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Expansion of Franchise

45 min

Essential Question 

  • How has the expansion of voting rights helped shape and secure participation in democracy?  

Guiding Questions 

  • Which amendments have expanded voting rights, thus expanding on the principle of consent of the governed? 
  • How has legislation been used to extend suffrage to disenfranchised groups, thus expanding on the principle of consent of the governed? 


  • Students will be able to explain how voting rights have been expanded through the Constitution and legislation. 

Student Resources: 


Glossary terms

  • Suffrage
  • Franchise
  • Disenfranchise 


  • Ask students where they would rank voting, on a scale of 1-5 (one being low, five being high), as an important responsibility/action of an American citizen.  
  • Ask students to identify a different action/responsibility they would put above voting and a different action/responsibility they would put below voting.  
  • Discuss answers and reasoning with students.  
  • Transition: Tell students “The right to vote is something people have fought hard for throughout our country’s history. There have been many changes over time that have affected who can vote and for what. Today we will be diving into the amendments and one piece of significant legislation that have specifically altered voting in the United States. 


  • Split students into small groups and assign each group one or more of the following amendments or legislation.  
    • Fifteenth Amendment 
    • Seventeenth Amendment  
    • Nineteenth Amendment  
    • Twenty-Third Amendment  
    • Twenty-Fourth Amendment 
    • Twenty-Sixth Amendment 
    • Voting Rights Act of 1965 
  • Groups will further research the lead-up to, the challenges (those against the amendment/legislation or barriers), details of, voter turnout following the passage of the amendment/legislation, and other pertinent information related to the specific amendment/legislation in the Expanding Franchise organizer.

Scaffolding note Teachers may want students to also provide images (political cartoons, posters, photographs, etc.) that go along with their research. Or teachers may provide the images in advance to help students guide their research.

Assess & Reflect 

  • Ask students the following reflection questions: 
    • After your work today, has your original ranking of voting (the 1-5 scale) changed at all? Why or why not? 
    • Overall, what political, social, or economic reason would you say was the biggest reason for denying the right to vote to groups throughout U.S. history? 
    • Overall, what political, social, or economic method would you say was the most successful in leading to the expansion of the right to vote throughout U.S. history? 
  • Student Handouts can be reviewed, assessed, or scored as desired.  


  • Students could investigate the voting rights of Native Americans, residents of U.S. territory, and people with felony convictions, or argue for/against lowering the voting age to 16.  
  • Students could investigate the changes to voting methods over time and analyze how those methods contributed to the expansion or limitation of voting rights.  

Student Handouts