Electing the President: Who Actually Votes?
Goal: Students will understand the differing national voting characteristics of various groups in America.
Essential Question: Who typically votes in America?
Have students raise their hands if they know someone who has ever voted during presidential elections. Then, have them raise their hands if they know someone who does not vote. Ask students to raise their hands if they would vote during presidential elections if they were old enough.
1. Briefly discuss the history of voting in the United States and how it has evolved into what it is today. Explain how originally, people had to own land in order to have the right to vote. African American voters could not vote until after the Civil War but faced de facto disenfranchisement until the civil rights movement. Women could not vote until 1920 when the 19th Amendment was passed.
2. Ask students the question: “Though everyone can vote today, who actually shows up to the polls?” Explain that this lesson will focus on answering this question.
3. Pass out “Who usually votes in America?” and go over the statistics in detail so students fully understand them and have the chance to ask questions.
4. Tell students that they will be placed in groups and they will receive a piece of paper with a description of a person. Using the descriptions, each group must come to a conclusion on whether their person will likely show up to vote based on the statistics from the “Who usually votes in America?” sheet.
5. Place students in groups so that there are ten groups in the classroom. (There are 5 fictional descriptions of people that the groups will discuss. That means that two groups will be discussing the same person and will possibly come to different conclusions.)
6. Pass out the character descriptions. Allow students time to work.
7. Once students have come to a conclusion about their group character, put all the names of the five characters on the board. Call on each character one by one and go over the five traits (age, gender, ethnicity, education, and employment). For example, ask students the age of their character and write it on the board so the class can see.
8. In the end, ask each group whether they thought their character would vote based on the statistics and ask them to support their reasoning.
9. When all of the groups have had a chance to share their findings, lead a class discussion of the information written on the board.
Ask students to answer the following question on a piece of paper:
Imagine that you are running for president. Thinking about how different groups usually vote, which group of people would you focus on the most? Explain your answer.
“Who usually votes in America?” statistics sheet, character descriptions, and chalk.
This lesson can be used as an additional math lesson by having students create graphs and charts with their statistics. They can also use the census statistics (from the link provided) to look further into voter behavior and calculate various averages.
Accommodations for students with special needs
1. Provide visual representations of the percentages by drawing out pie charts for the student.
2. Make sure students who need help are placed in appropriate groups.
3. Give students with special needs the statistics sheet the day before the lesson so they have time to prepare and look over it.
4. Provide a graphic organizer to help break down writing for the concluding section of this lesson.
*Statistics are found from the United States Census site,
*All numbers have been averaged based off the past four elections and rounded to the nearest whole number.
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