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. Reema Alrashed

    I personally consider these two articles to be really informative in order to learn that how races of governors are significant when it comes to learning and understanding the elections, voters’ turnout and the presidential power.
    This relates to the present study of our class where we have read and discussed the concepts of race and how race has been an important factor within the politics and other circumstances.
    This will help in adding diversity within the classroom and provide classroom-based learning.

    • Midterm elections are very important because they shape our entire democratic republic.  While we do not elect a president, we do elect senators and representatives in the national scene.  There are opportunities for the state governments as well.  For example, Kentucky legislators proposed a bill that moves governor elections to presidential cycles, instead of on odd years, where the voter turnout is very low. 

  2. 1. I agree with what you said. My grandfather has always pushed me to vote and I never really saw the importance of it until I was at the age I could vote. I believe that it’s super important to be informed about what you’re voting on. I think that there are a lot of great resources out there that give people the ability to know what and who they are voting for and their views.

    2. This idea that connects from our class could be the idea that people don’t always believe that their vote actually matters because they don’t have enough power. It relates to our class because it allows us to see how practical situations, such as power from race and gender, play a role in everyday life, such as something like voting.

    3. The resources provided for teaching are excellent. I feel that sometimes it’s a struggle to break down the importance of voting to young children. However, this outline gives a great way to be able to provide them the information they need, without getting to complex.

  3. Educators should educate their students about the importance of voting. It is essential students know where and how to access information about candidates so they vote for who they truly want to win the election. This would be great to use in a eighth grade classroom because they are becoming more socially and mentally independent from their parents. Therefore, they want and like the power of choice. I really like the break down of this sample lesson plan.

  4. I, myself never even realized much about the midterm elections – not out of personal choice, but just out not having education on the subject and responsibility. I find that now educated (in the past few years) that there is a necessary service in order for us to educate ourselves on the people involved and running for these offices, they shape the core of the Government. I find these topics necessary to the Education of racism and sexism courses because they help enlighten students and their overall impact in society that shapes certain rules, laws, and environments in general – politics shape everything and could also help with oppression and racism; power in the rights hands is…powerful.
    The lesson plans are great participation ability for students to be able to get involved and talk about the subjects, but most important to become educated on these responsibilities of citizens. If they know about it then when they can vote, they will be more likely to do so and have their voices heard.

  5. 1. It is extremely important that we as American citizens understand the great privilege and subsequently the great responsibility we have to vote. Often the greatest turnout is for Presidential elections because that is considered to have the most instant impact on our lives. However, midterm elections involving city council or county commissioners have tremendous impact on the taxes we pay locally and what opportunities the local government provides for us. This impacts effect us every day and they may include the opening new businesses in your area, creating a new recycling center, proper funding to emergency services, etc.
    2. This connects directly to the the ideas of civil liberties we have discussed in class. Many Americans take for granted their ability to vote every day when for decades non-white Americans and women were not afforded that right. Even today many citizens are suppressed in hopes that they will not be able to vote.
    3. The resources to me provide a balance in between primary historical sources such as the 15th/18th amendments to more modern examples of civic responsibility. This is a comprehensive list that can help show students the importance of voting in both the past and the present.

  6. Mariem Soud
    1). I think voting is incredibly important and I wish I had been taught more about it in school. Presidential elections always generate a conversation among kids in school but they don’t all understand its not the only important one. Myself included. We think that the presidential election is the most important but the small ones in between also effect especially local issues. Everyone should be educated on voting and we should all exercise our right to vote.
    2). This connects directly to things we discussed in class. In the article you mentioned women and African Americans only recently regained the right to vote because of oppression against them at the time. People are still oppressed and some feel their vote won’t matter because the power is in the hands of the rich and white.
    3). I think the lesson plans are great. Instead of just giving the information the students need to bring their own thoughts to the table. I like the idea of having students write from the perspective of a 19th century woman or slave because it’ll get them out of the mindset of everything being about them. It’s a good way to generate empathy.

