1. Teacher's Notes
Purpose: To provide students with an overview of their rights and responsibilities with respect to registration and voting.
Ask students to think about how they would feel about each of the following situations:
The government decides that every resident must pay a $100 fee to live in the city.
Explain that the government only carries out laws that were made by people elected by the voters, so in effect, the voters ARE the government. The most important way to influence the kinds of laws that are made is to vote for lawmakers who will make reasonable laws.
Distribute V Activity Handout 1, "Who Can Vote?" Explain that voting is a citizen's most powerful tool. It is the most important way citizens can protect their rights and make sure the government provides for their needs. Tell students that everyone hasn't always had the right to vote in this country. Have student read the text of the first item on the activity sheet to themselves while you read it aloud. Explain that before 1870, only white males had the right to vote. Continue reading through and discussing each of the other three illustrations. Explain that African Americans were given the right to vote in 1870 by the Fifteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Women didn't win that right until 1920, with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. Finally, until 1971, the legal voting age in some states was 21 and in others 18. The Twenty-sixth Amendment, passed in 1971, made 18 the official voting age in all the states.
Distribute V Activity Handout 2, "Who Can't Vote?" Explain that some individuals still can't vote, including the following:
Individuals who are not citizens
Distribute V Activity Handout 3, "Why Vote?" Explain that there are many good reasons for voting, including the four listed on Activity Handout 3. Lead students through an analysis of each reason and a discussion of why each reason is important.
Ask students to brainstorm some reasons why people don't vote. Write some of their reasons on the chalk board or on chart paper. Distribute V Activity Handout 4, "Bad Reasons For Not Voting." Have students compare these four reasons with their own list, then have them explain why each of the four reasons is unacceptable and what can be done about it.
Explain to students that sometimes they will be voting on "issues," such as whether or not to increase taxes, and other time they will be voting for people to represent them in the government. Tell them that a person who is running for office and is trying to get their vote is called a candidate. V Activity Handouts 5 and 6 illustrate some Do's and Don'ts when picking a candidate. Distribute V Activity Handout 5 and have students discuss each "Don't."
Don't make a decision based on just one source of information.Campaign tactics often give voters an inaccurate or incomplete picture of a candidate and his or her views. For example, campaign ads on television often exaggerate or distort the true facts. It is important to gather as much information as possible, from many different sources, before deciding to vote for a particular candidate.
Distribute V Activity Handout 6, "When Picking a Candidate, Do . . ." Have students read each pair of options and decide which one is most responsive to the voter's question.
Select a candidate who is clear and specific about what he or she stands for.The first response is clear and specific and leaves no doubt about where the candidate stands on the issue. The second response is global and evasive.
For each "Do," ask students to discuss some of the possible consequences of not doing it.
Select a candidate who is clear and specific about what he or she stands for.If you don't do this, you may end up voting for a candidate whose views and priorities are very different from your own.
The pace at which the materials are covered will depend on the ability levels of the students. Each of the activity sheets can be completed in anywhere from 10 minutes to 30 minutes or more.
Community Resource Lesson
This unit should include at least lessons on voter registration and voting conducted by a community resource person. A sample lesson plan is included. Additional lessons on other voting-related or law-related topics would also be appropriate. These specific topics should be determined in collaboration with the community resource persons you select to visit the class. Possible resource persons for this unit are:
Representative from the League of Women Voters
Representative from the Board of Election Commissioners
An elected official
A Constitutional lawyer
Family Invovlement Activities
Suggestions for family involvement activities for parents/guardians and their preschool children are included. These activities can be completed during class time or at home.