Educator Resources

Teachable Texts: America Votes: Our Power and Responsibility

America Votes: Our Power and Responsibility

Refer to CaptionCentral Photographic File of the War Relocation Authority, compiled 1942 - 1945; Still Picture Records Section, Special Media Archives Services Division (NWCS-S), National Archives at College Park, MD. National Archives Identifier 537914.


Here a line is seen waiting to enter the building where they will cast their votes for Councilman from their precinct, San Bruno, California, 06/16/1942.

Historical Background

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside
-Section 1, Amendment XIV, U.S. Constitution
Ratified July 9, 1868


To vote freely is a nearly sacred right of American citizenship. Susan B. Anthony called it our "pivotal right." Today, all American citizens age 18 and over have the right to vote. But it was not always so, and the price for this freedom has been dear.

Here are a variety of resources for exploring, learning, and teaching about how America Votes. It's our power and our responsibility!

Milestones in Voting Rights

(1870) Amendment 15. Voting Rights - Black (men) Right to Vote
(1913) Amendment 17. Direct Election of Senators
(1920) Amendment 19. Women's Right to Vote
(1961) Amendment 23. Presidential Elections for the District of Columbia
(1964) Amendment 24. Poll Tax Ended
(1971) Amendment 26. Vote for Eighteen-Year-Olds

Document Background

During World War II, in 1942 American citizens of Japanese ancestry were removed from their homes and relocated to facilities for the duration of the war. We were at war with Japan, and the U.S. government believed that the country was possibly endangered by allowing these people full rights. In 1983, the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians reported that "A grave injustice was done to American citizens and resident aliens of Japanese ancestry..."

In this photograph, a line is seen waiting to enter the building where they will cast their votes for Councilman from their precinct. A general election for five members of the Tanforan Assembly center Advisory Council is being held on this day. This is the first time Issei (Japanese immigrants) have ever been able to vote because of American Naturalization laws.

Learning Activities

The records of our government are preserved for the American people in the National Archives. For original documents and resources for teaching and learning, visit the National Archives and the National Archives at Boston.

Examine the documents, citations, historical context, and activities in the following websites:

America Votes: 1607-2012

America Votes: Our Power and Responsibility Brochure [pdf]

  1. Consider: When and how did the first presidential election occur? Who ran in the first presidential election? Who won? Which states participated in it? For whom did they vote? How was it different from modern elections?
  2. Create visual representations (bar graphs) of the electors' votes for various elections, and for 2012. Consider: Which states had the largest and smallest populations? What was the average number of electors per state? Consider what might have changed the election's outcome.
  3. Include historic documents as part of vocabulary study. Use the terms "constitution," "ratification," "unanimously," "elector," "union," "executive," "naturalize," "legislatures."
  4. Create a chart showing the issues and positions of all candidates running for President.
  5. Practice reading old script using historic documents.
  6. Read the U.S. Constitution, Article III, to study how we elect a President.

National Archives Resources

Additional Resources