The Voting Process
What does the voting process look like in my municipality? What are some barriers people face when voting in elections? Is voting a duty or a choice?
The right to vote comes with the responsibility to vote in an informed and purposeful manner.
In this lesson, students explore their own opinions and those of others about participating in elections. Afterwards, students review the voting process in municipal and school board elections in Ontario and general statistics from the 2014 elections. Students respond to a voting survey before examining the barriers that some people face when participating in the electoral process. In the culminating activity, students rank a series of motivational barriers in order of significance or propose a solution or strategy to help overcome them.
By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:
- Determine the importance of participating in elections (Concepts of Thinking – Political Significance);
- Describe the voting process in municipal and school board elections;
- Use the inquiry process to interpret, analyze and evaluate the barriers to participating in the voting process;
- Explore issues related to personal and societal rights and responsibilities, and develop attitudes that foster civic engagement (Citizenship Education Framework – Attributes).
- I can assess the significance of voting in elections and the consequences of not voting;
- I understand the voting process well enough to cast my own ballot in the Student Vote program or share my knowledge with a friend or family member;
- I can evaluate the barriers to participating in the voting process and consider which may influence my decision to vote in the future;
- I can discuss personal and societal rights and responsibilities and the importance of contributing to my community.
CHV2O – A1, A2, B1, C1, C2, A1.1, A2.2, B1.2, C1.2, C2.1
1. Pose the following question to your class: If you were 18 years old, would you vote in the upcoming municipal election? Why or why not?
Ask students to share their views and opinions about participating in the voting process through a whole class discussion.
2. Watch the ‘Why Vote‘ video (3:45 min) with your students to listen to different reasons why people believe voting is important.
3. Using a ‘Turn and Talk’ approach, ask students to discuss the following questions:
- Which opinions shared in the video resonate the most with you?
- Over the course of the Student Vote activities, has your opinion changed about whether voting is important or not?
- What are the consequences if people do not vote in elections?
1. Through a whole class discussion, ask students the following questions.
- Have you ever voted for something? How was the vote organized? What was the method? (e.g., student council, student trustee, MVP, online contests).
- What principles do you think are important when conducting a vote? (e.g., fair and unbiased conduct, secrecy in expressing your choice, confidence in the process)
- Why is it important to know how to vote properly?
2. Using the accompanying slide deck and your own municipality’s information, discover some of the key aspects of the voting process in municipal elections.
- Who is responsible for organizing municipal elections?
- Who is qualified to vote in municipal elections? How does it differ from provincial elections?
- What is the voters’ list? Why is it helpful to be on the voters’ list in advance?
- What voting method is used in my municipality?
3. Ask students to guess what they think voter turnout was in the 2014 municipal elections. Afterwards, share the statistics below from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.
- Average voter turnout is 43.12% (based on results from 389 out of 444 municipalities)
- Largest voter turnout was 86.63% – Town of Latchford
- Lowest voter turnout was 15.81% – Town of Petawawa
- The entire council acclaimed in 18 municipalities
- A portion of the council was acclaimed in 3 municipalities
Have a follow-up class discussion: Are you surprised with the statistics? What factors do you think contribute to high or low voter turnout? How would you feel if your entire council was acclaimed and there was no election?
4. Provide copies of Activity 7.1 to each student and ask them to answer each question as honestly as they can. Afterwards, give them a few minutes to discuss their responses with a partner.
5. Review some key research findings about voting and the barriers to electoral participation using the accompanying slide deck.
- Low voter turnout has been a concern at all levels of elections in Canada over the last few decades.
- Young voters are less likely to vote than older voters (on average 20 per cent less).
- There are many different barriers to voting, including motivational barriers and access barriers. Motivational barriers have been found to be most important.
- Motivational barriers include low levels of political interest and political knowledge, lack of perceived relevance, cynicism and lower sense of civic duty.
- Access barriers include not knowing when and where to vote, lack of personal identification, challenges getting to the polling station, and language and literacy skills.
6. Independently or with a partner, have students reflect on how many zeros they recorded on the voting survey (Activity 7.1) and which barriers could influence their decision to vote in the future.
Ask students to survey a family member or friend with Activity 7.1 and discuss the different attitudes about politics and voting.
Have a closing discussion about barriers to participating in the voting process, or ask students to write a reflection in response to one of the following questions.
- Rank the seven barriers on Activity 7.1 (1 being the most influential barrier to prevent someone from voting, compared to 7 being the least important). Explain your rankings.
- Pick one barrier that you believe is most important and determine what actions could be taken to overcome the challenge.
- What are the underlying conditions to the issue? Who is being affected and how? Why is it happening?
- What role should individuals, community groups and governments play? What can they do?
In this activity, students practice articulating viewpoints about voting. Students state their position, for either ‘voting is a choice’ or ‘voting is a duty’, and then provide statements that support their opinion. Students divide into pairs and take turns speaking, listening, and recording their discussions.
- Distribute a copy of the “Brainstorming Sheet” (Activity 7.2)
- Put students in pairs as Partners A and B
- Direct all Partner A students to prepare the “Brainstorming Sheet” for the following statement: ‘Voting is a choice’
- Direct all Partner B students to prepare the “Brainstorming Sheet” for the following statement: ‘Voting is a duty’
- Direct all Partner A students to begin expressing their opinions on the given topic to Partner B
- Direct students to listen carefully to their partner’s ideas and use point form to record their partner’s ideas on the back of their brainstorming sheet
- Monitor the students’ discussions by circulating among the groups
- Comment constructively on the process
- Direct the partners to reverse their roles and repeat the process
- After both partners have shared their positions ask volunteers to share their learning and ideas with the whole class
- Allow time for some class discussion
- Have small partner groups join together with one or two other partner groups
- Have groups share their views about whether voting is a choice or a duty
- Have groups record their ideas on chart paper or the back of their brainstorming sheet
- Have a class discussion about which statement they agree with most
Teacher note: Alternatively, you could debate the statement: ‘voting is a right’ or ‘voting is a responsibility’.
- Activity 7.1: Voting Survey [PDF] [Word]
- Activity 7.2: Brainstorming Sheet [PDF] [Word]
- Slide Deck: The Voting Process [PPT]