Teaching about Elections & Voting

Tens of millions of Americans have already voted across the country, and Election Day –November 3rd – is less than two weeks away!

We know that voting is a key element in civic participation. We have new resources available for teaching about elections and voting – from the campaign trail, to the Electoral College, to the expansion of voting rights throughout American history.

Our Elections & Voting page on DocsTeach, the online tool for teaching with documents, includes primary source sets and teaching activities for elementary through high school students.

“Mrs. T.H. Fresdahl, Age 82, Casts Her Vote” in 1948. Featured in the activity The Electoral College Process

The Electoral College Process is a new online teaching activity that can be used in grades 8-12, or as an introductory college/university-level activity. In this activity, students learn the steps in the Electoral College process, from Election Day to Inauguration Day. They analyze historical primary sources from various Presidential elections and arrange them in the correct sequence to represent the steps in the Electoral College process:

  1. Citizens cast their vote in the general election.
  2. Electors are appointed and the governor of that state prepares “Certificates of Ascertainment” naming the electors.
  3. Electors meet and record their votes for President and Vice President on “Certificates of Vote” in their state.
  4. States send their electoral votes to the President of the U.S. Senate.
  5. Congress counts the electoral votes in a joint session of Congress.
  6. The President-elect and Vice President-elect take the Oath of Office on Inauguration Day.

In Election of 1800, for grades 5-8, students analyze the Electoral College tally for the Presidential Election of 1800 between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. They will identify and explain some of the major issues revealed by one of the most important elections in US history.

Flaws of the Electoral College System is an online activity for grades 9-12 in which students trace the history of the Electoral College through analysis of primary source documents from the elections of 1789, 1800, 1824, and 1988 to identify four flaws with the system. An examination of proposed and implemented reforms, including the 12th Amendment, will engage students in a discussion of modifying or abolishing the Electoral College.

The National Archives administers the electoral process — you can find more information about how the Electoral College works at www.archives.gov/electoral-college.

Other online teaching activities on our Elections & Voting page cover topics like lowering the voting age and the 26th Amendment, women’s suffrage and the 19th Amendment, and civil rights reforms that led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Voter Registration Drive at the Black Expo in Chicago in 1973. Available at www.docsteach.org/documents/document/voter-registration-drive

You can also find primary sources like posters, documents, photographs, and artifacts related to topics such as campaign memorabilia, the Electoral College, Presidential inaugurations, voter suppression, and expanding voting rights. Visit www.docsteach.org/topics/election.

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