Should the Federal Government Regulate States’ Election Procedures?


On August 6, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the landmark Voting Rights Act. The Voting Rights Act’s origins date back to the 15th Amendment. However, the post Civil-War era was marked by violence, intimidation, and poll taxes to keep African-Americans from voting. The Supreme Court decided in Baker v. Carr (1962) that the federal courts could intervene in redistricting complaints, and upheld the idea of one person, one vote in Reynolds v. Sims (1964). Violence persisted, including in Selma, Alabama (Bloody Sunday, 1965), leading to the Voting Rights Act.

The Act required that areas of the country that had a history of discrimination receive pre-clearance of any election procedure changes from the federal government. However, the Supreme Court’s decision of Shelby County v. Holder (2013) eliminated a major element of this legislation. Ongoing Congressional efforts include modifications and expansions of this legislation, notably in 2021’s proposed John Lewis Voting Rights Act and Freedom to Vote Act. Using the arguments surrounding this debate, students will examine the historical and contemporary role of the federal government in state elections to determine if the federal government should regulate states’ election procedures.


  • Students will be able to describe key vocabulary terms and concepts associated with the debate of voter suppression, voting rights, and legal and judicial voting reform.
  • Students will be able to identify and explain aspects of the election regulation debate including its potential impact on voter turnout, election transparency, and voting equity.
  • Students will be able to evaluate arguments relating to election regulation and formulate an opinion on this question.