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. I really like this article, especially that it includes a lesson plan at the end of it. I am going into middle grades education with a focus in social studies, on top of also getting a history degree, so this topic is on track for me. Another way to implement discussing midterm elections and how they are good is for eighth grade when they go through American history. At one point these midterm elections were added, so you could discuss their importance as they were implements. Also, you could take a day to talk about all the different elections and positions near the end of October or early November before elections occur. They obviously are too young to vote, but it could start conversations outside of the classroom and encourage their parents to go vote because they were reminded of it.

  2. I would agree that some if not most people only vote for the presidential elections. I don’t think they realize that there are many other elections that take place other than the main one. 

  3. Anything with the word ‘midterm’ is stressful enough with whatever it is used for. Midterm elections however aren’t very well known and elections other than presidential should be just as advertised because of their importance

  4. I feel as if this exercise should be implemented more into the curriculum. By doing this it demonstrates the importance of the midterm elections and how they directly affect the county they live in.

  5. The Midterm Election is not something that I have really been aware of, and this article helped shed light on the importance of a Midterm Election. It is unfortunate to know that we need to conduct these midterm elections because they aren’t taught in schools as much as the initial elections are.

  6. This is great information. I did not know that there were midterm elections. As it’s been said in the article, it’s hard to get voters to vote. However a lot of people don’t understand how voting works. Since they don’t understand, they don’t. Not a lot of information gets out about voting, unless people feel strongly about it. There is even less information on midterm-elections being dispersed to the public. I also think this is an important election but I wasn’t taught about it, so I never did.

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