  7. 1. I enjoyed reading this article because midterm elections are typically overlooked as less important. I chose to read this article because I find myself feeling very similarly when elections come around. It is already hard to convince myself to vote because I feel like it doesn’t matter (a common misconception). Each time I vote knowing that it is important. This article has opened my eyes more as to why I should vote even when it seems like it doesn’t matter. I also like the end where it talks about the importance of practicing democracy in the classroom and teaching it to students.
    Connections to something we talked about in class.
    2. This article made me think back to our guest speakers that we had come into our class. They discussed the importance of voting. At the time, we were close to the elections so this was relevant. They talked about how common it is for individuals not to vote because they don’t feel that they have an influence. This becomes a very bad thing as it becomes more common. It seems like it has been a lot longer that we have had the privilege to vote, but so many don’t take advantage of it.
    3. This sample lesson is a good way for students to build onto their knowledge regarding the amendments. I do remember learning in depth about amendments, but would like to emphasize how the amendment is relevant to voting. Going deeper into the amendments being created and their meaning may influence students to vote when they are able. I like that in the assessment question where it asks how your life is better because of it. This can help the students gain an appreciation of their rights that they have as citizens.

  8. I always remembered learning and being informed about voting in the presidential elections and very little in the midterm and local elections. It was especially interesting when I later learned that you, as an individual, your vote has a bigger impact in your local, midterm elections. Yet, midterm elections, like you said, have a lower turnout rate. This relates to the civic duties that we learned about in class. The lesson plan would be a great way to teach students the importance of civil liberties and voting. Especially, by emphasizing the 15th and 18th amendment.

  9. I really enjoyed reading this article and learning more about the true history of the First Thanksgiving. I agree with your statement about how “Often the narrative we learn about the first Thanksgiving is overly simplistic, historically inaccurate and censored.” I believe this so being true as well. I also liked how you pointed out that there isn’t a lot of information taught about the original Native American Tribes that were already living in Plymouth. I think this connects to the study of multicultural education and even with our racism discussion. I could absolutely use these resources in my classroom during a lesson. I personally love the National Geographic cite, as well as the websites on different Native American Tribes. I think that could be a neat idea to use these websites to allow students to explore and learn about the different tribes.

  10. Democrats won the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2018 midterm elections, but lost seats in the U.S. Senate and failed to win several marquee races that would have represented a full rebuke of President Donald Trump.

  11. 1. In every school I have ever been in I was always told how my vote counts and the importance of the presidential election. Thinking back to all of my courses I can’t recall a time we were told about mid-term elections. I knew that mid-term elections existed but not exactly what was going on.
    2. I think the lesson plan provided in this article would be an engaging way to reach students so that they may understand the importance of the mid-term elections and their relation with the 15th and 18th amendments.
    3. I didn’t realize all the races that take place during the mid-term. For example, governor, senate, mayor, etc.

  12. I never really thought about this until recently, I wasn’t very educated on the subject. I am 19 and can vote, but just haven’t yet. I now know that voting during the midterm elections is very important because the people elected shape the government.

  13. Midterm elections can be just as important as a presidential election. The people that are voted in during midterm are the people that directly represent your city, county, and state. They are the people that will listen to your needs and report them to higher ups. If people do not participate in these elections, they are likely going to not like the result of the person who is representing them.

  14. In my opinion, voting for city council, school board members, and the mayor is almost as important as voting for the President. I say this because those things are local, and have a big impact on our society and county. When I have children, I want them to grow up in a great community, therefore I want to have the people I feel are the best fit for the job, in charge. Our founding fathers fought hard to get us the ability to vote, so let’s use it.

  15. I agree that one of the most important yet overlooked parts of a democracy is participation in midterm elections. I like that lesson plans that review the 15th and 18th amendment is included in the example and I think it is wise to include this content beginning in the 8th grade. I feel that what has lacked in my educational experience was a lesson in how to inform yourself on the issues at hand and the politicians that are running, in order to make an honest selection and in turn participate in both the midterm and presidential elections. There is so much biased information on the internet and in the media that I personally do not know where to start for reliable information. In no place or time during my education was there someone who taught me a good process or gave reliable resources in how to make an informed vote. Without this, and not knowing accountable non-biased resources, participating in midterm elections only seems like a giant daunting task.

  16. 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.

  17. 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 themselves. Kids nowadays are becoming more independent so showing and teaching 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.

  18. 1. While reading this article, it brought a few very important ideas and new thoughts to my attention. Only in recent years has my political stance mattered to me and my fellow friends. After reading this article, I see the importance of not only voting for the Presidential election, but to vote for the Midterm period as well. By voting for the midterm period, it helps shape the way of new laws and federal opinions to expand or decrease. When we vote, we are voting for our future generations and we are paving the way to either a better or worse place.

