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To Vote or Not to Vote

Now that the political conventions are over and each party has thrown down its gauntlet, the Republican and Democratic nominees for president have hit the campaign trail. From now until November, the American public will be barraged with information and images, both positive and negative. Indeed, many citizens will become weary of the endless petitioning for their votes.

Still, despite the intense focus on the presidential election in everyday conversation, in schools and college classrooms, and in non-stop media coverage, only a little more than half of U.S. registered voters aged 18-to-29 say they will “definitely vote” this fall, according to a Gallup poll released in July. Gallup asked registered voters to rate how likely they were to vote on a scale of 1-to-10, with 10 indicating they would “definitely vote.” The poll revealed that the percentage of those who intended to vote was lower than the percentage found in similar polls taken during the 2004 and 2008 election seasons.

Why is voter apathy a problem in the United States? What can be done to make it easier for citizens to cast their votes? Or is low voter turnout a sign of a satisfied electorate, as some suggest? Help your students explore these questions with the video and activities found in program 13, “Elections: The Maintenance of Democracy,” of Democracy in America.

Encourage students to discuss why elections matter with questions from the pre-viewing activity and possible reasons and remedies for low voter turn-out with the post-viewing activity. Use the critical thinking activity to help students grapple with real-world issues, such as gun control. Students are asked to take a position on an issue and then explore how their actions can influence the political process.

How are you discussing the importance of voting with your students?

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