In accordance with the IU Themester of Democracy, this Media Beat post covers the most fundamental and crucial aspect of democracy: voting.
The United States has long been perceived by many as a beacon of global democracy. While the American democratic system has its strengths, we must also acknowledge its weaknesses. Discussion of our political systems leads to constructive critique and the strengthening, growth, and development of our country.
Since its founding, the United States has often made its citizens fight for the right to vote, rather than granting the right freely and equally to all citizens. The privilege of voting that most of us have today is the result of decades-long struggles led by American citizens. Four constitutional amendments have expanded the right to vote to millions of Americans. However, modern obstacles to voting continue to suppress the votes of millions. Some of these modern obstacles include: voter ID requirements, voter registration purges, disenfranchisement of imprisoned people, and election day restrictions. These obstacles disproportionately affect Black and Latino Americans.
Below are some documentary films that explore the history of voting rights and suffrage in the United States. IU in-person resources continue to be limited in order to follow safety measures. But not to fear! Media Services has a plethora of online resources for your viewing needs. All of the films below are available through streaming with the use of your IU credentials.
This 10-minute video gives a short background on two constitutional amendments that expanded the right to vote: the 15th and 24th Amendments.
Part of a series on American constitutional amendments, this short clip explores how (White) women were granted the right to vote.
Explore the events that created widespread support for civil rights and pushed President Lyndon B. Johnson to enact the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
This is another short documentary film which dives into how and why the 26th Amendment lowered the voting age from 21 to 18.
Two major provisions of Johnson’s Voting Rights Act were struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013. Explore how the SCOTUS case of Shelby County v. Holder allowed states to weaken the Voting Rights Act of 1965, resulting in citizens being stripped of their voting rights. Since the Shelby decision, several states have passed laws that disproportionately prevent minorities from voting.
What are some modern obstacles to voting? This episode of Moyers & Company discusses voting ID laws and how they have disproportionately affected minority groups. It also examines how rare voter fraud actually is.
Why is it important to vote? How do I register? How do I research what is on my ballot? These questions and more are addressed in this informative documentary film about how to be a responsible citizen and voter.
OTHER FILMS TO WATCH:
MOYERS & COMPANY: This episode dives into more detail about how the Shelby County v. Holder decision has led to voter suppression.
REQUIEM FOR THE AMERICAN DREAM: How is the American constitutional system setup to prevent democracy? To what extent is inequality ingrained in our society? Explore how wealth and power is concentrated in the hands of a select few.
WILLIE VELASQUEZ: This title covers voting and Hispanic Americans.
HOW WOMEN WON THE VOTE: In as early as 1838, some Australian women were able to cast ballots. How did Australia achieve female suffrage so early? Compare the Australian and American fight for equality in this documentary.
The fight to vote did not end with the passing of the 26th amendment in 1971. Universal suffrage is something that the citizens of this country are constantly trying to achieve. IU encourages civic participation through initiatives like the Big Ten Voting Challenge. If you are privileged enough to be able to vote, do not waste your vote. Participate in this year’s presidential election and all future elections (not just presidential!). In today’s environment, voting and ballot information of all kinds are easier to get than ever before. If you are a student with last-minute questions, start here: https://provost.indiana.edu/vote/index.html.
Isabella Salerno is a senior majoring in Political Science and American Studies. In her free time she enjoys listening to music, drinking coffee, and doing puzzles.