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Campaign 2004: Classroom Electorate
Grade Level(s): 6-8, 9-12
By: Bilaal Ahmed

Students take on the role of a political analyst, forecasting the electoral vote count for the 2004 presidential election. In order to make a prediction, students are introduced to campaign issues, the Electoral College, the role of swing states, and the importance of political participation. The lesson plan includes a fun, interactive classroom competition where students make electoral predictions and compare with the actual results following the November 2nd voting deadline.

Objectives:

  1. Understand the Electoral College and the breakdown of votes for each state
  2. Become aware of key campaign issues and the different perspectives endorsed by the Republican and Democratic Party
  3. Recognize the value of “swing states” and their implications in the current Presidential Election
  4. Understand the pros and cons of an Electoral College versus a popular vote system
  5. Create greater interest in the 2004 president election and the US political process as a whole

Materials:

  • US map marking designated electoral votes for each state
  • Construction paper or color pencils in red, blue, light red, and light blue
  • Campaign information from various forms of media (newspapers, magazines, TV, Internet)
  • Website: www.electoralchallenge.com
    Users can create or join a group that records electoral predictions for the 2004 Presidential Election.

Plan:

  1. Prior to the classroom activity, students should be given a brief introduction to the Electoral College and how it plays into the current presidential election campaign. Classroom discussion should be brief and mainly conceptional with the bulk of learning coming from student interactivity and presentations.

  2. Below is a list of swing states (Source) that are characterized by switching Democratic or Republican platforms, although some tend to lean towards a certain party. The states in bold are major swing states that will likely tip the electoral balance in one party's favor for the 2004 presidential election.

    Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin

    The teacher must assign a swing state to a student or a small group of students, depending on the size of the class. For classes with more than 23 students, two students can be assigned a 'bold state'. Alternatively, the teacher can ignore all the swing states except the bold ones; assigning a small group to each one.

  3. Once a student (or group) has been assigned a state then the next task would be to research that state. The focus should be on which party will likely capture the associated electoral votes. Students are to create a table or write an analysis on the following themes: electoral votes, issues, key groups, voting history, and demographic breakdown. Use the following example as a simplified guide:

    State: Washington

    Electoral Votes: 11

    Issues: Large employers such as Boeing and Microsoft are concerned about WTO regulations and their ability to compete in a free enterprise market. National defense has been an important issue in the state where veterans live in large populations. A liberal-leaning population is interested in issues such as abortion, the environment, the economy, and Iraq.

    Key Groups: Veterans; workers in high-tech industries

    Voting History:
    2000 D (50%) R (45%)
    1996 D (50%) R (37%)
    1992 D (43%) R (32%)
    1988 D (50%) R (48%)
    1984 R (56%) D (43%)
    1980 R (50%) D (37%)

    Demographic Breakdown: 93% White, 2% African American, 2% Hispanic

  4. Each student (or group) must take the following information and current event information from news sources to come up with a best guess on which party the state is leaning towards. Students must understand that their guess, much like most political analyses, is not an exact science and relies heavily on calculated assumptions. Students turn in their assignment consisting of the above data, a general analysis, the decision on whether it will be carried by the Democrats or Republicans, and a brief explanation on their reasoning.

  5. Hang a white map of the US in the classroom that outlines all the states. The states that are strong Republican and Democratic states (all non-swing states) should be covered with construction paper designating their party affiliation (blue for Democratic party and red for Republican party). Students will be given a lighter shade of a construction paper cutout of their state and will individually go to the map to stick the appropriate color (light blue or light red) based on their analysis. The teacher then tallies the electoral votes for each state and the map is titled with the class's prediction (e.g. George W. Bush X votes, John Kerry Y votes).

  6. The predictions, placed in a competitive context, encourage interactivity and helps promote interest among students. It is suggested that different sections or classes in the school create their own prediction based on a classroom analysis. Each teacher can input a class's prediction into electoralchallenge to allow all individuals to view the array of predictions within the school or section.

  7. Following Election Day on November 2nd, students and teachers can log onto electoralchallenge and see how their predictions compare to the actual results. The site will determine if any prediction was correct and highlight that user. In the event of a tie in electoral votes, electoralchallenge will compare the options chosen for battleground states and find the closest match among all users. If no electoral prediction matches the actual results, the site will find the closest match and deem that user the winner.

Comments:

The entire lesson plan is available at: http://www.electoralchallenge.com/lesson_plan.htm A press release is available at: http://www.electoralchallenge.com/pressrelease.htm

 


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