BMS seventh-graders learn about voting rights
Talking to seventh-graders in Mr. Fitchpatrick's social studies class at Bay Middle School, Conda Boyd of the Bay Village League of Women Voters didn’t just tell students that the right to vote is precious. She showed them how few of our citizens had that right early in our nation’s history.
She began with having all students raise their hands. Group by group, they lowered their hands as they did not meet the earliest requirements to vote. “In 1776,” she summarized, “an American citizen had to be white, male, a landowner or taxpayer, age 21 or older and not a resident of Washington, D.C., to vote.” At the end of the demonstration, only Mr. Fitchpatrick still had his hand raised. She explained that since those early times, voting rights have expanded to include American citizens of all races, those without financial resources, women, and a lowered voting age requirement of 18 years.
Boyd also described the mechanics of voting, how the integrity of the system is protected, and how important it is for citizens to cast an informed vote.
“Voters should judge whether information they are getting is accurate and complete, and whether it is relevant,” she said. Several examples of information, from newspaper endorsements to campaign advertisements on television and various websites, were given as examples. Students were asked to evaluate whether there might be bias in the information. Boyd also suggested they seek out opposing viewpoints and listen respectfully.
The League of Women Voters, started in 1920 after women won the right to vote, states its mission is to encourage informed and active participation in government.
Boyd described her interest in presenting to students the day following her visit. “This election has been so ugly that I'm saddened to think young people might come away thinking politics is a blood sport,” she said. “Or that they might conclude our American democracy is broken beyond repair. There is much that is right about America and about America's election systems. Each of us has a role in building on the foundation of democracy that previous generations have fought for, and some have laid down their lives for. Eventually, we will hand the baton to these seventh-graders. It's important to help them understand what an awesome responsibility – and what a beautiful thing – that is.”
Director of Communications for the Bay Village City School District