Two to three weeks
One of the ways young students become invested in the democratic process is by become empowered advocates for civic participation in their local communities. When younger students understand they have the power to use their voices in politics, they are more likely to be involved and register to vote when they are eligible.
The voter’s guide can be as simple or robust as you would like it to be. (See step 1 for our recommended sections.) Each section can be undertaken as an individual project, as a class project or in small groups.
Determine the organization of the voter’s guide. We recommend the following sections:
- Registering to vote
Students research and write about voter registration in your state. They can answer questions such as: Are citizens automatically registered? Can voters register online? Can voters register on election day? Can young people pre-register to vote before they turn 18? Are special IDs required to register to vote in your state?
- Voters’ rights
Students research and write about voting rights in your state. They can answer questions such as: How does absentee voting work in your state? Are voters required to show ID to vote? Can people with felony convictions vote in your state? Does your state allow early voting?
- Important dates and deadlines
Students research and create a calendar marked with important dates for the upcoming election. They can answer questions such as: What is the deadline for submitting voter registration forms? What is the deadline for an absentee ballot request? When does early voting begin? What is election day? When are the polls open on election day?
- What to expect at the polls
Students research and write about basic procedures at the polls. They can answer questions such as: What will the ballot look like? How long will it take to vote? What IDs should voters bring? Who can help at the polls if you have questions?
This information is available through Rock the Vote. Download a state-specific event toolkit for information about registration, a list of important dates, and an overview of what to expect at the polls. Students can find more information about voters’ rights on the website of your secretary of state and at rockthevote.org/voting-information.
- In a class discussion, ask students how important decisions are made in our communities and country. Assess students’ knowledge about the voting process, and if needed, introduce them to the basics of voting.
- Let students know that even though they may not be old enough to vote yet, they can still play a valuable role in the election process. Ask them how they think they can get involved. Tell them that one way they can get involved is by informing others about the election and asking people to register to vote.
- Introduce students to the Do Something Student Planning Guide. Instruct them in mapping the steps necessary to complete the voter’s guide.
- Share the sample rubric (forthcoming) or adapt it into a checklist. Refer to the rubric to define expectations before students begin working.
- Determine the audience for the voter’s guide (other classes, other grades, families, larger school community, outside community members, etc.). Talk to students about their intended audience.
- Assign topics and instruct students to research their topics and write a short summary of their findings.
- Direct students to plan and draft their written work. Allow time for feedback, revisions and finalization.
- Have students choose a format for the guide and consider the best format to use so that it reaches the widest audience. Also think about multiple formats and ways of presenting the guide so that it’s accessible to all (people with hearing or vision impairments and those who speak and read a language other than English). Students can make their guides by hand, they can make them using “pamphlet templates” such as those found in MS Word, or they can make them as webpages.
- Consider collaborating with other classes, your school counselor or community groups.
- Copy and distribute completed voter’s guides to other classes, other grades, families, the larger school community and outside community members.
- Arrange an in-class “publishing party” during which students unveil their voter’s guide and read one another’s contributions. If possible, invite your intended audience.
- Along with the voter’s guide, print copies of the “Voices and Votes” Pledges. Encourage students to ask as many people as possible to sign a pledge to either use their vote or their voice in the upcoming election. You can even make this a contest, challenging another class to see who can get the most pledges.
- Students can give each other feedback orally or on sticky notes during the publishing party.
- If you adapted the rubric, students can assess their own work using the checklist.
English language learners
English language learners can benefit from this task by working cooperatively with others and practicing sharing their ideas orally.
Connection to anti-bias education
Creating and sharing a My Voice, My Voter’s Guide shows students they have the power to inform and call others to action.