USA Elections Teacher Resource
This book is designed to teach students about the election process in the United States. The first several pages present information about the purpose of voting and explain important developments in the history of voting. The middle pages teach students about the Electoral College and the election of a U.S. President, senators, representatives, judges, and local officials. The remaining pages deal with campaigns and require students to create campaign materials and compose a speech in support of a candidate. Page 28 presents a crossword puzzle which provides a comprehensive review of election terms. The teacher’s guide contains activity sheet answers as well as a variety of creative challenge activities that extend students’ learning.
After students complete the activities in this book, you may wish to invite community leaders, such as judges, city council members, or election officials to speak to your class. Students can then use the information they have learned about elections to compose questions for the speakers and engage them in discussion.
WORKSHEET & Sample PDF Activity
Sample PDF Activity
Many people don’t exercise their right to vote. Some of these people believe that a single vote won’t make a difference. However, President Lyndon B. Johnson would have disagreed. In 1948 he ran for the U.S. Senate and won the primary election by only 87 votes! Every vote certainly counted in that election.
People give many other reasons for not voting. Some say it’s too confusing to figure out who will be the best person for the job. Others say they’re too busy to take the time to vote. Some people feel that all politicians are dishonest and that no candidate is worth voting for. However, when people don’t exercise their right to vote, they allow others to make decisions that will affect their daily lives. Elected officials make decisions about thousands of matters, including public school issues, health care, taxes, and speed limits.
How important is the right to vote? Let’s find out. First, tear out the three strips below. Choose one of the strips and give it to a partner. Then your partner will give a strip to you. Imagine that the statement on the strip of paper you receive determines how you will be governed by your school. Think about how you would feel if you had to obey the statement. Then complete the activities below.
The History of Voting
The ancient Greeks probably cast the first votes more than 2,500 years ago by raising their hands or by choosing between black and white pebbles. Only free adult males were considered citizens; therefore, they were the only people allowed to vote. Women and slaves were excluded.
In the ancient Greek city-state of Athens, citizens were given the opportunity to participate in the assembly, the law-making body of government. To become a member of the council that prepared issues for the assembly, a citizen’s name was drawn by a form of lottery. Citizens were assigned jury duty in a similar manner. The ancient Greek city-state of Sparta also had an advanced form of government. Citizens there were allowed to vote for ephors, officials who governed the city-state for terms of one year. The citizens also elected a council of elders for life terms to serve with the two kings of Sparta.
The voting system in ancient Rome was highly developed as well. Citizens elected two consuls (similar to our President) to head the government for one-year terms. The ancient Roman Senate was similar to our Congress, except that Senate members served for life terms. At first the Senate was made up of wealthy members of important Roman families. Citizens had little political power. Eventually, however, citizens formed their own assembly and gained more control of the government.
In the early days of voting in the United States, elections were held by a small group of people that voted out loud. Soon, to protect the privacy of the vote, many elections were held by ballot, or secret vote. A citizen simply wrote his vote on a piece of paper. However, since voters had to sign their ballots, many people felt their vote was not truly private. Finally, the United States decided to use the Australian system, ensuring the voter’s privacy. Under the Australian ballot system, a voter simply indicates his or her votes on a preprinted form inside a private voting booth.
- In what ways were voting practices in ancient Greece and ancient Rome similar to
modern American voting practices? In what ways were they different?
- How does the Australian ballot system (now the U.S. system as well) protect a
1 Why Vote?
2 The History of Voting
3 Types of Government
4 What Makes a Good Leader?
5 Political Parties
6 Women Gain Voting Rights
7 Black Americans Gain Voting Rights
8 Laws that Changed Voting Rules
9 Who Can Vote in Elections?
10 Voter Registration
11 How Do Citizens Cast Their Votes?
12 The Electoral College
13 The Electoral College (continued)
14 Electing the U.S. President
15 Electing the U.S. President (continued)
16 Electing Members of Congress
17 Electing Members of Congress (continued)
18 Electing Judges
19 Electing Local Officials
20 How Does a Candidate Campaign?
21 Famous Campaign Strategies
22 Famous Campaign Strategies (continued)
23 Campaign Supporters
24 Presidential Campaign Jobs
25 Campaign Persuasion
26 Giving a Campaign Speech
27 Become a Campaign Supporter
28 Review of Election Terms