Phase 2: Voting Rights

In 2020 the commemoration of the Ocoee Massacre took place within the context of a contentious election, a vigorous debate over voting rights and the method for casting ballots, and the collection of decennial federal census data that would shape voting districts for the next decade.  The centennial anniversary brought together many of the same political elements that shaped the 1920 events. Massive rallies and marches, inflammatory language in speeches and on social media, and widespread fears about the security of the ballot box and election outcomes roiled the nation. 

Phase 2 of the exhibit focuses on a brief history of voting since 1865.  Considered to be the bedrock of our democratic republic, voting has never been as simple as patriotic images suggest in their depictions of ordinary citizens casting ballots.  Constitutional amendments, state and federal legislation, and judicial rulings determine who votes, where and how they vote, and, along with the federal census, how they will be represented.  Voter intimidation, violence against specific groups of voters, limitations on physical access to the ballot box through placement of polling stations and hours of operation, and the use of gerrymandering to determine legislative districts exert negative effects on voting rights to suppress the vote. Voters push back against limitations through the courts and in pursuit of more expansive voting laws as we saw in the study of Ocoee.