The Election Process


  • PBS Electoral Decoder

    Use this resource from LearningMedia's Election Central site to explore all 58 past presidential elections from 1789 - 2016. Learn about the importance of the Electoral College by comparing the map and the electoral cartogram. Delve further into history by reading a brief overview and looking at key events for every election. Then, click "Presidential Predictor" and decide the outcome of the next election. Who will win? Who will lose? How would you strategize a political campaign to win the presidency?

    Grades: 6-12
  • FRONTLINE: What’s the Deal with Voters’ Rights?

    Learn about voter rights, including why voter identification (voter ID) laws disproportionately impact minority voters, in this media gallery from FRONTLINE: Ballot Watch. According to the videos, there are several reasons why not all U.S. adults have an acceptable form of identification for voting. For example, Social Security cards lack a photograph and current address; passports are expensive and less than half the population has one. Voter ID laws are described as partisan, ineffective, and discriminatory—partisan, because they are supported by Republicans and criticized by Democrats; ineffective, because they ignore more prevalent means of voter fraud; and discriminatory, because the people being turned away at the polls for not having the proper identification tend to be minorities. Lastly, the videos describe protections under the Voting Right Act and explain the effects of the Supreme Court case ruling in Shelby v. Holder.  This resource is part of the FRONTLINE Election Resources Collection.

    Grades: 9-12
  • FRONTLINE | Court Finds North Carolina Voter ID Law Targeted Black Voters

    Learn about a federal appeals court panel’s decision to overturn what’s considered the broadest piece of restrictive voting legislation passed in recent years, in this 2016 article from FRONTLINE. North Carolina’s voter ID Law included restrictions that required a state-issued photo ID, cut early voting days, and banned same-day voter registration, among other restrictions. The court found the law not only had a discriminatory effect but targeted African Americans with almost “surgical precision.”
    This resource is part of the FRONTLINE Election Resources Collection.

    Grades: 9-12
  • FRONTLINE | North Dakota’s Voter ID Law Is Latest to Be Overturned

    Find out more about a United States district judge’s decision to strike down the North Dakota voter ID law because it created an undue burden for Native Americans, in this 2016 article from FRONTLINE. This was the fifth piece of restrictive voting legislation to be overturned in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election. From 2011-2016, more than a dozen states passed laws that imposed barriers to the ballot. However, in the summer of 2016, Texas, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Kansas, and North Dakota were forced by federal judges and appeals courts to abandon policies restricting access to the ballot box amidst charges that they led to voter disenfranchisement and, in some cases, discrimination against people of color.
    This resource is part of the FRONTLINE Election Resources Collection.

    Grades: 9-12
  • FRONTLINE | Why Voter ID Laws Aren’t Really about Fraud

    Learn about findings that suggest that requirements of voter ID laws aren’t applied equally to all voters, in this 2014 article from FRONTLINE: Ballot Watch. According to the article, experts conclude that evidence of fraud is more likely to be found in mail-in absentee ballots than at the polls. Additionally, ID laws do not prevent the most common forms of fraud: double voting and felons voting. The article also points out that the strictest voter ID laws limit the forms of acceptable documentation and that African Americans and Latinos are more likely to lack one of these qualifying IDs.  This resource is part of the FRONTLINE Election Resources Collection.

    Download teacher support materials for this resource:  

    Teaching Tips  |  Student Handout  |  Early Voting Article  | Voter ID Article   

    Grades: 9-12
  • FRONTLINE: How Voting Laws Have Changed

    Examine data about the voting rights laws that most impact Americans' access to the ballot box and how they’ve changed across the country in recent years, in this interactive from FRONTLINE: Ballot Watch. Voting laws influence who can vote and when and how they cast their ballots. This interactive provides a state-by-state analysis of voting laws as they pertain to early voting, felons, absentee voting, and voter ID requirements. It compares the situation in 2010, when many states began introducing more restrictive voter bills, to that in 2014. An update with data and analysis from 2015 is coming soon. This resource is part of the FRONTLINE Election Resources Collection.

    Grades: 9-12
  • FRONTLINE | Could the 2016 Election Settle the Voter ID Debate?

    Learn about the controversy surrounding recent voting laws and their potential impact as voters in several states prepare to cast 2016 presidential election ballots under stricter laws for the first time, in this 2016 article from FRONTLINE. According to this article, over the past five years, more than 18 states have passed laws that might restrict voters’ access to the ballot. The 2016 election may present the best test yet of the laws’ impact. Voters in 10 states will have to comply with tighter ID requirements at the polls than they faced in 2012. As a result, voting rights advocates predict that African American and Latinos will be deterred disproportionally from voting. This resource is part of the FRONTLINE Election Resources Collection.

