Does my Vote Count? The Importance of Midterm Elections

Protesters demonstrate in support of voting rights on Tuesday in Washington.Credit...Shuran Huang for The New York Times

Dr. David Childs, D.D., Ph.D.
Northern Kentucky University

With election season upon us we have been reminded of the importance of not only voting in the midterm election but the importance of local, county and state races. As you read this article let us all be reminded of the importance of exercising our right to vote as US citizens. We have also provided the resources below to learn more about the voting process.


A poll worker hands out “I Voted Today” stickers in Washington, D.C., in 2012.
Gettyimages-154567819.

gettyimages-154567819

Originally published November 1, 2018

The US presidential election is held every four years and is watched very closely by people around the world. Most are familiar with the presidential election, and there is generally a higher voter turnout when voting for the president of the United States. However, many people do not realize that there are a number of very, very important elections that take place right in the middle of the president’s term. This is where we come up with the term “Midterm Election.” For example, there are governor’s races, House and Senate races and also many important local races that may be taking place. Local races might include those running for mayor, city council, county commissioner and the local school board. In the upcoming midterm election, voter turnout and who gets elected to office can either greatly strengthen or greatly reduce the president’s power.

It has been a historic struggle to get American citizens to exercise their voting rights and even more of a struggle to get people to participate in midterm elections. Furthermore, some US citizens only recently won the right to have their votes counted (Women and African Americans). Understanding the importance of voting in local, midterm and presidential elections is important for creating an informed citizenry in a democracy. It is important that social studies teachers help students understand the importance of the democratic process and the great role they can play in shaping the future.

SAMPLE LESSON PLAN:

Here is a lesson that will help students understand the importance of their voting rights and the importance of participating in the democratic process. They will also further understand the challenges many Americans had in earning their right to vote.

Objective: Students will analyze the 15th and 18th amendments in order to understand the importance of voting in local, midterm and presidential elections.

Standards:National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)- Standard 6
Power, Authority and Governance: Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of how people create, interact with, and change structures of power, authority, and governance.”

Ohio Grade Eight Social Studies Standards

  • Historical Thinking Skills: 1. Primary and secondary sources are used to examine events from multiple perspectives and to present and defend a position.1
  • Civil War and Reconstruction: 12. The Reconstruction period resulted in changes to the U.S. Constitution, an affirmation of federal authority and lingering social and political differences.

High School Social Studies Standard:
American Government Syllabus
How the American people govern themselves at national, state and local levels of government is the basis for this course. Students can impact issues addressed by local governments through service learning and senior projects.

ACTIVITY/ASSESSMENTS

Fifteenth Amendment:

The Fifteenth Amendment (Amendment XV) to the United States Constitution prohibits the federal government and each state from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen’s “race, color, or previous condition of servitude”.

Eighteenth Amendment
The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

ASSESSMENT ONE:
Response to Voting Amendments
Students can respond to the following prompts about each of the above amendments:

  • Describe in your own words what right is being granted as a result of the amendment.
  • Who is been empowered in this amendment?
  • Who has been left out of this amendment?
  • How is your life and also society in general better off as a result of the amendment?
  • Discuss how understanding this amendment might help people know the importance of voting and participating in elections and the democratic process.
  • In what ways can participating in midterm elections influence the lives of women and African Americans?
  • In what ways can participating in local elections influence the lives of women and African Americans?

Class Discussion:
After students have been given adequate time to respond to the prompts, students can discuss their responses on multiple levels.

  • They can participate in a “Think, Pair, Share” where they share their thoughts with a neighbor.
  • They could also discuss their responses in small groups of three.
  • Finally, the class can come back together for a whole group discussion.

ASSESSMENT TWO
Personal Diary Activity:

  • Teachers can have students write a diary from a woman’s perspective during the nineteenth century and the effects of them not being able to vote and participate in the democratic process. They should write as if they were that person.
  • Teachers can have students write a diary from a slave’s perspective and the effects of them not being able to vote and participate in the democratic process. They should write as if they were that person.

