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“I’m Sorry, You Can’t Vote…”

This activity can follow the Campaign Posters activity, or it can be done in its own. It’s a voting simulation that teaches students how the Edmunds-Tucker Act (1887) effected the People’s Party vote.

It involves two political candidates (fictitious or not) running against each other for a local government position. One comes from the Mormon dominated People’s Party, and the other comes from the Liberal Party. After each side has made its political intentions known, the class votes. Now, at that time in territorial Utah, the People’s Party held a clear majority over the Liberal Party. However, with the the Edmunds-Tucker Act newly enforced, the voting rights for polygamists was revoked. This had a great effect in areas where the number of people in both political parties were close, such as Ogden and Salt Lake. With the decreased amount of votes from the People’s Party, the Liberal Party came out on top!

Hand out a “ballot” to each student, listing each candidate’s name preceded by a check-box. Each student will privately vote, and once it appears that all the votes have been cast, call everyone up to the ballot box. They need to form 2 lines at each side of the box, for People’s Party and Liberal Party accordingly. You stand in the middle with the box in front of you. Let the students drop their vote in the box once they get to the front of the line. But for every 3rd student in the People’s Party line, say, “I’m sorry, sir, but you’re vote doesn’t count,” and toss it aside. This might get some students upset, but it’s expected. Now they’ll know what it was like for polygamists who couldn’t vote!

Count up the votes, and in the ideal situation, the Liberals should have the most votes. If you’re worried about not having enough People’s Party or Liberal Party votes, you can always assign a percentage of kids to a certain party. Give them a role to play: “You and your friends belong to the Liberal Party- you don’t think it’s fair to bring religion into politics and…etc.” Try this or your own version out, and let us know how it went!

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