Vote Teacher Guide to Elections and Voting

Elections and voting are two central elements of a democracy. Democracy, as you may already know, was described by Abraham Lincoln as government for the people, of the people and by the people. For many of us in democratic countries this seems like such an obvious choice - that we should be ruled by people whom we choose. But at the time the idea of democracy first became established it was a revolutionary idea. Do you know why?

People who live in monarchies or theocracies have to follow the idea that their ruler is determined by reasons other than the people's choice. So a person gets to be a King or Queen because they belong to a certain family; or they get to be rulers because of divine guidance. Most ancient societies were built on these principles. In this context, the idea that each person living in a nation gets a vote to determine the person who should be ruler or leader was very appealing to the common man because this gave everyone a say in the government.

Registering

Voting and Registering Lesson Series

This lesson set explains why voting is important in a democracy. This reading explains the mechanisms for registering to vote.

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The right to vote is a privilege that every citizen should take seriously. People who have not had the right to vote have had to fight to get it - women and African-Americans were among those who were initially not given the right to choose their government and they fought to get the right to vote. Voting is the way to elect the person to make leadership choices for the community or country as a whole; so, it is critical that every member of the community should get a right to make that choice. If the choice is made only by one segment of the community, say just the wealthy or just people with blonde hair, then that voting cannot be called truly representative. Voting in countries or places where a significant portion of the population is disenfranchised, or not allowed to right to vote, becomes a way keeping some people suppressed and cannot be called a true democracy.

Parties

What Are Political Parties? Series

This reading activity describes the concept of a political party. This lesson describes the history and philosophy of the Democratic and Republican Party. Includes reading passages, multiple choice, answer keys, and free response questions.

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In a democracy, the vote becomes the way to voice your opinion. Elections are the time and place for making your point along with your fellow voters. The elections allow the ideals of democracy to be functional - if each person gets up to cast their vote about a government decision on a different day, there will be no order and things will begin to be chaotic. By determining the time period for any office in the government and conducting elections according to that term limit, elected officials are given the time to do their job. So, since it has been determined that a person can be president of the United States for four years at a time the US presidential elections are held every four years. For some other offices, like the school board member, the term in office can be one year and in those cases the elections happen every year. Voters are allowed to share their opinions in the time between elections and they should engage in debates if they choose, but they get to vote to express their opinion only during the elections.

Caucuses

Primaries and Caucuses, Counting Votes, and Super Tuesday

This lesson set explains primaries and caucuses, the process of counting election votes. An additional reading explains Super Tuesday during the primary elections.

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In elections, whether in direct or representative democracy, the person who wins the most number of votes is usually the person who wins the elections. This means that the people who are standing for elections will try to persuade as many voters as possible to his or her point of view. They will use the time of the campaign to let people know what they stand for and answer questions to clarify their ideas or positions. This allows the voters to get to know them better. So, the process of voting and elections can make all citizens better informed about the issues at stake. Elections and voting are fundamental to the proper functioning of a democratic government and are symbols of an open society where all citizens have a right to their opinion.

Campaigns

Presidential Campaigns and the Electoral College

This lesson series discusses the steps in running for president and explains the Electoral College.

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