Elections
5th grade

Lisa Gillman and
Heather Poulsen


Contents

  • Background Information

    List of Resources

    Goals

    Activities

  • Return to Other Social Studies Units - Index

  • Background Information

    Running for President:
    In order to run for President of the United States there are three simple requirements. These include being at least thirty-five years old, being born in the U.S., and have lived in the U.S. for more than fourteen years. Most people who run for President are well known politicians who have worked with the government. Voters want our leader to be a person who has a lot of experience and has proven he can manage people and put ideas into action. However, a person who is not a politician can become President. When choosing a President we want someone who is not only smart but is a good leader who works well with people, has good instincts, and is liked by the public, etc. The reason most presidents run for president is because they want to serve their country and believe that they can accomplish great things in that job. Others might run because it is simply the most powerful position in the world. A president can only be in office for two terms, which is eight years.

    Voting process:
    Because we are a democratic government we (the people) vote for our President. The voting process becomes an important part of the elections. The voting process in the National Election happens every four years. The people vote on the first Tuesday following the first Monday of the November month of the election year. In order to place your vote in the election you must be 18 years old or older, you must be a U.S. citizen, and you must have lived in the county for at least 30 days that you will vote in. When voting you have to register in the community where you live before you can vote. This usually is done in advance of the Election Day. You can register at different locations depending on your state. Registering to vote is pretty simple and only takes a few minutes. You just go to the voter registration office at your local city hall and ask for a voter registration card. After you fill it out and send it in, you will receive a notice in the mail telling you where you go to vote. If you move to another town or state, you have to register to vote again. In 1993, Congress passed what came to be called the "motor-voter" bill: Citizens can register to vote when they apply for a driver’s license.

    Where you go to vote is called the "polling place." The polling place in your neighborhood may be your church, a local firehouse, or even your school. Inside there will be a bunch of election officials, volunteers, and one or more voting booths. You usually have to wait in line then give your name to an election official. That person checks the book to make sure you have registered to vote. They will then check your name off to make sure that nobody tries to vote twice. Then you use a voting booth and make your vote.

    When voting you have what they call a ballot. On this ballot are the candidates that are running and the positions they are running for. The presidency is not going to be the only thing on there. People may be running for governor, senator, mayor, sheriff, judge and so on. You vote according to how the ballot is set up. The voter usually marks their choice by pencil or if a voting machine is used, pulls down a lever next to the candidate’s name. You have the choice of who you want to vote for. Your ballot is secret and is then placed into the ballot box.

    Electoral College:
    The electoral college was established by our forefathers with the idea of giving states a voice in electing the President of the United States. Essentially, the electoral college is the actual body who elects the presidents and vice-presidents of the United States. Article 2, Section I, of the Constitution of the United States provides that each state "shall appoint" as many presidential electors as the state has members of Congress. Since every state has two senators and at least one member of the House of Representatives the smallest number of electors a state may have is three.The number of members in the House of Representatives for each state is decided by the population census, and can change after each census is taken. For example Utah has five electoral votes because they have three members in the House of Representatives.

    The Constitution gives the legislature of each state the authority to decide how that state's presidential electors are chosen, and every state has provided that the electors shall be directly elected by the voters. Electors are chosen in the appropriate numbers for each political party that has a candidate running. Each party in each state nominates a slate of presidential electors for their state. The popular vote is what determines which slate will be voting for each state. Voters are actually voting for one party's slate over another's. The result is that one party wins all or none of a state's electoral votes. This is often referred to as the all-or-none way of voting. Once the electors have been chosen and it is determined that their party won the popular vote for their state, they meet in their respective state capitals to cast their ballots. The electors are expected to vote for their own party's presidential and vice-presidential candidate, although they have the freedom to vote for the other candidate if they so desire. Usually the electors do vote for the party that they were elected for but occasionally someone will vote for the other party. The choosing of electors by slates makes it difficult for a third party to challenge the major parties unless it has strength in a number of states.

    To be elected President or Vice-President, a candidate must receive a majority of all the electoral votes cast. If neither candidate receives a majority, the House of Representatives chooses the president. In such a case, each state has only one vote and one candidate must receive a majority of the votes.

    back to contents


    List of Resources

    Resources:

    Aten, Jerry. (1987). Our living Constitution Then and Now. Carthage, IL: Good Apple, Inc. Resource and Activity Book.

    Burns, James, Peltason, J.W., Cronin, Thomas E., Magleby, David B. (1998). Government by the People. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Front cover for chart of states drawn in number of electoral votes. Pg. 313-319.

    Christensen, Tonya, Stevens, Holly. Elections in United States. Found in ERTC Prepared lesson Plans Cabinets.

