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Ballots, Popular Sovereignty, and the Rule of Law: How Should We Think About Voting Laws?

Introduction:

Americans expect their elections to be free and fair. In other words, they presume that voting will be easy and accessible, while also taking place in a system that prevents corruption from distorting the voice of the people. This requires the balancing of two constitutional principles, the rule of law and consent of the governed. In this eLesson, students will analyze these principles, their role in democratic government, and the current Georgia voting regulation law in order to form their own opinions on how it relates with these important constitutional principles.

 

Materials:

Handout A: Principles and Virtues

Handout B: Misleading narratives abound about Ga.’s new voting law [External Source]

Handout C: Georgia’s shameful new voting laws are a product of GOP desperation [External Source]

Handout D: Graphic Organizer

*Note: Handouts B and C are opinion pieces from external news sources, and do not reflect the views of the Bill of Rights Institute

Instructions:

Have students read the definitions of “Rule of Law” and “Consent of the Governed/Popular Sovereignty” on Handout A: Principles and Virtues. They should then define these terms in their own words.

Discussion Questions:

  • How do free and fair elections ensure the principle of consent is upheld?
  • How does the principle of rule of law help ensure free and fair elections?
  • What tensions may emerge between these two principles?

Next, have students read Handout B: Misleading narratives abound about Ga.’s new voting law and Handout C: Georgia’s shameful new voting laws are a product of GOP desperation while filling out the rest of Handout D: Graphic Organizer. Finally, have students answer the Analysis Questions.

 

Analysis Questions:

  1. Which article’s argument do you find more compelling? Explain your answer.
  2. Are the constitutional principles of Rule of Law and Consent of Governed/Popular Sovereignty mutually exclusive? Why or why not?
  3. Think of another example in the modern day where two different constitutional principles from Handout A: Principles and Virtues have potentially been in conflict with each other. How has this been resolved?

 

Extension:

BRI’s Think the Vote platform is designed for students to engage with each other in discussions on current events and their relation to constitutional principles. This week, we are asking students to address the question: Should the States Increase I.D. requirements for voting? Students with the best answers on each side of the debate will each win an Amazon gift card, BRI swag, and be entered for a chance to win $1,000!