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 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

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