Activity 1: Voting
Check out this timeline giving highlights of how Americans got the vote: http://www.infoplease.com/timelines/voting.html
In 1971 Congress passed a bill that was approved by the states as the Twenty-Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution. It gave citizens 18 years and older the right to vote. Before then, you had to be 21 years old or older to vote.
The change was made because young people pushed for it. At the time, they were being drafted to fight in the Vietnam War. They argued that if they were old enough to fight and maybe die for their country, they were old enough to vote.
Today, immigrants are enlisting in the US Army and fighting for the country. Do you think they should have the right to vote? Why or why not?
Can you make the case for the voting age being lowered to 16 or even younger? What arguments would you make?
Activity 2: Separation of Powers
There have been times when the system of separation of powers has not worked the way the Constitution says it should. For instance, in Article 1, Section 8, the Constitution gives Congress (the legislative branch) the power to "declare war." Article II, Section 2 gives the president the power to be the "Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy." Once a war is ordered by Congress, the president directs it.
But on several occasions, the president has used force against other countries without Congress declaring war. In 1973, Congress passed the "War Powers Resolution" which requires close consultation between the legislative and executive branches when troops are sent to war.
Research the times that US troops have been used in conflict since 1973.
Did Congress declare war in every case?
In any case?
Has the War Powers Resolution functioned?
Can you think of other issues where there is controversy about the separation of powers and constitutional checks and balances?