Lesson 3: The Ballot and Questions 
This lesson focuses on a voter’s need to be fully informed prior to casting a vote on Election Day and how to acquire the necessary information. In this lesson, the ballot for the upcoming election is reviewed with information on the offices and questions to be voted upon. Students learn the qualifications, term of office, and the responsibilities for each contested office on the ballot. The definitions for an initiative, referendum, and amendment are learned and applied to ballot questions. Students learn what a yes, no, or abstain vote means on each ballot question. By completing the handouts for school referendums, students are given the opportunity to think critically and to learn firsthand why voters need to be fully informed about ballot questions.
Suggested Grade Level
High school (Grades 10–12) Estimated Time to Complete
One to two days Lesson Objectives After completing this lesson, students will be able to
Vocabulary
Materials Needed Prelesson assignment
Teacher Resources
Student Handouts
Before the Lesson
Lesson Procedure 1. Understanding Classifications of Ballot Questions
Refer to Teacher Resource 1: Quick Vocabulary to define direct democracy and popular sovereignty for the students. Inform the students that there are different classifications for the ballot questions. Define the following terms for the students: amendment, initiative, and referendum.
Tell students that initiatives are an example of direct democracy. Amendments, initiatives, and referendums are good examples of popular sovereignty.
2. Critical Thinking Exercise: How Would You Vote? How Did You Vote?
The purpose of this exercise is to show students that they must take the time to become informed voters and to properly make decisions on ballot questions. Students are asked to quickly vote on several referendums on a school ballot. The information on the referendums is intentionally limited; however, ellipses indicate that more information is available.
Explain that the school is asking students to take a quick vote on several referendums under administrative consideration. Distribute Student Handout 11 and instruct students to read through and circle their choice (yes, no, or abstain) in two minutes so that results can be sent to administration as soon as possible. Explain what abstain means; refer to Teacher Resource 1. Immediately ask students to show how they voted by raising their hands. Keep a tally on the board. Ask a student at the back of the room to quietly keep a separate running tally. When all votes are cast and tallied, ask students the following questions:
Compare your board tally with that of the student at the back of the room.
Distribute Student Handout 12 and ask the class to read it. After the students have read the handout, ask them the following questions:
3. What Information is Needed to Cast an Informed Vote?
The activity students just completed should lead students to the idea that knowledge is a key to voting, and that they need to be informed voters if they want to make a positive impact. Students work in groups on specific ballot offices up for election and ballot questions that voters are asked to decide.
Ask students to take out their homework assignment—Student Handout 5—and the list of questions they had on the ballot. Remind students that the Quick Reference Guide or Voter Information Guide is a good source of information that can be used in their group work. Distribute a ballot (Student Handout 13) to each student and inform students that several major party candidates had to win a primary in the spring to be placed on the ballot as their party’s candidate for office. Ask students
4. Gathering Ballot Information
Depending on what is on your ballot, have students work in four to five groups to gather ballot information about the candidates and questions. Distribute the student handouts according to the group’s assignment. Have students work in four or five groups and assign the following:
If the ballot has local, state, and federal offices, you might want to assign one level of government to each group.
Tell students that they have 20 minutes to gather the information for their assigned questions. 5. Sharing Information, Becoming Informed Ask each group to share the information they have gathered on their public office or prospective legislation. While each group is presenting, the rest of the class should be taking notes. When all the groups have presented, try to answer any final questions the students might have.
6. Concluding the Lesson: Preparing for the Simulated Election
As a culminating activity, Lesson 4 offers steps for an inclass simulated election and Lesson 5 offers details for an allschool simulated election. Determine the option that you will schedule. Below are preparation guidelines for Lesson 4. If you choose to conduct an allschool simulated election, proceed to Lesson 5 for preparation guidelines. 7. Preparing for Lesson 4
Students should review the ballot information that they have gathered and make a decision about how they want to vote on each office and ballot issue for the next Citizens, Not Spectators class.
