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Latinos at the Ballot Box

Grades: 4-12
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Lesson Summary


In this lesson plan drawing on material from Latino Americans, students examine the evolution of Latino electoral participation with specific reference to the growth of voter participation in South Texas and New York in the 1950s-70s, as well as the impact of Latino voters in major elections of the early 2000s. Students will explore early efforts to mobilize disenfranchised voters, examine watershed campaigns and elections and consider major issues – including the politics of immigration. They will reflect on the major paradigm shifts that have occurred within the last 60 years. Teachers can complete the entire sequence of activities or choose just one of the activities as a stand-alone lesson.


  • Investigate the emergence of the Latino electorate, especially in South Texas in the 1950s – 80s and in New York City in the 1950s-60s.
  • Contextualize the growth of Latino electoral power during the Civil Rights Era, with particular attention to registration pushes in the 1960s and 70s.
  • Track the dates and locations of key events and communities in the history of the Latino electorate.
  • Analyze the politics of immigration from the 1990s to today and the significance of the Latino vote in recent elections.
  • Critically approach the notion of “the Latino vote.”

Grade Levels: 7-12

Suggested Time

  • One/two class periods to review and analyze video segments (this could be completed as homework with discussion held in class). One to three class periods to produce a timeline.

Multimedia Resources


Before the Lesson

Students will complete the first two columns of the K-W-L Chart: what they know about Latinos and voting, and what they want to learn more about Latinos and voting. Allow for 5-10 minutes for students to complete. Students share responses when completed.

Part I: Video Segments

Students view segments from Episodes 3, 4, 5, and 6. Have all students view all segments or divide class into small groups and assigns particular segments. For each segment, students use the Graphic Organizer to make notes about important individuals, organizations and events in the clip. If viewing individually, distribute the Organizers individually, or if viewing in small groups, distribute one per group. Each student/group should note three summarizing points and create two discussion questions based on the clip. Next, they will plot on the Blank Map the location of the events in the clip and mark the dates of the events. Bring the students/groups back to a whole class discussion after viewing, having students explain clips and pose their questions. If students worked in small groups, each group should choose a recorder and speaker.

Part II: Timeline Activity

Have students work in groups to complete a timeline chronicling the events, people and places significant to the story of Latino voting between the 1940s and the present. Students may complete timeline using chart paper, poster or preferably via a virtual presentation with images, graphics, etc. Students are to be as specific as possible, especially with targeted and specific dates and years. Once completed student groups may present timelines to the class. PowerPoint and prezi.com are both useful tools for this project, but additional online resources include:

  • Interactive Timeline Tools – http://teachinghistory.org/teaching-materials/teaching-guides/24347
  • Timeline with Analysis Idea – http://teachinghistory.org/teaching-materials/teaching-guides/24347

Part III: Lesson Closure

Students complete the L Column of the KWL Chart, noting what they learned in this lesson with regard to Latinos and voting – and the politics of immigration. Students should have a clearer understanding of the objectives and concepts at the end of the lesson. Individual student write-ups can also be shared in class discussion.

Part IV: Extension - The Latino Vote: Myth or Reality?

Once the results of the 2012 presidential election were in, the emerging power of Latino voters was clear: Latinos comprised crucial blocks in key states and over 70% supported the winning candidate Barack Obama. Neither party missed the message, but will either one heed it? Many assumptions are made about Latinos, their voting interests and their allegiances. Less attention is given to the fact that Latinos, like any population of voters, are widely varied in their priorities. A handful of years before Obama’s 2012 victory, a number of Latino voters supported Republican George W. Bush. It’s clear that any national political effort needs to consider Latino voters, but less clear is what the term “the Latino vote” really means. Is it a true voting block that moves together or a myth surrounding a diverse group of voters? Review some of the sources below, then explain the myth and realities of the Latino Vote: Is there a real distinction between them? Defend your position.

Latino Decisions is a polling firm founded by political science scholars and cited as some of the most insightful polling in 2012. Suggested blogs and studies: 2016 Forecast, surveys of Latino voters on healthcare, gun legislation, immigration and same-sex marriage.

The Pew Center’s Hispanic Trends Project is a comprehensive research effort including surveys and demographic analysis. From the topics page, students can go directly to content on voter profiles and behaviors, specific elections or particular issues

National Standards for History

Project Credits