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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 However, with the the Edmunds-Tucker Act newly enforced, the voting rights for polygamists was revoked.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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Campaign Posters

Have you ever seen Walt Disney’s, “The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band” (1968)? It’s about a musical family with strong Democrat ties who moves out west to the Dakota Territory, and finds themselves in conflict with the predominant Republican community. Seems like a tough life for minorities… Or would it have been tougher for the community to have these Democrats “threaten” their political system, speaking out against everything they stood for? Hmmm…

Believe it or not, a very similar thing happened in Utah Territory. Because of their common religion and way of life, Mormons didn’t really have a need for a political party because there was hardly anyone around who thought differently. And since the Mormons were the first white, permanent settlers in Utah, they became very accustomed to this way of life. That is, until non-Mormons, or “Gentiles” as the Mormons called them, started trickling in and making their political views known through their Liberal Party.

Like in the movie, the Mormons felt annoyed and almost threatened as the Liberal Party grew in numbers as more Gentiles moved to Utah. They felt they needed to join together in a political party to off-set these Liberals. Thus emerged the People’s Party. As the non-Mormon population grew, candidates from the People’s Party started loosing to those of the Liberal Party in local elections, such as in Salt Lake and Ogden. As these new political leaders took office, many Mormons feared what kind of changes that would bring to Utah, and if it would have an affect on the Mormon culture.

Pretend there was an election coming up between candidates between the People’s Party and Liberal Party. You can use two real or fictitious names, or perhaps two different students in your class. Who would your students vote for? What might have been some of the issues of debate between these parties? After discussing this, have your students design and create a campaign poster for the candidate of their choice. What kind of things would you put on your poster to convince people to vote for your party’s candidate?

For more information about this video click here.

For purchase information, click The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band

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