The much-contested right to vote in America
This documentary explores one of the most basic questions facing our democracy: who may participate?
In Part 1, you’ll hear a fascinating history of the much-contested right to vote in America: from slaves freed after the Civil War, to women’s suffrage, to the civil rights movement. Included is the moving first-person story of a young woman who participated in the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer project for voter registration of African Americans.
Part 2 presents a diversity of voices and views on today’s debates over whether voters should be required to show ID at the polls. Some Americans believe that ensures honest elections; while others see it as an unnecessary obstacle to minority voters. And we consider whether people who’ve committed felonies should be allowed to vote, after serving their time.
Enjoy additional content produced as a part of this special project.
- Alexander Keyssar: Voting rights and the Civil War (14:45) Harvard professor and historian Alexander Keyssar considers voting rights—and voter suppression—in pre- and post-Civil War America.
- Faye Dudden: Women’s suffrage in America (16:03) Colgate University history professor Faye Dudden examines women’s suffrage in America, from its early days in the 19th century to its modern-day impact on the feminist movement.
- Myrna Perez: Voting rights & felon disenfranchisement (11:46) Myrna Perez, deputy director at the Brennan Center for Justice, discusses the 2013 Supreme Court ruling on the Voting Right Act, and she shares her thoughts on felon disenfranchisement.
Check out these excellent resources for more information:
- Background on the controversial 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Shelby County v. Holder, that struck down part of the Voting Rights Act – includes audio from the Court hearing: https://www.oyez.org/cases/2012/12-96
- Video and transcripts of two key speeches by President Lyndon B. Johnson: His address to Congress on voting rights (March 15, 1965): https://millercenter.org/the-presidency/presidential-speeches/march-15-1965-speech-congress-voting-rights; and his signing of the Voting Rights Act (August 6, 1965): https://millercenter.org/the-presidency/presidential-speeches/august-6-1965-remarks-signing-voting-rights-act
- Report (2012) by Pew Center on the States about problems with our voting system: http://tinyurl.com/pewtrusts-voting
- Results of 50-state study on the actual extent of voter fraud, conducted by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University: http://votingrights.news21.com
- Background (including video trailer) on the PBS ‘American Experience’ documentary Freedom Summer: http://tinyurl.com/pbs-freedomsummer
- Video (1 min.) of President Obama recognizing 102-year-old voter Desiline Victor at the 2013 State of the Union: http://tinyurl.com/desiline-victor
- Video (55 min.) from “In Performance at the White House: A Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement”: http://tinyurl.com/whitehouse-civilrights
- NAACP statement on effects of the Shelby case in which the Supreme Court struck down a major provision of the Voting Rights Acts: http://www.naacp.org/latest/shelby-v-holder-three-years-later
- Should Americans be automatically registered to vote, unless they opt-out? http://www.projectvote.org/blog/support-automatic-voter-registration-act
Funded by The Park Foundation, the Humankind Program Fund, and
the S-C Group, whose charitable resources include FJC, a foundation of donor-advised funds.
Audio engineer: Antonio Oliart-Ros. Associate Producers Marc Kilstein, Ken Rogers, David Cruz. Webmaster Brian K. Johnson. Special thanks to: Lisa Mullins, Thomas Royal, Cathy Graham.