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Elections and Voting • Elections and Voting
Classroom Activities

Objective: Students will read about elections and issues related to voter turnout. Then, they will use what they have learned to create a get-out-the-vote video.

Key Questions:

  • What are two things that negatively impact political participation in the United States? Do you believe these problems can be addressed?

Notes on Implementation:

  • Extend the activity by working with the class to develop a poll to learn more about voter participation. Students should include questions about whether people voted in the last election and why or why not. Include basic demographic data, such as age. Then, have each student give the questionnaire to five adults of voting age. Have students compile the results and compare the voting rate among the people they asked to those for their state using CLIOVIEW in the American Government database.
  • If desired, allow students to work with a partner or in small groups to make their video.

Student Activity: Students can access the below activity in the Elections and Voting Topic Center within the American Government database.

Student Activity:

Voter turnout is the percentage of a body of eligible voters who vote in a particular election. Since the 19th century, voter turnout in the United States has taken a downward spiral that many social scientists fear will continue to drop, particularly among younger Americans. In 1996, less than 50% of eligible voters chose to exercise the vote, the lowest turnout since the election of 1924. Although turnout steadily increased in the early 2000s, rising to 62% with the election of Barack Obama in 2008, low voter turnout is still a persistent issue. The turnout for the 2012 and 2016 elections dipped to around 58%.

In this activity, you will discuss some of the reasons people don't vote and create a video for a get-out-the-vote campaign.

Resources:

Apply:

  1. Begin by reviewing the resources to learn about voting. As you read, look for information about why voting is important to a democracy and the obstacles or deterrents to voting. In addition, use the CLIOVIEW feature in the American Government database to compare percentage of registered voters, in your state and the country as a whole, to the percentage that actually did vote in the last statewide election.
  2. Think about what you have learned. Why do you think some people do not vote? Why do you think voting rates are higher among older people than younger people? Do you think having low voter participation is a problem? Write down some ideas and/or discuss with a partner or small group.
  3. Next, make a 1-minute video designed to "get out the vote" of young people. Address some of the reasons young people might choose not to vote. Emphasize the potential negative impacts for individuals themselves and/or the country as a whole. If you do not have recording equipment, write the script for your video and act it out for the class.

ANSWER KEY:

Key Understandings:

  • Voting rules and regulations affect election outcomes

Possible Answers for Activity:

Videos will vary, depending on how students choose to craft them, but they should demonstrate an understanding of reasons young Americans don't vote. These reasons may include:

  • "My vote doesn't count. The issues do not relate to me."
  • "I'm too busy."
  • "I don't understand the issues."
  • "All politicians are the same/bad."

Videos may focus on an "every vote matters" message, showing young people how issues do affect them. Videos may choose a relevant issue on which to focus, identify a close election in which a small percentage of votes would have changed the outcome, or a fictitious situation in which something humorous (or disastrous) happens because a young person thought their vote didn't matter.

Videos may also focus on how easy it is to vote. These videos could talk about where polling stations are, how long they are open, and how to "buddy up" to carpool or take a bus to the polling station with friends.

Videos may focus on how to learn what voters need to know in order to vote. These videos could show where to find information online or how to access the party's or candidate's platform.

Videos could also focus on negative campaigning. These videos could remind viewers of all the good things elected officials do and emphasize the importance of holding politicians accountable by voting them into or out of office.

ABC-CLIO

MLA Citation

"Elections and Voting." History Hub, ABC-CLIO, 2019, historyhub.abc-clio.com. Accessed 23 Aug. 2019.

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