Articles on the importance of upcoming 2018 midterm election:


Please share what resources you find useful for your teaching.

We are open to feedback and discussion. If you see any typos or grammatical errors please feel free to email the author and editor at the address below:

Dr. David Childs
childsd1@nku.edu 

8 Comments

  1. Voting is something that is not talked about nearly as much as it should in high school. This lesson gives students a chance to learn about some amendments protecting voters rights and how midterm elections affect them. The questions promote higher thinking and gets the students thinking about the two major voting amendments. I like the idea of pairing up to share thoughts then coming together for a class discussion. The journal activity is one I might use in the future to put the students in a first-person perspective and use primary sources for research. Mid-term elections are just as important as the presidential elections and students need to be taught this.

  2. This article is one that I feel is extremely important to share with students. Since I turned 18, I have voted in every presidential election, but this is the first time I have voted in a midterm election because I believed they didn’t matter as much. This election showed me how much getting out there and voting matters, even during midterm elections. In Ohio, Chabot was finally de-seated, and it is because I believe people are starting to understand that every vote counts. If we don’t vote for change, it won’t happen. I also love the class discussion points given in this article. We need to be sure we are helping our children understand and have conversations about voting and voters rights.

  3. This article highlights the importance of midterm elections and using our right to vote. When I was in school I only learned about the presidential elections. As an adult, many of my friends don’t vote for the midterm because they see it as inconsequential. The lesson plans provided are a great tool to help students understand how to vote and why they should. The people we vote for are who we select to represent us (local, state, national.) If we don’t take advantage of the opportunity to vote, we have no say in who is selected. As mentioned in the article, Women and African Americans recently won the right to have their votes counted after many challenges and struggles to get there. Students need to know how democracy and voting work and how they shape the future. This article is helpful in understanding voting as a teacher and an American citizen.

  4. Just recently I went to vote for the midterm elections. This was my first midterm election. The turn out was huge in my area and it was great to see people get out during a midterm and exercise their right to vote. I liked this article because it talked about the importantance of midterm elections and what they can do to the president’s power. The midterm election ballot included so much more in our community than what we think about. I was able to vote for school board members and I thought that was very cool. I thought the way the article talked about the importance of social studies teachers taking the time to help students understand the importance of the democratic process and the great role they can play in shaping our future was important. I liked the activty mentioned towards the bottom about writing a journal entry from the perspective of a woman from the 19th century. Students can talk about how they would feel not being able to vote or participate in the democratic process.

  5. I really found this article useful both as a citizen of the United States who voted in the most recent election and as a teacher. I think it is very important that we are teaching students how important all the different elections are not just the presidential election. I also found the lesson plan very helpful. I found it helpful that in the lesson we are looking at both the 15th and 18th amendment. I feel like as a student we didn’t really dive deep into the amendments and understanding them. I think completing this lesson plan will help the students understand the importance of voting in all the elections and having a good understanding of the amendments.

    • Hello Samantha. I am grateful you found this article useful. As you stated, especially during election season. It so important that we exercise our rights and teach the youth to do the same thing. Hopefully, you can incorporate these lessons into your tecahing.

  6. I really found this article useful and impactful, both for me as a citizen and also for me as a teacher. I like how the article included lesson plans that we would be able to use in the classroom. It is important that as teachers, we reassure the students of the importance of voting when they are of age. I also enjoyed reading this story just as an individual who sometimes questions the value of my singular votes. I think it would be fun to incorporate a kid-friendly election or voting experience in the classroom to give the student’s the whole experience, and also familiarize them with what happens during the voting process.

  7. I read the article Does my Vote Count? The Importance of Midterm Elections. This article is a great resource to discuss the midterm election. I think some people downplay the midterm election because it is not as important as the presidential election years. But in reality, it is more important. This is a chance to make changes to the government while they are active in their terms and elect new officials to represent us at the local level. In the article, I loved how it gave a sample lesson plan to help teach these voting rights to students. Implementing the same importance o the midterm election can help move students and future generations to vote in all elections. 

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