Volume 18: Voting in the 2004 Elections
VERA Classroom Activity Suggestions
Back in 1996, NELRC conducted the first Voter Education, Registration, and Action Campaign. We got lots of great feedback from teachers who participated in that campaign, including these activities that they did with their classes.
- Encourage students to register themselves and others from their families and communities.
- Hold a workshop for teachers/tutors/volunteers in your program on how to register to vote.
- Attend a local voter registration drive.
- Organize a program-wide Voter Awareness Night. Include information about how to register to vote in your state, give out registration forms and provide assistance in filling them out, set up an election booth so people can practice voting, invite guest speakers, and provide information on the candidates and questions to ask in choosing one.
Learn About the Voting Process
- Arrange a trip to the board of elections/town clerk to view voting machines and try them out.
- Hold a mock election (try to get real ballots from your local election committee).
- Openly discuss students' reluctance to vote, the obstacles they're up against, cynicism, and sense of powerlessness.
Learn About U.S. Politics
- Discuss different political parties in the U.S. and review their official Web sites.
- Invite different speakers to class from groups like the League of Women Voters, the secretary of state, or the elections commission. If you invite different political parties or candidates be sure to invite all who are running. Non-profit organizations can jeopardize their tax-exempt status by appearing to favor a particular political candidate. They can, however, take positions on policies, referenda questions, and issues. (See article on permissible voter education activities for a 501(c)(3) organization on the next page for more details.)
- Collect and analyze literature and ads from different political campaigns.
- Compare the U.S. political system to those of other countries. Start with your students' home countries.
- Make graphs of past voter turnout in your state, region, or local area. See the Web site of the Federal Election Commission http://www.fec.gov.
Study the Issues
- Watch a video about an issue important to students and discuss it.
- Have students or the class write letters to candidates about three issues that are important to them and describe what they'd like to see happen.
- Have students watch the presidential debates as homework and discuss them in class.
- Study political cartoons in class (See page 9 for tips on analyzing political cartoons).
- Create a bulletin board with newspaper clippings and comments about election issues.
Help Promote VERA/participation in elections
- Recruit other programs to participate in the VERA campaign.
- Have your class present information on voting and elections to other classes.
- Encourage your students to get to the polls on Election Day. Consider offering your Election Day class time as a time when your students can go out and vote.
Talk About Election Results
- Make a "Wall of Voters" in your classroom or building where you can put up the photos of all the students who actually voted.
- Make graphs of election results in your local area.
- Have students write about their experiences with voting and the elections in general.
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