    Gill, Nancy. (1992). Electing our President. Fearon Teacher Aids-along with this book that contains great information, we also found a set up for a mock election, transparencies, and other great materials. Found in Edith Bowen library from Mr. Larsen.

    McClenaghan, William A. (1999). American Government. Needham, Massachusetts: Prentice Hall. Chart on pg. 341. Adaptations will have to be made for fifth graders.

    Parkinson, Rebecca, Coleman, Tamra. Politics and Zoos- what’s the difference. Information and activities on campaigning. Found in ERTC Prepared lesson Plans Cabinets. Civics 1225.

    Websites:

    1996/Aug. http://www.mcps.k12.md.us/curriculum/ socialstd/election_Act.html.

    This site contains activities for k-5 about elections with titles such as: The election Process, Voting, the campaign trial, etc. It also has a link of instructional materials, which gives a list of books useful for teachers to purchase when teaching about elections.

    Kids voting USA. 1999. http://www.kidsvotingusa.org/education.html

    This site, under curriculum and activities, contains ideas that can be printed off or viewed online of ways to help students learn more about voting.

    Issues 2000 Every Presidential Candidate on Every Issue. 2000. http://www.issues2000.org/

    This site contains the debates and strands that the presidential candidates take on many issues. Also contains the schedule for primary elections. Great resource for teachers or students if issues are of interest to them.

    The Copernicus Education Gateway. 2000. EdGate. Com. http://www.edgate.com/elections/inactive/

    This site contains great informational resources to help teachers present information about elections. The link of how and why people vote is very interesting and helpful to us. There are also others such as: The Parties, the candidates, the issues, etc. It also includes a lesson plan index, which list topics and subheadings within the topics.
     
    Children's literature:

    Gutman, Dan. (1996). The kid who ran for President. Scholastic Press. A twelve year Judson Moon announce that he is running for President. He runs a campaign and gets his name on the Wisconsin ballot. He has all kinds of friends and supporters of his lemonade party.

    Hurwitz, Johanna. (1990). Class President. Morrow Junior Books. Julio hides his own leadership ambitions to help another candidate win the nomination for class president.

    Hermes, Patricia. (1988). Heads, I win. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. Bailey runs for class president. She hopes that by winning, her foster family will let her stay.

    back to contents


    Goals

    1. The students will be able to understand the voting process.

    2. The students will understand the procedure of the electoral college in the voting process.

    3. The students will be able to identify qualities that are important for a president to have.

    4. The students will be able to fill out ballot sheets and see the importance of gathering information before voting.

    5. Students will be able to understand the registration process.
     

    back to contents


    Activities

    1. Semantic map: Have students write down everything they know about elections using the semantic map style of brainstorming. Materials: white paper, pencils or markers. Time: 15-20 minutes.

    2. Voter registration: Use a modified registration form. Discuss the purpose of registration. Register the students to vote by explaining the form, then have them fill out the form. Materials: modified registration form. Time: 10 minutes.

    3. Taste test: After students are registered to vote, let them know that a candidate needs to be investigated and researched before on can vote. Get three different brands of rootbeer (each decorated attractively with labels removed). Students are given each selection to taste. After tasting them the students vote on a ballot for which they thought was best. After each student votes the teacher creates a bar graph to compare the data. Can be related to the candidates on the ballot and how they compare in their race. Materials: rootbeer, voting papers, ballot box, paper cups, napkins. Time: 30-35 minutes.

    4. Using an overhead of a map of the United States have the students guess how many electoral votes there are for each state and then discuss the map that actually shows the number each state has. Then talk about electoral college. Materials: overhead. Time: 15 minutes.

    5. Ask students to think of someone they think would be a good President. Make a list of choices. Ask the students to give reasons for their choices, and list those. Materials: board or chart paper to make list on. Time 30-40 minutes.

    6. Tell the students that they are going to be voting on two different types of candy. With the whole class have the students vote for their favorite of the two kinds of candy. Write those results on the board. Divide the students into various sized groups and give them a state name (bigger groups are given states with more electoral votes). Let each group or state know how many votes they will have. Designate that many people for each group as the electors (have that amount for each different item that is being voted on). Have the electors find out the popular vote for each member in the group so that can determine how which party will be voting. Make sure the students understand how important it is that they do not change their popular vote. Discuss with the students how they felt about the results of the electoral college compared to the popular vote. Materials: paper, pencils Time: 30-45 minutes.

    7. Make a copy of two ballots (found at the following website on page two: www.kidsvotingusa.org/) for each student. Give students ballot A and tell them to vote for the different issues. Give them no other instructions. Tally the results from ballot A. Discuss with the students how they felt about the issues they voted for. Give students ballot B and have them vote again. Discuss how the students felt about ballot B compared to ballot A. Discuss the importance of knowing all of the information about a candidate or an issue before voting.

    back to contents