Exploration into Voting Requirements Around the World
Warm up activity:
Show one of the brief You-Tube videos created by Why Tuesday? A group devoted to making voting more accessible in this country. http://www.whytuesday.org
Let students comment briefly on whether the US should consider moving Election Day to Saturday.
Assign a two -page paper based on their research into voting requirement in other countries: What is the overall turnout percentage for a major election? When is Election Day? How does the government know who is eligible to vote? Is there a penalty for not voting? Is there something special about the ballot? Why is the turnout in that country better than that in the US? Have students present their findings in class.
Useful places for information:
https://www.cia.gov (The CIA Fact book)
Often a Google search will unturn this sort of information, but a quick way might be for students to email or call the education or information office at the consulate of whatever country they’ve chosen.
Idea #2 Guest Speaker from the Board of Election Supervisors
Ask the chairman of the local Board of Election Supervisors (it may be called something else in your area) to come to your class and talk about voting in your town, county, parish, and city. Ask him or her to talk about the process of voting in your area—registration, how are voters identified? How many voters are turned away? How complicated is the ballot? How many ballots are unreadable? How is the counting done? Ask about any recent measures, enacted or proposed changing the ease of voting: online voting, easing absentee restrictions, and picture identification cards. How are polls judged for fair voting? Etc. Encourage students to ask questions
Idea #3 Student Advocacy Letter on legislation pertaining to voting.
If there are proposals to expand or limit the franchise (voter identification cards, for example) or measures making it easier to vote (mail-in ballots, same-day registration. easing requirements for absentee ballots etc) pending have students research the issue using their state legislators and the local newspapers (and blogs) then write letters to the editor or to the appropriate elected officials on the topic.
Background: Have Students watch video on measures that may hinder voter participation
Interesting PBS Now video that looks at laws being passed that may make voter turnout decline. Note that the show is a compelling one, but its point of view is decidedly left-learning. Also, there seems to be no way to get the best clips, so it might work best either to assign part of the program as homework, or to stream it ahead of time so that you can find the parts that are most relevant quickly. Or use the excellent website instead.
Idea #4 Class debate: Does a high voting turnout help to create a better government?
Affirmative (Voting turn out matters– a high turn out makes for better government.)
Negative (Voting Turnout is a reflection of Civil interest. If people don’t’ care about voting, they won’t education themselves and it’s better not to have their uneducated input.)
Besides many pages in Chapter 7 including a sidebar: “Debating the issues”, students should do their own research. Here are a few especially useful sites. It’s useful to ask students to submit their statement for the debate.
Negative: (Low voter turnout makes for better government-)
Have students hand in a one-page statement indicating their position and role in the debate.
Alternate Debate topic: Should convicted felons be denied the right to vote?
In many states convicted felons are barred from voting for the rest of their lives. Students could look up the issue nationally or for their state:
A few basics on this controversy can be found at:
Idea #5 A Student Advocacy Letter.
Students could earn extra credit by turning their debate research into an advocacy letter to the editor of a local paper or to an appropriate elected official, national or local.
Idea #6 Students Use PoliCentral to become involved in local voting issues to learn more about electoral reform on a local level
Students mobilize a campaign against unfair voting restrictions by selecting key tactics, such as letter writing, op-eds, and peaceful demonstrations, and organizing these activities into a comprehensive plan of action.
Idea #7 Have students watch this brief discussion concerning the efficacy of political demonstrations:
Class could begin with a few minutes from each of these political demonstrations
(Ten minute “vignette” of a recent “Tea Party” rally.)
(This is an entire archive of the “Million Mom” March against banning assault weapons. But the very beginning gets the point across; these first few minutes can be shown. )
Once parts of each have been shown, hold a discussion about the meaning of such political rallies. What influence do they have and why? Do they really change things, or just allow people to “blow off steam”?
Fun Finale: The first few minutes of a 29-minute clip showing viewer reaction to the Comedy Central Rallies to Restore Fear/Sanity, might work as a workable extension to the above. What was the meaning of these well-attended events?
This would be a light, but meaningful way to end your Political Participation Unit. Americans take political participation so seriously that they do it for fun!