Civic Literacy Curriculum

Question 63: There are several amendments to the US Constitution about who can vote. Which of these is not one of them?


Q63: There are several amendments to the US Constitution about who can vote. Which of these is not one of them? 

A. A citizen's race cannot be used as a disqualification for voting 
B. A citizen's sex cannot be used as a disqualification for voting.
C. Failure to pay a poll tax cannot be used as a disqualification for voting.
D. All of these are suffrage amendments in the US Constitution.

Question Background Information


One of the most common types of constitutional amendments is the expansion of federally guaranteed suffrage, or the ability to vote in elections. Originally, the Constitution left suffrage almost completely to the states. Article I, Section II holds that, for House elections, initially the only federal office directly elected by the citizens, “the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.”

This meant that states could set rules over which citizens were eligible to vote—and which were not. Many states initially had various forms of property requirements, though these largely faded away in the early 19th century.  With the exception of a brief period in New Jersey, women could not vote anywhere in most of early American history, though in the late 19th century some of the newly admitted western states began extending suffrage rights to women. Southern states, meanwhile, largely worked to keep black Americans from voting, first directly, classifying by race, and then through renewed property qualifications and other restrictions. 

Political reformers challenged these restrictions as unjust and un-American, arguing that suffrage was an important right and responsibility of national citizenship, and fought long political efforts to extend suffrage rights. This initially happened at the state level, achieving important but incomplete successes. Eventually, Americans decided to set more consistent federal rules on voting, and passed several amendments creating nationwide requirements for access to the ballot. 

The 15th Amendment
Prohibits discrimination in voting on account of race.
Ratified by the states: 1870
The 19th Amendment
Prohibits discrimination in voting on account of sex—meaning that men and women can vote.
Ratified by the states: 1920

The 24th Amendment
Bans poll taxes in federal elections, which means that governments cannot charge citizens money as a condition for voting in an election.
Ratified by the states: 1964

The 26th Amendment 
Guarantees American citizens who are eighteen years old or older the right to vote.
Ratified by the states: 1971

Additional Content

Offline Activity


One way that people can make their opinions about government known is to vote. For this activity, the students will have an opportunity to write their own editorial, encouraging people to vote in an upcoming election.  


  • Provide each group with a copy of How to Write an Editorial.  
  • Provide each group with an editorial template. 
  • Provide each group with a copy of Why We Vote. (If your students already have a Constitution, you need only print the first page)
  • A rubric is available if this is a graded activity.  

Required files

The Teaching Materials for this exercise includes a rubric.

Teaching Materials.


  1. Editorials can be written by the newspaper’s staff, but they can also be submitted by every-day readers, both as individuals or as a team. Divide the class into pairs based on the students’ individual levels. Group A is the group that needs some extra support. Group B is the core group that has the core knowledge to complete the activity. Group C is the enrichment group that has mastered the material; Group C students are prepared to extend their knowledge. Pair those who need support (Group A) with those who have core knowledge and/or have mastered the material (Groups B and C). 
  2. Explain to the students that they are going to write editorials for the local paper about the importance of voting in elections. The editorial that they write will be based on their existing knowledge and the provided readings. 
    • Before handing out the reading, brainstorm with the students on the following topics: 
      • Why is it important to vote? How does it help the nation? 
      • What reasons do you think that people have for voting? 
      • What reasons do you think that people have for not voting? 
    • Explain to the students that the reading is to give them some information on why voting matters and how voting laws have changed over time. There are questions in the reading to help them think about what they believe and what they might decide to argue in their editorial. 
    • You may wish to emphasize the following: 
      • You are not grading them on their opinions. The goal of this exercise is to write an editorial and share their opinion with the public (e.g., the class). It is not to make an argument that everyone likes or agrees with, although it is important to try to be as persuasive as possible. 
  3. Review the editorial guidelines with the students and help them narrow their topics down as needed.  
  4. Have them create an outline or rough draft on the template before writing a final copy. 
  5. Circulate throughout the room as the students complete their letters to check for understanding and help as needed. 
  6. Have them write the final copy on a clean sheet of loose-leaf paper. 
  7. Ask some of the students to read their editorials, and then use those pieces to stimulate a discussion. 

Discussion Prompts

Below are two discussion prompts that can be used by teachers in a classroom setting. 

  • The first discussion prompt will be one that is designed to support students that are not really understanding the content in a way that would help them to answer the test question. 
  • The second discussion prompt will be one that is designed to further student understanding of the content by making real-world connections, including connections to current events and historical events.


Along with federalism, the separation of powers, and civil liberties, voting is a core part of protecting liberty in our Constitution. Ensuring citizens’ access to voting not only aligns with the “republican form of government” guaranteed in our Constitution, but helps American citizens protect their liberties, as well as practice self-government. 

As Frederick Douglass observed in reference to the civil rights of former slaves, “individuals… must have the power to protect themselves, or they will go unprotected.” By this he meant suffrage:  “The plain, common-sense way of doing [the] work [of protecting rights] is simply to establish in the South one law, one government, one administration of justice, one condition to the exercise of the elective franchise, for men of all races and colors alike.” The Fifteenth Amendment, ratified four years after Douglass wrote that, was an important moment in America’s development toward “a more perfect Union.”

Prompt 1

Since the Constitution went into effect in 1789, four amendments specific to voting have been added. Can you name one of them and explain how it protects the rights of American citizens?

Prompt 2

How does voting enable citizens to protect their rights? Use current and past events to support your answer.