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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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. 

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