[10/26/20] – Alabama Voter Suppression

Next week we elect the 46th President of the United States of America. In many ways, this is a historic moment. Record numbers of early voters have already cast their ballots across the country. Millions more remain unable to cast their vote due to racist policies designed to intentionally block Black and Latinx voters from getting to the polls. Nowhere is this more evident than in Alabama. Home to Crimson Tide football and the final remains of George Wallace. Alabama is also home to the 1965 Voting Rights Act. This election year Alabama is registering the highest percentage increase in early voters and some of the most restrictive voting laws in the country. Restricting voting is nothing new to Alabama. In fact, the language that disenfranchises Black and Latinx voters exists in the State’s constitution written by the architects of this southern state. This last week, the Supreme Court ruled against a case arguing for curbside voting practices to protect vulnerable populations. This ruling puts the votes of thousands of Alabama early voters in jeopardy. In this week’s Lecture Spark, we examine Alabama voter suppression – then and now – through the lens of sociology. We utilize the three dominant sociological paradigms and voting security to unpack this issue in the context of this most historic election where the fate of democracy rests in the hands of John and Jane Q. Public.

Download the PowerPoint Lecture Spark for Alabama Voter Suppression

Learning Objectives

LO1: Identify and evaluate the strength of social drivers of voter suppression. 

LO2:  Understand how historical trends in voter suppression are manifesting today…often in different forms with the same intended outcome

LO3: Discuss the value in using each of the three dominant sociological paradigms to investigate the issue of voter suppression. 


Rep. Clyburn on Supreme Court’s Threat To Racial Equality: ‘Arrest This Cancer Before It Spreads’

House Majority Whip Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina discusses the Supreme Court’s ruling on curbside voting in Alabama and the potential for a conservative majority to usher in a second Jim Crow era.

The new civil rights march: resisting Alabama’s photo ID law | US Elections 2016

Alabama is the home of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, designed to fight voter suppression.

How Alabama Citizens Are Getting Their Voting Rights Back | NowThis

Thousands of Alabama citizens are getting their rights back, thanks to the Alabama Voting Rights Project.

Discussion Questions

What groups are most likely to experience obstacles to voting as a result of the Supreme Court ruling in favor of restoring a measure that blocks curbside voting in Alabama? What groups stand to benefit the most for the restoration of the law blocking of curbside voting? What is the role of bureaucracy in creating and perpetuating this cycle of discrimination?

Why might powerful groups be actively working to shift attention from the real problem with voting – voter turnout – to a myth of voter fraud? What is there to gain by challenging the integrity of a free and fair election? What are the social consequences for the United States if either party is accused and convicted of tampering with the integrity of the election?

From a symbolic-interaction perspective, what experiences might make a voter less likely to participate in voting? How do groups intimidate others in an attempt to discourage them from voting? How might the experience of discrimination while voting influence one’s definition of democracy and the government altogether?

From a structural-functional perspective, what social institutions are responsible for racializing groups and establishing the racial hierarchy in the United States? If voter suppression is a racist act that harms millions, why does it persist? How does the legal system work to disenfranchise Black and Latinx populations? How might it be possible for the United States to ever come to a place of homeostasis with regards to race relations?

From a conflict perspective, how does limiting access to voting for racialized and oppressed populations drive wealth competition in America? How does the availability of wealth make it possible to restrict the voices of citizens that do not agree with your vision of the nation and aspirations for the future? How can increased voter participation challenge the existing status quo that places 50% of the nation’s wealth in the hands of the 59 wealthiest Americans?


A sociologist would most likely use the _______ perspective to guide their research into how the lived experience of being discriminated while voting or attempting to register can change one’s definition democracy.
a. Structural-Functional
b. Conflict
c. Symbolic-Interaction
d. Rational Choice

What did C. Wright Mills call the small group of extremely powerful and well-resourced people living who control all social institutions – including government?
a. The Social Prestige
b. The Power Elite
c. The Ultra Rich
d. The Gilded Community

Which of the following is a form of voter suppression that has been utilized by government officials to limit access for low-income and/or Black and Latinx populations?
a. Voter-ID Laws
b. Reading Tests
c. Gerrymandering
d. All of the above

Photo credit: iStockphoto.com/RobinOlimb

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