Dr. David Childs, D.D., Ph.D.
Northern Kentucky University
League of Women Voters- https://my.lwv.org/ohio/cincinnati-area
Why does our vote matter so much? With election season upon us in the United States conversations abound in terms of voting rights and the importance of voting. Below is an excerpt from a recent National Geographic article aimed at K-12 students articulating the importance of voting. It states:
“If you ever think that just one vote in a sea of millions cannot make much of a difference, consider some of the closest elections in U.S. history.
In 2000, Al Gore narrowly lost the Electoral College vote to George W. Bush. The election came down to a recount in Florida, where Bush had won the popular vote by such a small margin that it triggered an automatic recount and a Supreme Court case (Bush v. Gore). In the end, Bush won Florida by 0.009 percent of the votes cast in the state, or 537 votes. Had 600 more pro-Gore voters gone to the polls in Florida that November, there may have been an entirely different president from 2000–2008.
More recently, Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 by securing a close Electoral College win. Although the election did not come down to a handful of votes in one state, Trump’s votes in the Electoral College decided a tight race. Clinton had won the national popular vote by nearly three million votes, but the concentration of Trump voters in key districts in “swing” states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan helped seal enough electoral votes to win the presidency.
Your vote may not directly elect the president, but if your vote joins enough others in your voting district or county, your vote undoubtedly matters when it comes to electoral results. Most states have a “winner take all” system where the popular vote winner gets the state’s electoral votes. There are also local and state elections to consider. While presidential or other national elections usually get a significant voter turnout, local elections are typically decided by a much smaller group of voters.
A Portland State University study found that fewer than 15 percent of eligible voters were turning out to vote for mayors, council members, and other local offices. Low turnout means that important local issues are determined by a limited group of voters, making a single vote even more statistically meaningful.”
Voting Game for Students
Even with all of the important information from the National Geographic article educators still may struggle to stress to students the importance of voting and even the ends and outs of preparing one’s self to make informed decisions. I-Civics provides incredible resources for teachers and students alike for civic engagement. “Students and adults alike try your hand at I-Civics’ “Cast Your Vote” Game.
I-civics describes their game in this way:
“Election Day is coming, are you ready to vote? In “Cast Your Vote”, discover what it takes to become an informed voter — from knowing where you stand on important issues to uncovering what you need to know about candidates. In Cast Your Vote you can simulate the voting experience and: Learn about local elections. See political candidates discuss important issues in Town Hall debates Identify issues that matter to you and rate candidate responses.”
Other Voting Resources and Information for Students and Teachers
Voting Matters Activity
2023 Election Teaching Resources for State and Local Elections
Classroom Resources about Voting Rights
What works: Classroom polling ideas to engage students
Voting and Voices Classroom Resources
Voting and Elections | Resources for a Civil Classroom
The Election Collection
Teaching the Election Process: Lesson Plans and Resources
Teaching Resources for the US Elections
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: