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The history of U.S. voting rights is presented here


Social Studies  


K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5  


Title – Voting Rights Lesson Plan
By – Elizabeth Furu
Primary Subject – Social Studies
Grade Level – K-5

OBJECTIVE: Students will:

  • Understand an election will take place on Nov. 2
  • Understand Constitution grants and protects right to vote
  • Understand why voting is important


  • Current map of United States
  • Overmap of 13 Colonies
  • One copy of Constitution of United States
  • Craft sticks coded to identify “voters,” 1 for each student
  • Sample ballot for each student
  • Various campaign literature, press articles, etc. for display


      Ask about:


  • Advertisements on TV or elsewhere
  • Debates
  • Parents’ discussion and/or school activities


  • Show Constitution:
    • Discuss how old it is, how country has changed, and that this document has been flexible enough to continue to function as a blueprint for our nation.
  • Look at map and show overmap of Colonies:
    • Size
    • Population: numbers and kinds of settlers (3,000,000, mostly Northern European, mostly considering themselves “Englishmen.”
  • Economic activity. Mostly farmers/planters (John Adams, Thomas Jefferson) or small businessmen (Samuel Adams, tavernkeeper; Ben Franklin, printer & scientist; Paul Revere, silversmith) and so on.
  • Political place in the world order. Small colonies on Eastern seaboard, not coast to coast; no great financial or manufacturing centers like New York, Chicago, Detroit and Hollywood are today; no great centers of learning and research/privileged go to Europe for higher education. Not a superpower.
  • Electoral College and States Rights. Humans are the only social creatures who chose leaders (as opposed to ant, bees, wolves, wild horses, etc.) and they do so in various ways. Colonies had been through horrible war for independence, feared kings or any centralized power, feared to be told what to do by larger or more powerful states among themselves, etc. So states are given most control, while only some powers are granted to federal government. States choose who is allowed to vote, and that was generally white men. Electoral College: states have Electors equal to U.S. Senators plus U.S. Representatives, so not all states have the same number; most states require these Electors to vote as a block for the candidate receiving highest popular vote; can lead to election of President with fewer popular votes than opponent.
  • Distribute sticks: Sticks or slips of paper are marked to divide class into groups representative of election population (In 2000 election: 80% white, including 9% Hispanic, 12% African American, 3% Asian, 1% Native American.)
  • Discuss Amendment process: Ability to change it when things aren’t working; 2/3 Congress plus ¾ of the states must ratify)
  • Sit down non-voters:
    • Girls
    • Non-whites by group
    • Without property (indentured, immigrants) These are mentioned because they were able to vote in some states, but not in others. Generally these would be non-citizens. Asian voting depended on state of residence, often denied in the West.
    • Stand up in order of granting of rights (all stand): 1776-1847 most property requirements abolished, state by state. 1870, 15th Amendment grants vote: 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. (However, poll taxes, literacy requirements and out-and-out intimidation were often used to selectively keep people away from the voting booth.) 1874 it is argued before the Supreme Court that the 14th Amendment grants women the right to vote — stand up girls — but the Supreme Court decides it is not unconstitutional for states to deny women the vote — sit down girls. 1920, 19th Amendment grants women the vote. 1924, legislation grants Native Americans the right to vote. 1970 voting age lowered from 21 to 18 largely because of draft.
    • Some felons, non-citizens still not allowed to vote.
    • Sit down those who didn’t vote 2000. 76% of voting age population was registered; of those, 67.5% actually voted, giving an overall participation of 51% — half the sticks should have an ‘X’ or other designation signaling half the class to sit at this time.
  • Distribute sample ballots:
    • Discuss early or absentee voting. Formerly needed a pretty good excuse, now much easier, includes those out of town or overseas on business or vacation, college students, military people.
    • Not all alike. State and local issues make ballots different, and these issues are usually the ones with the greatest impact on the day to day life of the voters. Discuss some local issues such as Council or Commissioners, judges, bond issues, etc.
    • Why voting matters. If appropriate, teacher may talk about first time going with parents to vote, first time voting, polling place in the school, etc. Could also mention difficulty for women in places like Afghanistan, or that in Australia, not voting is not an option — there’s a fine for not voting!
    • How to prepare to be a voter


  • Who wants to be President when they grow up??
  • Constitutional limits, historical trends, Presidents seen historically as good and bad. Catholic elected in 1960, divorced man in 1980. No females or ethnicities other than white YET ! You could become president!

E-Mail Elizabeth Furu !

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