Breadcrumb

A Best Laid Plan Derailed. Modern Supreme Court interpretation of the Need for the Voting Rights Act

Lesson Author
Course(s)
Required Time Frame
90 minutes
Grade Level(s)
Lesson Abstract
Supreme Court rulings in the Shaw v. Reno (1995) and the Shelby County vs. Holder (2013) cases relied heavily on the reasoning behind the passage of the Voting Rights Act (1965). Students in AP Gov’t and Politics are required to know both cases as part of the cannon of cases and the precedents set as part of the course standards.

Rationale (why are you doing this?)

Supreme Court rulings in the Shaw v. Reno (1995) and the Shelby County vs. Holder (2013) cases relied heavily on the reasoning behind the passage of the Voting Rights Act (1965). Students in AP Gov’t and Politics are required to know both cases as part of the cannon of cases and the precedents set as part of the course standards.

Lesson Objectives - the student will

Review the background information about the need for the Voting Rights Act (VRA)

Understand the relationship between the Federal Govt’ position (LBJ) and the state of Alabama (Governor Wallace) in the aftermath of the Selma march through an examination of primary sources

Review the case facts in both the Shaw (1995) and Shelby Co (2013) and review the holding of the cases including summarization of the majority and dissenting opinions

Evaluate the effectiveness of the VRA with regards to the federal law’s initial purpose compared to the precedents during the Roberts Court.

District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met

MPA-3.A.1: Legal protections found in federal legislation and the Fifteenth, Seventeenth, Nineteenth, Twenty-Fourth, and Twenty-Sixth Amendments relate to the expansion of opportunities for political Participation

PRD-3.A.1: Traditional news media, new communication technologies, and advances in social media have profoundly influenced how citizens routinely acquire political information, including new events, investigative journalism, election coverage, and political commentary.

CON-3: The republican ideal in the U.S. is manifested in the structure and operation of the legislative branch. Shaw v. Reno (1993) Majority minority districts, created under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, may be constitutionally challenged by voters if race is the only factor used in creating the district

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed

Case Summary for Shaw v. Reno Source: Street Law for Students https://store.streetlaw.org/shaw-v-reno-1993/

Case Summary for Shelby County vs. Holder Source: Oyez.org https://www.oyez.org/cases/2012/12-96

Image of Voter Registrations pre VRA and Post VRA https://www.vox.com/2015/3/6/8163229/voting-rights-act-1965

Primary sources needed (document, photograph, artifact, diary or letter, audio or visual recording, etc.) needed

Telephone Conversations between MLK and LBJ 11/25/63, 01/15/65

Telephone Conversation between Press Secretary Bill Moyers and LBJ 3/9/65

Photos of the “Bloody Sunday” march in Selma

Telegram correspondence between Gov George Wallace and President Johnson detailing protections for future marches between Selma and Montgomery, AL (3/12/65-3/20/65)

Clip of LBJ’s speech before a joint session of Congress detailing the need for the passage of the Voting Rights Act

http://www.lbjlibrary.org/lyndon-baines-johnson/speeches-films/president-johnsons-special-message-to-the-congress-the-american-promise

Fully describe the activity or assignment in detail. What will both the teacher and the students do?

Students will start class with a bell ringer to ask what they know of the march on Selma. After a short check for student knowledge, the teacher will then play the telephone conversation between LBJ and MLK making note of the significance of the date (November 25th).

Students will then listen to the second conversation between the two leaders making note of how the two leaders will approach pushing an extension of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by supporting the Voting Rights Act at 1965).

Students will then review pictures of the March on Selma and then watch a short clip of Johnson’s 1965 March speech before a joint session of Congress in which he lays out an argument for passage of the Voting Rights act.

Students will then pair up and fill in a T chart diagram showing the perspectives of Federal gov’t support of the Voting Rights Act (Johnson’s position) vs States Rights Act (Wallace position) Share out what each side “had to gain vs had to lose” by supporting the Voting Rights Act.

Students will then move to the modern period and review the two cases with students returning to their partner pairs with each student taking one of the cases (Shaw v. Reno or Shelby County v. Holder)

Students will review the case summary, holdings, Constitutional issues, and the majority vs minority opinions in the cases.

Using a Venn diagram, students will then work together to fill in a case comparison with attention paid to how the courts considered the Constitutionality of the VRA as it was applied in the 1990s and 2000s. The teacher likely will need to review that the VRA had to be reauthorized by Congress as it was considered sunset legislation as well as the most controversial parts, Section 5 the preclearance provision.

Assessment: fully explain the assessment method in detail or create and attach a scoring guide

The teacher will assess informally for student knowledge by asking questions and circulating amount the room as students work first on the T Chart following the rationale why the Voting Rights Act was created using the communications between LBJ and MLK.

The teacher will ask students to put on a whiteboard or smartboard the venn diagram for the cases to check for student knowledge and the connection between why the VRA was created and then how the federal law has been interpreted by the courts in more recent decades.

Homework assessment- Students will look for two articles (one pro, one con) on the impact of the Shelby County decision and the tie to current changes on the state level to voting regulations (Voter ID laws, laws around absentee ballots, early voting) and be prepared to report out at the following class period.