Tools of Corruption

Tools of Corruption

Click below to access the downloadable article that goes with the exercises on this page. The goals listed in the articles and exercises are derived from the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs).

Download “The Tools of Corruption” Article

Section Objective:

Students will better understand the tools, techniques, methods and laws that have been put into and are still in practice to suppress the citizens power of political participation. 

Discussion Questions:

  • What changes and measures could be taken to offer greater opportunities for the public to vote on Election Days?
  • Have you been noticeably impacted by forms of voter suppression or corruption? How so?
  • What communities or interest groups do you believe use forms of voter suppression? Are there groups that do not employ these tools in any form?

Citations / Further Exploration:

Who’s Counting?: How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk, John Fund and Hans von Spakovsky

The Embattled Vote in America: From the Founding to the Present, Allan J. Lightman

The Fight to Vote, Michael Waldman

Exercise: Let’s Take a Literacy Test

Subject(s): History, English

Goals: Students will be able to:

  • Identify political issues through discussion.
  • Explore the ethical and legal issues related to the access and use of information.
  • Analyze, compare and contrast multiple texts for content, intent, impact and effectiveness.


Copies of State of Louisiana Literacy Test, pens and pencils. One can be found here:

Set Up:

Hand each student a copy of the Literacy Test. Make sure each student has something to write with.

Discuss / Do:

  • What you have in front of you is an old literacy test from the state of Louisiana. This was given to any voter who could not prove a fifth-grade education. To be able to vote, the citizen would need to pass this test. As it states at the top of the page, students have ten minutes to complete this test and must answer all questions right to “pass.”
  • Students have ten minutes to silently take the test. The instructor should take the test themselves while their students are.
  • Review some of the harder/more confusing questions with students and how the instructions could possibly lead to multiple answers.
  • Why might states employ tests such as this one?
    • In practice, these tests were intended to disenfranchise racial minorities. Southern state legislatures employed literacy tests as part of the voter registration process starting in the late 19th century. The first formal voter literacy tests were introduced in 1890. At first, whites were generally exempt from the literacy test if they could meet alternate requirements that in practice excluded other minorities, such as grandfather clauses or finding of “good moral character.”


  • Do you feel that this test was fair and straight forward? Why or why not? Is it possible that it’s intentionally difficult? Why would it be so?