Today’s students are the next generation of voters. Prepare them to exercise their future civic responsibility with a mock election! It’s a fun way to teach students about the value of democracy, why it’s important to be informed and how their votes impact society.
Use this activity as an opportunity to discuss the significance of their vote in federal elections, which determine the President and Vice President of the United States as well as members of the U.S. Congress. Equally important, emphasize the importance of participating in local and state elections, in which officials like governors, mayors and school board members are elected.
Holding a mock election in your program is a great way to help your students understand the process of electing officials and the power of the vote. From campaigning to the voting process, students will get an idea of what it takes to become an elected official.
Mock Election Activity for Students
Note: This activity can be completed over the course of 1-3 days depending on time.
- Construction paper
- Digital cameras (for photos and videos)
- Small cardboard box (for ballot box)
- Voter registration cards (example; can be completed as a separate activity)
- Printable ballot cards
Discuss key elements of the election process, like the electoral college, polling places and political parties. Congress for Kids provides detailed information on elections that you can share with students.
Also, provide existing campaign materials from municipal and state elections in your area, like brochures and advertisements from your local election board’s office or on their website. Allow students to review the candidates and local issues, and then discuss how the materials and the information received would influence their decision. This will help guide them as they campaign and vote for the afterschool program president.
Day 1: Nominate.
- Divide students into two random groups, or political parties. Give them a few minutes to choose a name for their party and discuss and list 2-3 program reforms they would like to see enacted.
- Within each party, have students nominate a candidate to run for afterschool program president. During the nomination process, ask students to consider the qualities of a good leader.
- With the remainder of the day, have students create materials for their campaign, like advertisements, brochures and speeches. Ask students to think critically about the information they want to convey and how they want their candidates to be perceived by voters when creating these materials.
Day 2: Campaign.
- Allow both parties some time to campaign for the presidency: giving speeches, distributing brochures and displaying advertisements. Let students be creative, but to also consider how an actual presidential campaign is executed.
- Towards the end of the day, conduct a debate between both candidates. Allow them to elaborate on how their reforms and initiatives will improve the afterschool program. Also, give them an opportunity to answer questions from voters. Remind students to be kind and considerate of others’ opinions and to keep comments constructive and positive.
Day 3: Vote.
- Designate a special voting area in your program that includes a ballot box and a secluded booth for students to cast their vote.
- Have students line up and display their registration cards to prove their eligibility to vote. (Note that the legal voting age in the US is 18, but these cards are specially made for the mock election)
- One by one, have students enter the voting booth and use the ballot cards to cast their vote. Once done, have them drop their cards into the ballot box.
- While students may naturally want to vote for their party’s candidate, encourage them to be unbiased and recall the candidates’ stance on program issues and their plans to improve them. Also, ensure students that their votes will be anonymous to the rest of the group.
- Once all students have voted, do a live vote count to determine the program president. Once elected, have him or her give a final speech to the group.
- If possible, work with the program president on issues that arise in your afterschool program to show students the power of their vote!
For more resources and ideas for your mock elections, check out:
Lesson Plans and Resources from Scholastic
Mock Election Ideas for the Classroom from TeacherVision
Voting & Election Lesson Plans from Growing Voters