothing can happen before leaders are elected. Since the Constitution was the framework for the government, it had to include rules for how government officials were elected to office.
2. Distribute the Our Three Branches worksheet. Explain that the methods by which officials are elected or selected differ for the three branches of government. Divide the class into groups of three or four. Ask each group to use a copy of the Constitution and other resources to research how each branch’s officials are elected. Allow students to work for fifteen minutes to complete their worksheets. Once they are finished, go over the answers as a class.
Answers could include:
• Legislative Branch: Members of the House are elected every two years for each state. The winner of the majority of each popular vote wins the election. Members of the Senate are elected every six years. Initially, senators were elected by state legislatures, but the 17th Amendment called for the direct election of senators by people in their state.
• Executive Branch: The president and vice president are elected by the Electoral College, not the popular vote. The electors are chosen by the states, and each state gets as many electors as it has senators and representatives. After the November election every four years, these electors vote for the presidential and vice presidential candidates that received the majority of their state’s popular vote.
• Judicial Branch: The public does not vote for any federal judge directly, but has some measure of representation in the nomination process. The President nominates justices for the Supreme Court, but the Senate must approve of the selection, as it must approve of the many judges in minor federal courts. In the state court systems, judges are usually elected by the public.
Worksheet Answers: 1. The Legislative Branch; 2. President and vice president; 3. You must be at least 25 years old, be a U.S. citizen for 7 years, and be an inhabitant of the state in which you are running, a Senator has to be at least 30 years old and a U.S. citizen for 9 years; 4. The vice president, they cast the deciding vote if there is a tie; 5. They are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate.
3. Distribute The Right to Vote worksheet. Remind students that the qualifications for voting have changed a lot over the past 200 years. Briefly discuss the fact that the Constitution has been amended numerous times to establish new voting rules. Point out that, in every case, these rules allowed more people to vote. Instruct students to complete Parts I and II of the worksheet. When they are finished, review the answers as a class.
• (1870) Amendment 15. Voting Rights – Black Suffrage
• (1913) Amendment 17. Direct Election of Senators
• (1920) Amendment 19. Women’s Right to Vote
• (1961) Amendment 23. Presidential Elections for the District of Columbia
• (1964) Amendment 24. Poll Tax Ended
• (1971) Amendment 26. Vote for Eighteen-Year-Olds
Part II Answers: 1. 23rd Amendment; 2. 132 years; 3. 1971, 21 years old; 4. 5 years; 5. Senators were elected by the state legislature.