Lesson: A Simulated Election

Lesson Overview

This lesson can be used at any grade level.  

Students take part in a simulated election in which they role-play poll workers at a polling site and vote in a simulated election. Students become familiar with polling site procedures and the mechanics of voting in their state. When the election simulation coincides with a general election or a state election, it provides for a more authentic experience. A supervisor should be in the vicinity of the voting booths you have created to assist students who may have questions about the voting process. A teacher can use their own classroom or a different room, such as the library, media room, or cafeteria, to complete this lesson. The lesson can be divided into two parts: (1) teaching students directly about the voting process and the role of poll workers and (2) holding a class-wide or school-wide election. 

Estimated Time to Complete

1- 2 class periods

Lesson Objectives

After completing this lesson, your students should be able to

  • explain the requirements for a polling place,
  • explain orally or in writing their experiences as a voter or a poll worker,
  • summarize the necessity for the various roles and responsibilities of poll workers,
  • explain the need to keep the polling place apolitical,
  • summarize the importance of voter registration lists, 
  • describe what happens in their state if a person is not registered,
  • understand and explain the voting mechanisms used, and
  • explain in writing their simulated election results.

Materials Needed

Before the Lesson

One week or more before the simulated election, check with the registrar’s office about delivery of materials needed. You should request that voting booths and voting mechanisms be delivered to the school the day before or earlier if possible. Request a secure storage location with administrative approval and assure the registrar’s office that equipment will be stored safely. This lesson can be done without actual voting booths or voting mechanisms.

Lesson Procedure

1. Keeping the Polling Place Apolitical

Explain to students that there will be no discussion about candidates, ballot initiatives or referendums on the day of the election simulation, just like in real polling places. No pressure or persuasion on how to vote is allowed in the polling area. This includes any buttons, banners, posters, political t-shirts, or similar items.

2. What Does an Election Polling Place Look Like?

Project Teacher Resource 1 on a screen or the classroom board.

  • The diagram is one example of a polling place setup. The registrar of voters can provide the setup your state requires and probably a diagram as well.
  • Ask students their opinions of why the polls are set up like this.
  • Explain the reasons for why the polling place setup is structured as it is.
    • Ensures legally registered voters
    • Avoids voting fraud such as duplicate voting

3. What Do Poll Workers Do?

Provide each student with a copy of Student Handout 1.

While still projecting Teacher Resource 1 on a screen or the classroom board, write or draw in the polling place positions you will be using in the simulated election.

  • Ask students whether this setup will ensure a fair and accurate simulated election. Why?

Point out the positions required for a polling place. Tell students that they will experience an abbreviated version of an actual election poll.

  • Ask students whether they think the poll workers’ duties support the poll site setup goals

Let students know how much of the set-up and the poll worker positions you will use. Request student volunteers or assign students for the poll positions your simulated election will engage.

  • Explain that two students will be assigned to each position. This enables continued position coverage and the opportunity for each student to cast a vote.

Class list

  • Your class list can be arranged in alphabetical order. This will allow several students to work at the registration table, and for the process to move along quickly.

Student identification

  • If your school issues student identification cards, you should remind students to show them at the simulated election registration table, these will be their registration card Teacher Resource 2a (make as many copies of this resource as you may need)
    If a student does not have an identification card, have him or her sign-in on a separate list. Teacher Resource 2b (make as many copies of this resources as you may need)

Ballot distribution

  • A student stationed at the end of the registration table will hand out paper ballots to voters who have completed registration sign-in.

Computerized mechanisms

  • If computerized mechanisms are used, two students should monitor the ballot entries.

First vote

  • In some elections, the first voter to complete a ballot is asked to ensure that the ballot box is empty. Either you or the registrar will then seal the ballot box.

Tallying the ballots

  • States use a variety of mechanisms for the completed ballot votes. Regardless of the procedure, monitors are needed at the site of a finalized ballot.

Distribution of stickers if applicable.

  • Distribute a sticker to each student/voter who casts a ballot.

4. Applying Knowledge and Skills: Casting a Vote in the Simulated Election

Each student will have the opportunity to cast his or her vote on the simulated election ballot.

As poll workers, students will assist and guide other voters through the voting procedures.

5. Tallying the Vote

If the registrar is present, he or she may tally the vote with the help of students, announce it to the class, and determine when and if the simulated election results will be announced publicly.

If older machines are used, students can tally the votes as the registrar reads the results from the back of the voting machine.
If paper ballots are used in lieu of any materials from the official registrar’s office or the League of Women Voters in your state or county, you the teacher will determine the best way to tally the vote.

6. Concluding the Lesson

Lead a class discussion on why the results turned out as they did. Ask students to compare and contrast their results with the state and nation results when applicable. All of this can also be done as a homework assignment.

Ask for volunteers to help you and the registrar break down the polling area.


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