Lesson Plans

Exploring Voter Suppression and Activism in U.S. Elections

Red white and blue "I voted" stickers with American flag are on a spool of stickers placed on a voting booth platform. Image by Barbara Kalbfleisch. United States, undated. 

Red white and blue "I voted" stickers with American flag are on a spool of stickers placed on a voting booth platform. Image by Barbara Kalbfleisch. United States, undated. 


1. Read this quote from the text you will explore in this lesson: “Despite the fact that the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965, here we are in 2020 and we’re still having to battle disenfranchisement and voter suppression.” –Dr. Brenda C. Williams of Sumter, South Carolina

2. On a separate sheet of paper, respond to the follow questions:

  • What is disenfranchisement? Write down the definition in your own words.
  • What is voter suppression, and how does it relate to disenfranchisement?
  • What have you heard about disenfranchisement and voter suppression recently?

Introducing the Resource:

1. Explore "All the Ways Your Vote May Not Be Counted in South Carolina" by Brittany Gibson, published in The American Prospect, to learn about voter suppression in South Carolina and how people are mobilizing to combat it.

2. While you read, use details from the article to make a list of the following:

  • At least three obstacles SC citizens may encounter when trying to cast their ballot
  • At least three ways in which people are mobilizing against voter suppression in SC


On a separate sheet of paper, write your answers to the following questions:

  1. Gibson writes, "South Carolina has a long history of voter suppression that specifically targeted black people and occasionally poor white people."
    • What evidence does she provide for that claim?
    • How can her claim be linked to the Voting Rights Act of 1965?
  2. 34 U.S. states currently implement voter ID laws, including South Carolina.
    • Why do some people believe these laws are beneficial?
    • Why do others believe they are a form of voter suppression?
  3. This article mentions several efforts by South Carolinians to address voter suppression.
    • What restrictions are put on voting in your state?
    • What efforts are being made in your community to combat voter suppression?
    • How else could the voting process be made more accessible to all people?

Extension Activities:

As Gibson states at the end of her article, "there is still a lot that can be done to help civic participation before November’s election." Do some research and find out what voting laws look like in your community. Here's one place you might start.

Option 1. Create a clear, engaging voting guide for your community members! You might try creating an infographic to be shared on social media, or a flyer to circulate in local neighborhoods.

Option 2. Identify one or more obstacles to voting in your community. Then, write a letter to your representative that explains the problem(s) and advocates for a solution.

Option 3. Read a news story by Brittany Gibson that addresses how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting elections and access to voting. Then, write a reflection that answers the following questions:

  • What are the effects of the pandemic on disenfranchisement and voter suppression?
  • What do you think state governments and election boards should do to make voting safe and more accessible to people during this public health crisis?

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