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Young Americans are often reluctant to become involved in traditional forms of political activity. They may believe politicians are not interested in what they have to say, or they may feel their votes do not matter. However, this attitude has not always prevailed. Indeed, today’s college students can vote because of the activism of college students in the 1960s. Most states at that time required citizens to be twenty-one years of age before they could vote in national elections. This angered many young people, especially young men who could be drafted to fight the war in Vietnam. They argued that it was unfair to deny eighteen-year-olds the right to vote for the people who had the power to send them to war. As a result, the Twenty-Sixth Amendment, which lowered the voting age in national elections to eighteen, was ratified by the states and went into effect in 1971.

Are you engaged in or at least informed about actions of the federal or local government? Are you registered to vote? How would you feel if you were not allowed to vote until age twenty-one?

In many ways, the pluralists were right. There is plenty of room for average citizens to become active in government, whether it is through a city council subcommittee or another type of local organization. Civic organizations always need volunteers, sometimes for only a short while and sometimes for much longer.

For example, Common Cause (Links to an external site.) is a non-partisan organization that seeks to hold government accountable for its actions. It calls for campaign finance reform and paper verification of votes registered on electronic voting machines. Voters would then receive proof that the machine recorded their actual vote. This would help to detect faulty machines that were inaccurately tabulating votes or election fraud. Therefore, one could be sure that election results were reliable and that the winning candidate had in fact received the votes counted in their favor. Common Cause has also advocated that the Electoral College be done away with and that presidential elections be decided solely on the basis of the popular vote.

Follow-up activity: Choose one of the following websites to connect with organizations and interest groups in need of help:

Once you’ve viewed one of the websites listed above, copy and paste the link in the “submit assignment” section. Include a comment describing what you learned or what you found interesting.

2.In the summer of 1786, farmers in western Massachusetts were heavily in debt, facing imprisonment and the loss of their lands. They owed taxes that had gone unpaid while they were away fighting the British during the Revolution. The Continental Congress had promised to pay them for their service, but the national government did not have sufficient money. Moreover, the farmers were unable to meet the onerous new tax burden Massachusetts imposed in order to pay its own debts from the Revolution.

Led by Daniel Shays, the heavily indebted farmers marched to a local courthouse demanding relief. Faced with the refusal of many Massachusetts militiamen to arrest the rebels, with whom they sympathized, Governor James Bowdoin called upon the national government for aid, but none was available. The uprising was finally brought to an end the following year by a privately funded militia after the protestors’ unsuccessful attempt to raid the Springfield Armory.

This contemporary depiction of Continental Army veteran Daniel Shays (left) and Job Shattuck (right), who led an uprising of Massachusetts farmers in 1786–1787 that prompted calls for a stronger national government, appeared on the cover of Bickerstaff’s Genuine Boston Almanack for 1787.

Were Shays and his followers justified in their attacks on the government of Massachusetts? What rights might they have sought to protect?

3. According to the chapter, under the first amendment’s we have freedom of speech. Subsequent Supreme Court ruling have expanded that right to symbolic speech. For example, the Supreme Court has rules that such items such as a political symbol on an armband or raising a fist are protected under the first amendment. After you’re review of the first amendment and the court cases discussed, it’s your turn to weigh in. There’s been lost of debate recently over the removal of the confederate flag. Some states have willing removed confederate symbols, while in other places such as Charlottesville, protests have led to violence. Click the submit button above and give your thoughts on this topic…. is the confederate flag, which obviously carries meaning (although different meaning to different groups), protected under the first amendment?

4. his is an excercise in not only being aware of civil rights issues, but also reading public opinion poll data (our next chapter). Latino Civil Rights continues to be a major deciding factor in political elections in the United States. Latino vote, according to many polls, is often the deciding factor in muplitple political races and on policy decisions across the nation. Latino Decisions (Links to an external site.) is a blog that covers Latino political opinion research, founded by professors of political science, Dr. Gary M. Segura (Links to an external site.) and Dr. Matt Barreto (Links to an external site.). Latino decisions covers political opinions and attitudes, as well as, election coverage for several years. Take a look at their 2016 Latino Vote coverage (Links to an external site.).

Review the data and describe one trend that you see. For example, the data shows that 79% of Latino’s voted for Hilary Clinton, while only 18% voted for Trump. The percentage of Latinos voting for Clinton increases even more when looking at the data for California and Arizona.

**Look at the 2016 Latino Vote coverage (Links to an external site.)


One way to get involved in the fight for civil rights is to stay informed. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is a not-for-profit advocacy group based in Montgomery, Alabama. Lawyers for the SPLC specialize in civil rights litigation and represent many people whose rights have been violated, from victims of hate crimes to undocumented immigrants. They provide summaries of important civil rights cases (Links to an external site.) under their Docket section.

Activity: Visit the SPLC website (Links to an external site.)to find current information about a variety of different hate groups. In what part of the country do hate groups seem to be concentrated? Where are hate incidents most likely to occur? What might be some reasons for this?

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