Why Should I Vote?

Activities

Hook Activity

What do students already know about voter participation in Texas? Each student identifies truths and lies about voting participation by writing true or false as the instructor reads the question to the class.
Example questions:

  1. Nearly 75% of eligible Texas voters cast their votes in the 2016 Presidential election.
    (False: In the 2016 presidential election, 55% of eligible voters in Texas actually voted.)
  2. There are more voters over the age of 65 than voters ages 18-29 in Texas.
    (False. See U.S. Census Data)
  3. Voter turnout in the gubernatorial election was higher than voter turnout in local elections in 2016.
    (True. Only 10% of eligible voters voted in local elections compared to 35% in the governor’s race.)
  4. Voter participation varies by age and level of education.
    (True. Voter participation increases as age and education increase.)
  5. College graduates are more likely to vote than non-college graduates.
    (True. Data show that the single biggest predictor of whether someone will vote is whether they hold a college degree. See link to Science News for Students article below and the U.S. Census Data.)

View Video

http://www.kaltura.com/tiny/n66lr  ( 3:40 minutes)

Video Outline: Why Should I Vote?

  • Voter turnout: percentages of eligible voters who voted in 2016 presidential, gubernatorial, and local elections.
  • Montage of responses from students to the question of why they did not vote in the 2016 presidential election.
  • “Does my vote really matter?”
  • Narration about the correlation between voter turnout and issues.
  • Illustration reinforces the point that lower turnout among younger voters limits their influence on issues while giving more power to older voters who turnout at higher rates.

Activity – Discussions

Instructor chooses one or more of the following:

  • Instructor leads a discussion about why students should vote based on ideas from the video and their own thoughts. Instructor can use Padlet.com or other collaborative tool to show students’ responses live.
  • Instructor leads group study and discussion of voter turnout in the 2016 election using charts* at United States Census Bureau. Voting and Registration https://thedataweb.rm.census.gov/TheDataWeb_HotReport2/voting/voting.hrml

    *Note error: Text on second graph, Voting and registration by age in United States: 2016 states “18-to-24-year-olds” in referring to the “18-29” category.

  • Instructor leads group discussion followed by independent research on the accuracy of voter turnout rates and trends in voting behavior:

Reading Assignment

Instructor chooses option most appropriate for reading level.

As you read, look for answers to the following questions:

  • What factors motivate registered voters to vote?
  • What circumstances commonly prevent citizens from voting?
  • Why is voter turnout low in the United States?

Activity – What Is Your Voting Heritage?

When it comes to casting our votes, we tend to assume that showing up at the polling booth is driven by the issues at stake. But there’s some evidence to indicate that voting habits are just that, habits, shaped in part by the practices and routines of our parents when we’re still too young to vote.” Read the remainder of the article in preparation for the interviews you will conduct for this assignment.

The New York Times.
“What Really Makes Us Vote? It May Be Our Parents”
The Checkup
By Perri Klass, M.D.
Nov. 7, 2016
https://nyti.ms/2ewl4tg

Students

  • Do most of your family members or neighbors vote in elections? Is voting a routine in your family? Will you be influenced by how your parents or friends voted?
  • After reading the NY Times article, survey at least 10 family members or friends and report on their reasons for voting or not voting. What are your conclusions about voting after this survey?
  • Assess what factors, beyond family, can encourage voting behavior: friends, faith community, media…

Instructor

After students complete the interviews, the instructor facilitates a group discussion of their findings.

Optional: Collect data table handout and interview questions for grading.

Observations that may surface in the discussion:

  • no voting heritage
  • takes too much time to become informed about the candidates and issues
  • attitude that vote will not count
  • cynicism about politics and the election process

Based on the article, what is most motivating for turning voters out to the polls? What advice would you give to campaigns and non-profit organizations to encourage better voter participation?

Optional:
Students can utilize the embedded link – Research on voting patterns – within The New York Times article to pursue the topic in more depth.


Voter Survey Questions

Survey at least 10 adults using the following questions. Use a separate form for each person surveyed. When all surveys are complete, tally the answers in Voter Survey Data to report results.

  1. Did you vote in the most recent election?
  2. If you did not vote, why not?
    1. Not eligible
    2. Did not know where to vote
    3. Not registered
    4. Didn’t care
    5. Other (please describe) _________________________
  3. Do you vote in the primary elections where political parties nominate their candidates?
  4. Do you consider yourself a member of a specific political party?
  5. Do you vote in local elections (mayor, city council, school board, etc.)?
  6. Are you concerned about the way our local government is run?
  7. Do you feel your vote is important in determining the way our local government is run?
  8. Do you know anyone who has run for a political office?
  9. Do you vote in every election?
  10. Would you agree with a law that would make voting mandatory?

Adapted from ActivitesHS4_elections.pdf, p.129
Copyright © 2017 Texas Association of Counties. All rights reserved.


Voter Survey Data

  1. Did you vote in the most recent election?
Yes No
  1. If you did not vote, why not?
    1. Not eligible
    2. Did not know where to vote
    3. Not registered
    4. Didn’t care
    5. Other
   
  1. Do you vote in the primary elections where political parties nominate their candidates?
   
  1. Do you consider yourself a member of a specific political party?
   
  1. Do you vote in local elections (mayor, city council, school board, etc.)?
   
  1. Are you concerned about the way our local government is run?
   
  1. Do you feel your vote is important in determining the way our local government is run?
   
  1. Do you know anyone who has run for a political office?
   
  1. Do you vote in every election?
   
  1. Would you agree with a law that would make voting mandatory?
   

Adapted from ActivitesHS4_elections.pdf, p.129
Copyright © 2017 Texas Association of Counties. All rights reserved.