What are the Midterm Elections All About?

"The first vote" A.R. Waud. Wood engraving. 1867.

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

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.


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.

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.


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.

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.

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:


  1. As you have said, Midterm Elections are talked about very little. However, analyzing the importance of these positions in the House and Senate as well as what effect the Midterm Elections has on the Presidential Election are important topics to talk about with students. I like the component of investigating the 15th and 18th amendment and the impact it has on the United States.

  2. Midterm elections, more often than not, have much more of an impact on an individual and where they live regardless of who is President. But, people tend to turnout at a higher rate for presidential elections. I think that this is partly due to the importance placed upon them in teaching history as well as the news. Recently, there has been a significant raise in voter turnout for midterm elections especially in the demographic of ages 18-35. These indiviudals will be the future of our democratic society, and it seems that they are realizing the impact a vote truly holds.

  3. Its really crazy that people who fought so hard to have the right to vote not that long ago just choose not to use that right. I guess I wonder why they would fight so hard to have the right but then just not have any interest using it just because it isn’t the presidential election. I think a problem is that people don’t realize that the midterms are still extremely important to decide the power that the president has. I think they just believe that their vote doesn’t really matter if its not the presidential election. I think a way to reverse this is to really talk about it early on in schools to let the students know its still very important.

  4. It really saddens me that our country doesn’t seem to value elections like they used to, and most young people don’t even bother researching candidate. It’s even worse how low of a turnout midterm elections because they aren’t stressed enough in schools; they are just as important as presidential elections! Our president is not a dictator; there are other political offices that have a say in the government, which is why it’s important to care about the midterm elections.

  5. Growing up I never really understood what midterm elections were and because of this I dismissed them as unimportant. We need to teach people what the midterms are and why they are so important. The voter turnout should be just as large for midterms as it is for the presidential. If more people realized how much the midterm elections impacted what the president can and cannot get done I think more people would show up to vote. We are lucky to have a right to vote so we as citizens to need do everything we can to make our vote count and that means showing up to vote in the midterm elections. In the future, this is something I would incorporate into my lesson plans so that more people are learning about it.

  6. It is the responsibility of all citizens to be engaged in politics, not a right or a privilege. I have always been perturbed about the apathy of our society whereas voting is concerned. As a veteran I encourage everyone to vote. Some would say that, due to the nature of ethical issues in the political world, there are no honest/viable candidates, thusly citizens don’t wish to endorse any candidate. Others may say I don’t know enough about the candidates/issue. Still others may say my vote doesn’t count. Firstly, there are always more than just do candidates so be informed and vote for the best. Secondly, become informed so you don’t get taken for a ride. Finally, your vote doesn’t count in presidential elections, technically, but it counts in every other race. Stop the excuses and go vote.

  7. I loved reading more about this topic it allowed for a real world application to a topic that we read about in textbooks. The information in this article provided a deeper insight into a topic that I knew very little about. The article allows us as educators to be able to analyze a topic more critically. The article also covered an issue that we as a country face. At the end of the article it went into the issue of people not participating in the election process which is an important thing to teach our students.

  8. I agree with Midterms being very important election times. Certain people may complain about unwanted or no change to their community but they haven’t taken the time out to vote the favorable people into office.I feel that voting isn’t spoken of enough in inner city schools. As a future teacher, I hope to speak on voting in my classroom.

  9. What are the Midterm Elections All About?:
    Midterm elections are held with other elections specifically so that Senators, Governors, and other local officials can be elected. These elections typically don’t have as many voters as a Presidential election would have. It’s already hard enough to get citizens out to vote in important Presidential elections, and its even harder to get people to vote on these midterm elections. You should always, always, always vote during these elections. Study up a little bit on the candidates, and vote.

  10. What are the midterms election all about? – I never really understood the idea of midterm elections. I think if teachers educate their students on the significance of voting so they know who they want to vote for and the importance of that for when they are old enough to go vote by them. Kids nowadays are becoming more independent so showing and talking to them about voting can really be beneficial. That way when they are old enough they can go vote by themselves and not need their parents help.When parents go to vote they can easily take their child with them and demonstrate how to vote and what to do so when they turn 18 and can vote they know what to do.

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