- Make an informed decision as they vote in a mock Presidential election
- Understand the election terms ballot and polling place
- A large cardboard box (a printer-paper box with lid is perfect for one to four classes — you'll need a larger box if conducting the mock election as a whole school)
- Plain craft paper
- Mock election ballots
- Optional: Digital camera for taking snapshots of your classroom election
Set Up and Prepare
- Decide whether you will conduct a classroom or whole-school mock election. If conducting a whole-school election, choose a common site (such as a gymnasium or stage) that can serve as a mock-election polling place.
- Make a copy of the ballot for each student.
Part 1: Make Your Ballot Box
Step 1: Activate prior knowledge by eliciting from students the legal voting age in the United States (18). Ask students if they have ever gone with a parent or other adult to a polling place to vote on Election Day. Have a few volunteers share what they remember.
Step 2: Explain that although they are not old enough to vote in the actual presidential election, students can learn about the voting process by participating in the Scholastic News Mock Election. Students nationwide will get to cast votes for President. Scholastic will then tally those votes and announce the winning student-election candidate. Point out to your class that this could be a chance to predict history: Since 1940, the results of the Scholastic mock election have correctly predicted the outcome of every Presidential race but two (1948 and 1960)!
Step 3: Explain that a polling place is a spot where adults go to vote. Tell students that you are going to set up a polling place in the classroom or school and show them the location. Explain that one of the first steps is to create a ballot box where students can put their paper ballots when they finish marking their choice for President. Review or explain that a ballot is the paper (or electronic) form on which a voter records his or her voting selections. Discuss the importance of having a closed box to store ballots.
Ask: Why don't voters just hand their completed ballots to an election official? Guide students to understand that a closed box guarantees privacy and ensures that no one will tamper with the vote once it is turned in.
Step 4: Assign a team of team of student volunteers to wrap the ballot box in craft paper or other plain paper. Assist students in cutting a slit in the top of the wrapped box large enough for a folded ballot (about the size of a business envelope). Have other students write the words "Ballot Box" neatly on the side of the box or cut out paper letters and paste them to the box.
Step 5: Put your ballot box in your polling place. If necessary, adjust furniture or hang a curtain to make sure your polling place is private.
Part 2: Conduct Your Mock Election!
Step 1: On the day you have planned your mock election, set up a sign-in station like those found in real polling places. Decide whether a teacher or student(s) will be given the task of running the sign-in station. Have a class list ready at this spot. At voting time, students will find their name on the list and sign next to it.
Step 2: Ask a responsible student to serve as a photojournalist for the event. Instruct him or her to take a few digital photographs as students put their ballots in the ballot box. (Make sure your photographer has an opportunity to vote before or after "work.")
Step 3: Let students know when it is their turn to come to the polling place. Once students sign in, give them their ballot and direct them to the private ballot-box area. This is where students should fill in the ballot, fold it, and place it in the box.
Step 4: Once all students have had a chance to vote, open the ballot box and tally the votes carefully. Cast your class or school votes at the Scholastic News election site. Let students know who won the class or school vote, but remind them their votes will be combined with those of students from all over the country before an mock-election winner is officially announced.
Step 5: Select your best mock-election photos to display around the classroom.
Have students write journal entries about their voting experience.
EXPLORE THE ELECTION ON SCHOLASTIC NEWS ONLINE