Lesson 1: Becoming a Voter Print

downloadIn this lesson, students apply their state’s requirements for registering to vote. Students learn when and how to register, how to complete a voter registration form, and when and how to reregister.

 

Supplemental Materials

We the People: The Citizen & the Constitution student text correlations are offered as examples to use with Citizens, Not Spectators lessons when applicable. A comparable social studies textbook may be adapted for reference as needed.

The Citizens, Not Spectators high school curriculum correlates with the We the People, Level 3, Unit Six, Lesson 33: “What does it mean to be a citizen?” (pp. 250–252) and Lesson 34: “What is the importance of civic engagement to American constitutional democracy?” (pp. 258–59).

 

Suggested Grade Level

 

High school (Grades 9–12)

Estimated Time to Complete

 

50 minutes

Lesson Objectives

 

 

After completing this lesson, students will be able to

  • explain general voting requirements,
  • understand the voter registration requirements and process in their state, and
  • complete a voter registration form.

Vocabulary

  • absentee ballot
  • abstain
  • citizen
  • felony
  • Fifteenth Amendment
  • grandfather clause
  • independent voter
  • mentally incompetent
  • Nineteenth Amendment
  • parole
  • poll tax
  • register
  • suffrage
  • Twenty-fourth Amendment
  • Twenty-sixth Amendment
  • Voting Rights Act of 1965

Materials Needed

Teacher Resources

 

  • Quick Vocabulary (Teacher Resource 1)
  • State Voting Qualifications (Teacher Resource 2)
  • Who Can Register to Vote in the United States? (Teacher Resource 3)
  • Absentee ballot (Teacher Resource 4)

Student Handouts

 

  • Building Our Vocabulary (Student Handout 1)
  • Who Can Register to Vote in the United States? (Student Handout 2)
  • Voter registration forms from your secretary of state’s website or the National Mail Voter Registration Form (Student Handout 3)
  • Homework assignment for Lesson 2: If an election is scheduled in your community, distribute a Quick Reference Guide or Voter Information Guide to students (one per student).

Textbooks

  • We the People: The Citizen & the Constitution, Level 3, or a comparable social studies text

 

Before the Lesson

 

A week or two before Lesson 1, communicate with the registrar of voters office. Prepare for the lesson by obtaining the following materials and information.

  • Voter Registration Forms (one per student)

You can obtain voter registration forms from the registrar of voters or you can download, print, and photocopy the form from your secretary of state’s website. Another alternative is to use the National Mail Voter Registration Form.

  • Absentee ballot form
  • Determine who can vote by absentee ballot in your state.
  • Determine the date for the simulated election (Lesson 3). The simulated election can be timed to coincide with or precede the general election.
  • If applicable, request Quick Reference Guides or Voter Information Guides and official ballots for the upcoming election in your community or state (one guide and one ballot per student).
  • Request “I Voted” stickers for the simulated election—one for each student in your class.
  • Research your state’s requirements for registering and voting. You can find this information on your secretary of state’s website. You will use this information for Teacher Resource 3.

Review and photocopy all Lesson 1 student handouts and teacher resources.

Assign students to read pp. 250–252 in We the People (Lesson 33: “What does it mean to be a citizen?”) and pp. 258–59 of Lesson 34: “What is the importance of civic engagement to American constitutional democracy?” or pages in a comparable social studies textbook on the rights of citizens and the importance of civic engagement.

Distribute Student Handout 1 and instruct students to define the terms marked with an asterisk. Review the vocabulary list with students and note the terms marked with an asterisk.

Lesson Procedure

 

1. Beginning the Lesson: Why Do States Control Voter Registration?

Student Handout 1 and We the People (or a comparable social studies textbook) are needed throughout this lesson.

 

Ask students to take out their homework assignment. Inform them that in today’s lesson, they will learn new vocabulary terms associated with the voting process.

Begin the lesson by calling on individual students to define the vocabulary terms they were assigned for homework.

Ask students who is eligible to vote today. From their homework assignment, students should mention a U.S. citizen and groups such as African Americans, women, and eighteen-year-olds. Ask students to explain what makes a person a citizen.

From a social studies textbook, have a student read aloud a brief summary of the responsibilities of citizens. If using We the People, have a student read “What are the responsibilities of citizens and resident aliens?” on page 252. Ask another student to define the term citizen and direct students to add the definition to their vocabulary list.

