Teacher Guide to Elections and Voting
The significance of the election process is often overlooked. In most Non-Presidential election years, less than half of the population actually votes for the people that represent them.
Voting is an important contribution to society as it's a way of allowing the people to speak their minds in a democracy. How do you feel about abortion? Do you feel schools are not getting enough funds to better the education of our children? How do you feel about war? These are questions that you can answer by voting. You can make your voice heard, and help change your County, State, and Country. Ultimately voting shapes your future.
The California Voter Foundation (CVF) released the results of a recent survey of infrequent and non-registered voters. The purpose was to shed light on why so many people had decided to not participate in the democratic process. The survey turned up some interesting things. People that do not participate mostly say that voting is important, but that they are too busy to vote. The most relevant point that the survey discovered was that 51 percent of non-voters grew up in households and communities where politics and issues were never discussed.
Students need to be made aware of what it means to have elections and what it takes to vote. American citizens must be 18 years of age to vote; however, students can learn where and how to vote, and their different political options so that when they are of age, they can make an informed decision when it comes to voting.
As the saying goes, "If you don't vote, then you can't complain!"
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.
- Background Sites
- Bulletin Board Items
- Fun Election Activity Ideas
- Teaching Graphing Theme
- Voting Lesson Plans
- Voting Worksheets
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.
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.
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.
Related Teacher Resources That Are Worth A Look:
- Ben's Guide: Election Process
- Election Day Webquest
- Federal Election Commission
- KidsVoting USA
- PBS Kids Democracy Project
- Presidents at Inauguration Graph
- Rock the Vote
- The Electoral College
- What Are the Important Issues?