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Photo of a seven ticket voting machine, Denver Colorado, 1912
Describe roles of citizens in Massachusetts and the United States, including voting in public elections, participating in voluntary associations to promote the common good, and participating in political activities to influence public policy decisions of government.
Focus Questions: What are the roles of citizens in local, state and national elections? What are the roles of citizens in influencing public policy?
Topics on this page include:
Low Voter Participation
Instant Choice Voting
See Special Topic Pages on
Disputed Elections in American Politics
Voting Rights and Voter Suppression
For more information on voting, see
United States History I.21
United States History I.23
on expanding rates of political
and women's suffrage.
Voting Hot Report
from the U.S. Census highlights election data from 1996 to 2010.
Citizens of color lag behind Whites in voter registration and voting rates. For example, during the 2010 midterm elections, Latinos were the least likely to turn out to vote and most likely to not be registered.
The Formula Behind the Voting Rights Act
, an interactive map from
The New York Times,
June 22, 2013 includes states and counties with estimated citizen turnout below 50% in 2012 as well as the most prejudiced states based on 2008 survey data. This offers a perspective on the 2013 Supreme Court voting rights decision.
Winning the Vote: A History of Voting Rights
from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.
states that plurality or winner-take-all voting systems tend to favor a two party system.
Joseph P. Kennedy III, Elizabeth Warren, Barney Frank, 2012 Boston Pride Parade
In the 20th century, Massachusetts was a state dominated by the Democratic Party. It did elect Republican
to fill the vacated Senate seat of the late
, although Brown was defeated in his bid for reelection by
Massachusetts has eleven electoral votes.
to view Scott Brown's acceptance speech.
became the first African American elected to the Senate by popular vote from Massachusetts in 1966. For more information, see "
A Senator's Ambitious Path through Race and Politics,
The New York Times
, February 21, 2007.
to read a bio on Edward Brooke from the U.S. Senate website.
Hiram Rhodes Revels was the first African American Senator,
elected by the Mississippi state legislature in 1870.
was the first African American to elected Governor of Massachusetts in 2006. See
Patrick Makes History
, Boston.com (November 7, 2006). See the Boston Globe's
about his legacy.
was the first Hispanic elected to the Massachusetts General Court, serving in the House of Representatives from 1989 to 1993.
Elizabeth Warren is the first woman elected to the Senate
from Massachusetts in 2012.
On a social level, Massachusetts played a pivotal role in the
Women's Suffrage Movement
. For more on women's suffrage, see
United States History I.33
Presidential candidates from the state have included
John Quincy Adams
John F. Kennedy
, and former governors
For more on national politics, see
House Members who became President or Presidential Candidates
For data on Massachusetts voting in presidential elections visit
270 to Win: Massachusetts
Election Atlas: Massachusetts
LGBTQ Politics and Politicians
served as an openly gay member of the United States House of Representatives.
was the first elected openly gay African American mayor in the state (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1992-1995; 2006-2007).
to read about different issues Barney Frank has been a part of and reported on.
For more information on national politics, see
Milestones in LGBT Politics in America
Presidential Election badges, Andy Clarke.
The Declaration of Independence and Political Activism
is a webquest that introduces students to the political achievements of important people in history.
The ReDistricting Game
lets players redraw election districts to achieve different political results.
Five Living Presidents, January 2009
Massachusetts Voters' Bill of Rights
National Voter Registration Act of 1993
(also known as the Motor Voter Bill).
Low Voter Participation in American Elections
Americans vote in small numbers compared to citizens in other democracies worldwide. The
International IDEA Voter Turnout website
reported that in the 1990s, the United States placed only 140 of out 163 countries in percentage of voters participating in elections. Malta led the list with a voter turnout of 96.7% followed by Uruguay (96.1%) and Cambodia (90.5%). The United States had only 44.9% voter participation.
Participation in American Presidential elections is low and differs greatly by age group. In the 2000 election, only 54.7% of the electorate voted. Individuals ages 18-24 are less likely to vote (only 32% of this group voted in the 2000 Presidential election, although younger voters participated in higher numbers in the 2008 campaign). By contrast, individuals ages 65 and older had a 67.6% rate of voter participation, the highest of any voting age group.
Voter participation did increase by 5 million voters
United States Elections Project,
a website maintained by Professor Michael McDonald at George Mason University, offers information about voter turnout, election administration practices, and redistricting.
U.S. Elections Project: Voter Turnout
from George Mason University presents voter participation data from 2000 to 2012.
High School Civic Education Linked to Voting Participation and Political Knowledge, No Partisanship or Candidate Selection
Women's Participation in Electoral Politics
Rosie Rios, Treasurer of the United States, 2009
Women's participation in politics has been a constant historical struggle. In 2008, women held only 13% of the elective offices in the United States.
Click here for a short
History of the Women's Suffrage Movement
For more on women's rights, see
Women in Elective Office
presents 2011 statistics on women in state legislatures, governor's office and Congress for every state from the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.
Young Women Drive Youth Turnout
shows that women exceeded men by 7 percentage points in the 2012 election, from the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement at Tufts University.
Click here for
interactive maps and cinematic visualizations of how Americans have voted
in every election since 1840 from
, a website developed by the University of Richmond.
Click here for an
interactive exhibit on the history of voting methods
in American history from
Vote: The Machinery of Democracy
created by the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian.
Click here for
Yes We Did: Electing Our President 2008
, a video made by the Barack Obama campaign about their experiences in the 2008 election.
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