Federal Laws That Drive Elections

​Lesson 2

Students will learn about the history of voting in Oregon and the United States. Through a study of women's suffrage, students will learn about the federal laws and constitutional amendments that drive elections. This lesson includes an exercise where students develop skits about federal election laws.


Two 55-minute class periods


Students will learn about the history of voting in Oregon and the USA. Additionally, students will learn about the federal laws and constitutional amendments that drive elections.

Oregon Standards

HS.24: Analyze and critique the impact of constitutional amendments.
HS.32: Examine and evaluate documents and decisions related to the Constitution and Supreme Court decisions (e.g., Federalist Papers, Constitution, Marbury v. Madison, Bill of Rights, Constitutional amendments, Declaration of Independence).
HS.57: Define, research, and explain an event, issue, problem, or phenomenon and its significance to society.
HS.63: Engage in informed and respectful deliberation and discussion of issues, events, and ideas.

Oregon Common Core State Standards

Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies
2: Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
3: Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.

NCSS Standards

Theme II: Time Continuity, and Change; X: Civic Ideals and Practices


  1. Teacher background handout Lesson 2
  2. HAVA (what it does in Oregon): sos.oregon.gov/blue-book/Pages/state/elections/voting.aspx
  3. NVRA:
    1. https://epic.org/privacy/voting/register/doj_vrp.html
    2. https://www.justice.gov/crt/national-voter-registration-act-1993-nvra​

  4. ADA: https://www.ada.gov/pubs/ada.htm​
  5. MOVE:
    1. https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/111/s1415/text​
  6. Links for US Constitutional Amendments: https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs or https://www.usconstitution.net/const.html
  7. Links for Women’s Suffrage case-study:
    1. sos.oregon.gov/blue-book/Pages/explore/focus-duniway.aspx
    2. https://www.loc.gov/collections/national-american-woman-suffrage-association/about-this-collection/
    3. http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/list/076_vfw.html​
    4. https://rrlc.org/winningthevote/​


  1. Teacher provides timeline and background information on how the stages of universal suffrage have progressed in the United States. See the 5 stages in the teacher background handout.
  2. Students will be placed in groups of 3-4. Each group will be given one of the federal laws and constitutional amendments that drive elections. Each group will then develop a skit to present to the class that identifies the essence of the federal law or amendment and explains why it is necessary. The federal laws and constitutional amendments that are recommended to be learned are as follows:
    1. National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA), Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), Military Overseas and Empowerment Act of 2009 (MOVE)
    2. US Amendments: 14th, 15th, 19th, 23rd, 24th, 26th
  3. Case-studies:Case-studies will be applied to the laws, amendments, and watershed court decisions that affected voting procedures.
    1. US Amendment Case-study
      1. Oregon v. Mitchell (1970): Simulation of the court case – Have students in groups on both sides, representing either Oregon or the United States, debate the Constitutionality of this case.
        1. Before the 26th Amendment gave 18 y/o the right to vote, many people questioned whether Congress had the power to set the voting age in the state and local elections. The issue came to the Supreme Court in this case.
          1. Background:
            1. Congress had passed law requiring all states to lower vote age to 18.
            2. Oregon didn’t want to lower age from 21
            3. The Supreme Court found largely for Oregon, in that it found that while Congress could set requirements for voting in federal elections that it did not have the power to set the voting age for state elections.
            4. This court decision became moot the following year with passage of 26th Amendment.
          2. Questions to Consider while doing Research:
            1. Did U.S. Constitution intend for the states or Congress to have the authority to regulate age limits for voting in elections? Is the case different based upon whether the conflict is national or local? (note to teacher: focus is on Amendment 10 and the “supremacy clause,” in US Article VI, Clause II).
            2. How should the two levels of government – national v. state and local – relate to each other under the US Constitution?
            3. What parts of the Constitution focus on these questions?
    2. Landmark Laws Case-Study: Women’s Suffrage
      1. In 1912, eight years before passage of the 19th Amendment, Oregon became the 7th state to give women the right to vote. In this case-study students will work in small groups and review the history of the women’s suffrage movement through readings and images in order to answer the following questions:
        1. What attitudes about women had to be overcome before they could gain the right to vote?
        2. What were the arguments for and against women’s suffrage?
      2. For background information:
        1. sos.oregon.gov/blue-book/Pages/explore/focus-duniway.aspx​
        2. https://www.loc.gov/collections/national-american-woman-suffrage-association/about-this-collection/
        3. http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/list/076_vfw.html
        4. https://rrlc.org/winningthevote/resources/

Extension Activities

The case-studies can be used as extension activities.

Teacher Background Handout

Five stages United States has gone through to gain universal suffrage:

  1. Dropping religious and property tests: By 1810 all states but Maryland had dropped religious tests to vote. Property requirements also dropped in most states in early 19th century.
  2. Enfranchising slaves: 15th Amendment in 1865, which outlawed the practice of denying someone the right to vote based on color, race, or previous servitude.
  3. Granting women the right to vote: 19th Amendment in 1920. Point out that eight years earlier, in 1912, Oregon became the seventh state to pass women’s suffrage.
  4. Passing civil rights laws extending voting protection to minorities: After the passage of the 15th Amendment, Jim Crow laws were enacted throughout many Southern states. These laws were restrictive measures to prevent many minorities from voting. Examples of methods used included poll taxes and literacy tests. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and National Voting Rights Act of 1965 banned most of the Jim Crow laws. Poll taxes were banned with the 24th Amendment.
  5. Lowering voting age to 18: 26th Amendment in 1971

The National Voter Registration Act of 1993: Required state governments to allow for registration when a qualifying voter applied for or renewed their driver's license or applied for social services.

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990: Prohibits, under certain circumstances, discrimination based on disability.

Military Overseas and Empowerment Act (2009): Establishes procedures allowing military personnel to request voter registration applications and absentee ballot applications by mail or electronically ​for general, special, primary, and runoff elections for federal office.

Help America Vote Act of 2002: The goals of HAVA are the following: replace punch card and lever-based voting systems; create the Election Assistance Commission to assist in the administration of Federal elections; and establish minimum election administration standards.