Gaining the right to rock the vote hasn’t been easy, historically speaking! And if you’re under 18, you still can’t vote in the United States (along with most other countries around the world). While some people and organizations favor lowering that age restriction or eliminating it completely, chances are you still have a few years (or more) to go until you cast your first ballot. In the meantime, learning about the history of elections and voting will help you become an informed citizen and prepare you for when you do have suffrage (noun: the right to vote, especially in public elections). By playing with the digital interactive in the Cast Your Vote pavilion, you can figure out who was able to vote when in the history of the United States.
The cool thing about this game is that there’s no need to go in chronological order! “Flip a lever” on any of the 10 Presidential elections listed at the top, and then try and figure out, by selecting portraits or photographs of historical figures or characters, who was able to vote in that election and why (or why not). It’s a neat mixture between a game of “Guess Who” and a quiz. If you pay close attention as you play through each election in the game, making sure to read why the people you chose could or could not vote, you’ll start to get an idea of how suffrage in the United States has changed over time.
For a more concrete understanding and more of a challenge, try deducing the answers to these questions by playing through the different elections:
What voting restrictions were dropped or added between each election? Do any of these surprise you in particular?
What are some specific historical events influenced suffrage growth?
Which voting restrictions mentioned in the game are based on things a person cannot control? Which restrictions mentioned are based on choices that a person can make? (Hint: there are two, and one is still a restriction today.)
Between 1870 and 1965 (almost 100 years!), which group of people had the legal right to vote but were still largely unable to vote? In what ways were they discouraged to vote? What changed in 1965?
Which voting restriction has changed since the last election mentioned in the game? (Hint: it’s mentioned in the introduction of this blog post!)
Stay tuned for the next Playing and Learning in DCHM, when we’ll paint Dutch genre scenes while learning about what Cornelia van Varick’s life would’ve been like while growing up in colonial New York.