  19. All elections have an impact on our communities. You may not be voting for the president but you are making a local impact. Not only can voting impact you but it also impacts the others around you. Voting is a privilege and it lets your voice become heard. Midterm elections are just as important.

  20. I found this article to be very informative. I am someone who does not follow politics very closely and had no idea what the midterm elections were. I would always hear about them and think they were not important, but this article taught me that they can be very important. Especially at the local level. With school levies, local mayors, etc. being determined at the midterms. I think it will be important to teach my students about the midterms so they at least know what they consist of.

  21. I never gave that much thought to the midterm elections, but after reading this article i feel like i have wasted an opportunity to help make a change in my local government, which will make a change in larger government. This article will be good to refer to while teaching this semester. I can refer to the aerticles Dr. Childs has provided and help the kids understand the power behind midterm elections.

  22. After reading this article, I find it interesting that more people vote for the Presidential election than midterm elections that occur during the president’s term. I understand that more people are voting for the president than smaller elections but those small elections impact people on a greater scale. Those midterm elections are for mayors of cities that people live in and school board personal that will be in charge of the school their children go too. People should be just as concerned about midterm elections as they are Presidential elections.

  23. This article brought some good points to me about why voting is important. As a citizen, I do not exercise my right to vote and maybe I should because in the long run, it could make the world a better place. I never cared about any of the elections because I am not a very political person so politics do not interest me. I do agree though that more people vote in the presidential election, but not the midterm elections. I also agree that it is probably best for people to realize midterm elections as well because those are the people who will be representing our town, city or state.

  24. I am 20 and not registered to vote. I guess I have never really thought my vote mattered, but if that is the mindset of a lot of citizens, then how are we supposed to make a difference. Definitely something I need to learn more about.

  25. As someone who didn’t know that midterm elections were a thing, reading this, I understand the importance of them now. As a future educator, I going to make it a priority to teach children the importance that midterm elections have on our future as a society. Even in smaller communities, midterm elections hold a certain role that goes unnoticed by the uninformed. I knew there were elections for mayor, governor, and so on; but I never really payed attention to when and where they took place. Big mistake, because that’s MY community, I need to know what happens. Midterm elections may not be as important as the US presidential election, but I’m going to teach it like it is.

  26. I had no idea what midterm elections even were until reading this article. Very interesting and i really do understand the importance of them. Midterm elections are important and often go unnoticed and that is sad because this is important to every community.

  27. I somewhat knew what midterm elections were but after reading the article I understand them a lot more. I found it interesting that more people vote during the presidential election than the midterms, seeing how much more of an impact they can have on our communities.

  28. I knew that there were random elections in the middle of the presidents term, however, I had no clue they were to elect for my local community. This article helped me to understand that I need to not only vote for the President’s election but I also need to help my local community by voting for mayor, city council, county commissioner, and my local school board. This article helped me realize that I am a part off something much greater than just myself.

  29. Growing up I never really understood the importance of voting. Not because I didn’t care about our community or what type of people were in charge, but because I was never educated on the importance of my vote, or following elections. Politics was something my family never really got into and something I never learned much about in school so I just never looked into it. As I have grown up and realize how much “the person in charge” affects me I work on staying informed and up to date on what is going on in the political world. However it has taken me 34 years to get to that point.
    My biggest reason for never voting is because I didn’t feel that my vote mattered. I never participated in debates or discussions about politics for fear of thinking I’m not educated enough on the subject or I’m a woman and nobody would really take me seriously. This is one of the areas where I struggled with being targeted with sexism.
    I love the resources provided in this article on how to teach government topics. I wish I would have been offered lessons such as these when I was younger. Maybe I would be more knowledgeable on the subject today.

  30. I agree with this article one thousand percent. People are so uninformed when it comes to elected officials and what they represent. They believe if they come together and vote for the president then they’ve done their part but it’s so much more than that. To think how the government became what it is today and for all these people to not care who runs it and what happens astounds me. Laws are being placed that people are unaware of. As an Education major big things are happening right now that could change the teaching profession drastically. All because of the elected officials. Very important to stay in the know and always use our rights that others have fought so hard for us to have.

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

  34. 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.

  35. 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.

  36. 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.

  37. 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.

  38. 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.

  39. 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.

  40. 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.

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