PLAN: BRINGING OUT THE VOTE
Syd Golston, an educational administrator, curriculum writer and historian
Government, civics, social studies
This lesson requires one 50-minute classroom period, plus homework time to distribute
the flyers, if the teacher desires the class to do so.
objectives of this lesson are acquiring information about voter turnout, analyzing
why Americans don't vote, and citizen activism through creating community publicity
about the 2004 Presidential election.
compare the turnout in their state's last presidential election (2000) with voter
turnout in other states and with turnout in 34 countries around the world.
examine reasons often cited for low voter turnout in the United States.
student designs a flyer for neighborhood doorknobs, incorporating the statistical
data on voter turnout in their state and in other countries, and a slogan combating
common excuses for failure to register and vote.
class may choose one flyer to reproduce and distribute in the neighborhood, with
the approval of the school's administration for this part of the activity.
to National Standards
the handouts "Voter
Registration and Turnout - 2000" and "International
Voter Turnout". Review the abbreviations: VAP = Voting Age Population,
REG = Registered Voters, T/O = Turnout.
your state's turnout, the highest and lowest states, and where your state ranks
among the 50. If there's time, you might like to examine with the class why voter
turnout should be so high in states like Minnesota and Wisconsin (political traditions
from the 19th century, educated population, etc.)
the handout "Common Reasons Cited for Low
Participation" on an overhead, and by a show of hands, rank them in order
of most likely to least likely reason.
one student to look up online the polling place for the area around your school,
and the times the polls are open.
the Sample Flyer on your overhead. Point out how it uses the statistic on the
handout sheet about voter turnout in Florida, and the space for polling place
students to design their own flyer on the back of their handouts. (Optional: you
can hand out construction paper and marker pens for this activity.)
to your teacher's description of this activity. You will be comparing voter turnout
in your state with turnout abroad, and making a flyer to encourage voters near
your school to participate in this November's presidential election.
percentage of your state's potential voters went to the polls in the last presidential
election? Which state produced the highest turnout? The lowest? Where does your
state rank in turnout?
are some common reasons cited for low participation in the United States. Rank
them in order of your estimate of their importance:
feel confident in the stability of their system, so they are unmotivated to get
involved in politics - especially when times are good.
are lazy; they have it too easy.
is difficult to register and to vote on a work day. (In many countries, votes
are taken on weekend days.)
are cynical about outcomes in a two-party system.
are cynical about politics and politicians altogether.
election coverage on Election Day concludes outcomes early, and discourages voting
later in the day.
are much too long in the U.S., and people tire of the whole thing.
feel that only one vote can't count much.
a flyer to submit at the end of this period. Use color and design features to
make your flyer eye-catching.
The teacher may choose the best flyer, or the class might view
all of them and vote on all the submissions with colored dots. The teacher can
then run off 10 flyers for each student, and on a designated afternoon, students
can put the flyers out in their neighborhoods.
to NCSS and Civitas Standards
Council for the Social Studies Standards, X: Civic Ideals and Practices: b. Identify,
analyze, interpret, and evaluate sources and examples of citizens' rights and
Locate, access, analyze, organize, synthesize, evaluate and apply information
about selected public issues-identifying, describing and evaluating multiple points
f. Analyze a variety of public policies and issues from the perspective
of formal and informal political actors.
j. participate in activities to strengthen
the "common good," based upon careful evaluation of possible options
for citizen actions.
h. evaluate the degree to which public policies and citizen
behaviors reflect or foster the stated ideals of a democratic republican form
Standards (National Standards for Civics and Government): "Forms of political
the Author Author Syd Golston is an educational administrator, curriculum
writer and historian. She taught secondary Social Studies for 20 years, wrote
lessons and in-serviced teachers in 40 states as Supervisor of Education for Kids
Voting USA, and serves now as Dean of Students at Alhambra High School in Phoenix,
Arizona. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Council for
the Social Studies.