Sunday, December 20, 2015

A great illustration to use when you discuss Shelby County v. Holder (the 2013 Supreme Court decision on the Voting Rights Act)

Sometimes a single illustration can explain a difficult concept more succinctly and accurately than a video or written excerpt.  A great example is in today's New York Times Magazine.

The illustration by Ben Wiseman accompanies a story ("The New Attack on Hispanic Voting Rights") by Jim Rutenberg.  The story itself reports the impact caused by the Supreme Court's 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder declaring unconstitutional a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. (Click here for a news story reporting the decision, and here for commentary).

Wiseman's illustration shows a maze.  At the center is a ballot box.


There are two entries to the maze.  In the finished illustration printed in the magazine, the entry on the left, labeled "Vote," shows a straight path to the ballot box.  The entry on the right, labeled "Votar," (the Spanish word for "vote") however points toward entry into the unfathomable maze.  (For some reason the online versions of the illustration omit both labels.)  Wiseman's clear message is that Shelby County has made it more difficult for Hispanics to exercise their constitutional right to vote.

It would be fun to show this illustration to your students when you are discussing voting.  Show them the illustration (remembering to add the words "Vote" and "Votar" at the maze entry points) and ask them to decipher it.  What symbols do they see?  (Answers include a maze, a ballot box, two entry ways labeled with different words, and two entirely different paths to the ballot box.)  Ask them to speculate what each symbol represents.  Ask them also to speculate about the point-of-view and/or bias of the illustrator here.

Wiseman's illustration here harkens back to a famous illustration criticizing the "butterfly ballot" used in Palm Beach County, Florida, during the 2000 Bush-Gore election.  Here's the real ballot:
Image result for butterfly ballot

And here's the Mike Collins illustration that mocked it:

You could do the same type of activity using these two illustrations as well.

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