As an introduction to the concept of registration, ask students whether they have a guaranteed right to attend school.

  • Ask them if they had to register to attend school.
  • Remind them that although they have the right to attend school, there is a procedure that must be followed to realize that right.

Inform students that the U.S. Constitution and state constitutions establish voter registration qualifications.

Ask students to define the phrase register to vote. Remind them about registering to attend school.

2. What Are the Requirements to Register to Vote?

 

Student Handouts 1 and 2, and Teacher Resources 1, 2, and 3 are required for this part of the lesson.

Distribute Student Handout 2 to each student. Inform students that in today’s lesson, they will learn about rules for registering to vote and make a list of the rules on this handout.

On a screen or the classroom board, project the first half of Teacher Resource 3. It indicates voting requirements for all citizens of the United States.

 

  • Ask different students to read the registration requirements and instruct the class to take notes on Student Handout 2.
  • Students may require help with the vocabulary terms felony, independent voter, mentally incompetent, parole, and register. Definitions for these terms can be found in Teacher Resource 1.
    • Add the definitions to the vocabulary chart.
    • Have students fill in the definitions in Student Handout 1.

Show students the second half of Teacher Resource 3. Indicate your state’s additional requirements for voter registration.

  • Ask individual students to read each state requirement.
  • Have students add the state requirements to Student Handout 2.

3.  Applying Information: Registering to Vote

 

A voter registration form (Student Handout 3) is required for completion of this part of the lesson. You can obtain a voter registration form from your secretary of state’s website.

Inform the students that in most states, voter registration must be completed a few weeks before an election. Inform students about the voter registration deadline in your state.

 

Distribute a voter registration form to each student.

  • Review the registration form step by step with students.
  • Assist them in completing the forms.
  • Collect all the registration forms.

4. Is My Voter Registration Good for the Rest of My Life?

 

Inform students that there are a number of reasons why they might have to reregister to vote.

Ask students whether they would have to reregister if they change their address.

  • They might respond that they will have to reregister.

Ask students whether they would have to reregister if they change their name.

  • Ask students to give reasons why people change their name.

Define and explain the term absentee ballot to the students (reference Teacher Resource 1).

  • Add the definition to the vocabulary chart
  • Have students add the definition to Student Handout 1.

Show students the absentee ballot you have obtained from the registrar.

  • Ask students to think of voters who qualify to use an absentee ballot. Here are some examples of possible responses.
    • College students who cannot get home to vote
    • Military personnel who cannot get home to vote
    • Adults who cannot get to the election polls because of work
    • Physically disabled adults

Inform students that some states remove people from the list of registered voters if they do not participate in elections. This means that if you fail to vote in a specified number of consecutive elections, you may have to reregister.

Ask students whether a homeless person can register to vote given that they have no permanent address.

  • The voter registration form in some states allows an intersection of streets to be used as an address. This would allow homeless people to register to vote.

5. Concluding the Lesson: Would Our Registration Forms Be Accepted?

 

Ask students whether the class would meet the state’s deadline for registering to vote if you mailed the forms today. 

 

Ask students whether all the rules to register to vote were followed. 

  • They should answer that they do not meet the age requirement.
  • If everyone in the class were eighteen years old, would the registration forms be accepted?

Explain to students that during the next Citizens, Not Spectators lesson they will be introduced to the actual election ballot. If an election ballot is not available, tell students they will have the opportunity to create a ballot. Ask students to start thinking about what they would like to change or add as new rules or policies for the classroom or school.

6. Homework Assignment: Preparing for Lesson 2a or 2b

 

Decide whether you would like students to cast their votes in a simulated election using an actual ballot (Lesson 2a) or create their own ballot questions (Lesson 2b). Assign homework accordingly.

 

Becoming an Informed Voter: Preparing for the General Election (Lesson 2a)

  • If an election ballot is available, distribute a Quick Reference Guide or Voter Information Guide to each student.
    • Ask students to review the offices and questions on the ballot.
    • Students should prepare a list of questions they have about any items they reviewed in the guide. This homework assignment will be graded.

Becoming an Informed Voter: Creating Initiatives (Lesson 2b)

If an election ballot is not available, instruct students to each write one suggestion for a new class or school rule for their class ballot. Explain to students that they need to prepare reasons for the suggestion. This homework assignment will be graded.