Every Four Years: Introducing Presidential Elections

by Fred Freitas


Students will examine aspects of Article II of the Constitution for specific information about the requirements for and methods of electing the president.


Essential Question

How democratic is the American election process for the office of president?

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  1. identify the constitutional procedure for the election of the president.
  2. describe the process for electing the president.
  3. evaluate the extent to which the process is democratic.


Based on what students know about the current election, they should be asked to list all the things that a person has to do in order to become president. In order to help students understand what they are being asked to do, suggest that they draw a staircase in their notebooks that can be used to illustrate the many steps that have to be taken in order to reach the office of president.


Review the section of your textbook that covers the presidential election process, as well as Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution. Divide the class into mixed-ability groups.

  1. Assign a recorder for each group and give them markers and a large flip chart to record responses.
  2. Review with the class the rules for brainstorming and group work. (For example, the recorder must write down all responses and cannot edit; all members should take part in the discussion.)
  3. Pass out the “Introducing Presidential Elections” worksheet. Read and discuss this handout with your students. Discuss the steps that the most recent candidates followed to become the nominees of their parties.
  4. The recorder for each group will then share the answers with the entire class.
  5. The teacher will ask the class what they would keep, add, and delete from the process of electing the president.
  6. The teacher will then examine with the students the information related to the Electoral College in Article II, Section 1, Clause 2. As a follow-up, the teacher will have the class examine the Federal Election Comminsion’s chart Distribution of Electoral Votes.
  7. Students should be asked to analyze specific data from the chart. For example: How many states have gained / lost electoral votes? As an additional activity the teacher should distribute a map of the United States and ask the students to identify the state(s) they would campaign in and why. As a result of this students should understand why candidates tend to spend more time in states with higher populations rather than in states with smaller populations.
  8. The teacher will then assign each student to a state, allocating to each student the number of that state’s electoral votes. Using a recent or upcoming election as their example, the students will cast their state’s electoral votes for a presidential candidate. If no candidate achieves a majority of the electoral votes, the teacher will explain how the selection process will continue in the House of Representatives. The teacher can then discuss past elections in which the electoral vote was in dispute.
  9. Compose a brief letter to the editor of your local newspaper explaining your views about why you favor retaining or eliminating the Electoral College system.

Summary Question

How democratic is the election process for president in the United States?

Application Question

Should the United States amend the Constitution to elect the president by popular vote rather than by electoral vote?

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Site to be used for school wide presidential election.

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