Title:  Election Day

Grade Level:  7-12

Subject(s):  Government, Social Studies 8.3

Overview: A comparison between elections in the United States, Nicaragua, and the world.

Purpose:  After looking at the turnouts from elections around the world, students will explore the idea of participatory democracy and what that means.

Objectives:

Resources/Materials:

  1. Refer to the Election Turnout graph at http://www.nationmaster.com/red/graph-T/dem_pre_ele_tur&int=100
  2. Radio Netherlands brief history of Nicaragua at http://www.rnw.nl/humanrights/html/recent_history.html

Activities and Procedures:

  1. Define “democracy” as a class.  How many people must participate (i.e. vote) in order for this system to work?
  2. Look at the Election Turnout graph at www.nationmaster.com.  What number is Nicaragua?  What number is the US?  
  3. Ask students if they are surprised by the numbers; what reasons can they think of for why the numbers might be as they are?
  4. Read the Radio Netherlands description of Nicaragua's history.  Discuss why the turmoil in the country may contribute to high voter participation.  Look at other countries who are high on the list of Election Turnout - do they have anything in common that may account for the high turnout?
  5. Find out how many people voted in the most recent US election and compare with the History of US Voter Turnout at http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0781453.html.  Did more or less people turn out this year than the previous election?  What do you think are the factors that make people vote or not vote?

Tying It Together:

  1. Interview two people; one who voted in the recent election and one who did not.  What were their reasons for voting or not voting?  What did they think the most important issues were in the election?  For the person who did not vote, what were the main obstacles to voting?
  2. Survey students - how many of them could have voted if they were 18?  Do students think their vote would count?  If appropriate timewise, hold a mock election in class.