    Teaching Tips  |  Vocabulary and Terms  |  Voting Laws Update Article

    Grades: 9-12
  • Campaign Strategy

    In this video, students will learn how candidates who wish to run for office create a campaign strategy to convince voters that they are the best representatives of their beliefs. Students will understand the various tactics of a political campaign: branding ads, political messaging, campaign finance and how candidates raise and spend money, the role of PACs, SuperPACs and the Federal Election Commission (FEC), and the impact and importance of grassroots strategies.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Getting the Nomination

    In the United States, there are a lot of people who want to be president. But when we vote, there are usually only a few names on the ballot. This video will help students to understand the nomination process for political parties. They will learn how primaries and caucuses help determine the candidate that will best represent a party platform, the role of delegates and super delegates in the election process, and the impact of "Super Tuesday."

    This video is available in both English and Spanish audio, along with corresponding closed captions.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Election Foundations

    In this video, students are introduced to why we have presidential elections in the United States. They will learn what a constitutional democracy is and how the government gets its power from the consent of its citizens. They will understand the important principles of the U.S. Constitution, the foundations of government and the importance of civic participation.

    This video is available in both English and Spanish audio, along with corresponding closed captions.

    Grades: 6-12
  • The General Election

    Every four years, voters across the United States cast ballots to decide who will be the next president. This video helps students to make sense of the American election process by learning how citizens decide who to vote for in the election, the importance of the electoral college, and how swing states affect the outcomes of an election.

    This video is available in both English and Spanish audio, along with corresponding closed captions.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Ballot boxing: The problem with electronic voting machines | Need to Know

    In the aftermath of the highly contested 2000 Presidential election, Congress funded three billion dollars for states to replace voting machines that in some cases had been in use for fifty years. Old machines were replaced with machines designed with the latest technology. Despite efforts to make voting fair and transparent, some claim that these new machines are vulnerable to both software glitches and hackers and provide no paper trail for how voters cast their ballots.

    Grades: 9-12
  • The History of the Iowa Caucuses

    In 1972, the Iowa Caucuses became the first major electoral event for the nomination process for President of the United States. Since that time, the event has drawn increasing media attention and has become a test of candidates’ ability to attract and organize their campaign, and ultimately win the support of their political party for the nomination. This segment from Iowa Public Television’s Caucus Iowa: Journey to the Presidency documentary includes archival footage and contemporary interviews with politicians, campaign staff and journalists of the era.

    Grades: 6-12
  • You're the Campaign Manager | 60-Second Presidents

    Building a successful campaigns is a mixture of selecting the correct candidate and highlighting their best attributes. In this activity from 60-Second Presidents, students will determine the best characteristics of a president in order to develop a campaign around these traits.

    Grades: 4-12
  • Winner and Losers | 60-Second Presidents

    Presidential stances on major issues effect different constituents in different ways. In this activity from 60-Second Presidents, students will analyze and discuss the way in which a president's ability to make major policy decisions can have positive effects on some groups while adversely affecting others.

    Grades: 4-12
  • Elections: The Maintenance of Democracy | Democracy in America

    Explore the political campaign and election process in the United States, then determine how you would vote in a mock election based on politicians' stances on certain issues, in this Democracy in America interactive activity from Annenberg Learner.

    Grades: 12-13+
  • Personality or Politics Activity | 60-Second Presidents

    Explore why presidential campaigns are often based around either a candidate's personality or politics in this activity from 60-Second Presidents. This activity helps students learn the important role that both personality and political platform have in shaping presidential elections by having students present on the different types of campaigns.

    Grades: 4-12
  • Other Lessons | Making Civics Real: Electoral Politics

    The following sets of lesson plans provide educators with materials, instructions, and student activities to further understanding about the voting process in the United States.
    Grades: 9-13+
  • Essential Readings | Making Civics Real: Electoral Politics

    The following links provide additional resources that address the topics of voting and building consensus. There's also a link to additional information about the Student Voices Project.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • Student Perspectives | Making Civics Real: Electoral Politics

    The students whose interview comments are excerpted below were enrolled in Jose Velazquez's Law in Action course at University High School in Newark, New Jersey, when this program was videotaped. Here they discuss their experiences participating in the Student Voices Project, in which they identified and researched issues of importance to youth, studied the positions of candidates for mayor, and created a Youth Issues Agenda for presentation to the mayoral candidates.

    Grades: 9-13+

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