Fall 3-Day Lesson 3a: The Culminating Activity: Simulated General Election

Lesson 3a offers instructions for an in-class simulated election for voting on an official election ballot. In this lesson, students apply what they have learned about voting procedures and experience the processes similar to a real election polling site by role-playing poll workers with specific duties. Students become familiar with the polling site procedures and mechanics of voting in their state. Additionally, students cast their vote and assist others with voting in an environment that approximates an actual polling place. The lesson’s simulated election coincides with the general election for a more authentic experience. A supervisor, ideally the registrar of voters, should be in the vicinity of the voting booths to assist students who may have questions about the voting process and voting mechanisms.

Suggested Grade Level

High school (Grades 9–12)

Estimated Time to Complete

50 minutes

Lesson Objectives

After completing this lesson, students will be able to understand and explain

  • the requirements for a polling place;
  • their experiences as a voter and poll worker;
  • the necessity for the various roles and responsibilities of poll workers;
  • the need to keep the polling place apolitical;
  • the importance of voter registration lists; and
  • the voting mechanisms used.


  • apolitical
  • polling place
  • poll worker
  • registrar of voters
  • registration list

Materials Needed

Teacher Resources

  • Diagram of Polling Area (Teacher Resource 4)
    • The registrar of voters is the best source for an example of proper polling area setup in your state; however, Teacher Resource 4 provides a general example.
  • Polling Area: Who Does What and Where? (Teacher Resource 5)
  • Registration Check-in for Students without Identification Cards (Teacher Resource 6)

Polling Place Setup

  • Demonstration table: a reference area where voters can review the ballot
  • Voter registration lists (alphabetized class list)
  • Ballots for voting, plus pencils if needed
  • Voting mechanism, privacy booths, and/or ballot box
  • “I Voted” stickers
  • Vote tally sheet

Before the Lesson

  • One week before the simulated election, check with the registrar of voters’ office about the delivery of needed materials. You should request that voting booths and voting mechanisms be delivered to the school the day before or earlier if possible. Request a secure storage location with administrative approval and assure the registrar of voters’ office that equipment will be stored safely.

Lesson Procedure

1. Keeping the Polling Place Apolitical

Explain to students that they have had the time to review the Voter Information Guide and the ballot; however, once the simulated election polls open, there will be no discussion about the ballot initiatives or candidates. Explain that the class has had the opportunity to learn about the ballot initiatives and candidates in the days before the election. No pressure or persuasion on how to vote is allowed in the polling area. This includes any buttons, banners, posters, or similar items.

2. What Does an Election Polling Place Look Like?

Project Teacher Resource 4 on a screen or the classroom board.

  • The diagram is one example of a polling place setup. The registrar of voters can provide the setup your state requires.
  • Ask students their opinions of why the polls are set up like this.
    • Students may suggest maintaining order.
  • Explain the reasons for the polling place setup.
    • Ensures legally registered voters
    • Avoids voting fraud, such as duplicate voting

What Do Poll Workers Do?

Refer to Teacher Resources 4, 5, and 6 for this section.

Point out the setup (Teacher Resource 4) and positions required for a polling place (Teacher Resource 5). Tell students that they will experience a simulated version of an actual election poll.

While projecting Teacher Resource 4 on a screen or the classroom board, write or draw in the polling place positions you will be using in the simulated election.

  • Ask students if this setup will ensure a fair and accurate simulated election.
  • Ask students if they think the poll workers’ duties support the poll site setup goals.

Request student volunteers for the poll positions your simulated election will engage.

  • Explain that two students will be assigned to each position. This enables continued position coverage and the opportunity for each student to cast a vote.
  • Student identification
    • If your school issues student identification cards, you should remind students to show them at the simulated election registration table.
    • If a student does not have an identification card, have him or her sign in on a separate list (Teacher Resource 6). You may also use this resource to have all students sign the list after they have cast a vote.
  • Class list
    • Your class list can be broken up by alphabet. This will allow several students to work at the registration table.
  • Ballot distribution
    • Use the official election ballot for the general election.
    • A student stationed at the end of the registration table will hand out paper ballots to voters who have completed registration sign-in.
  • Tallying the ballots
    • States use a variety of mechanisms to collect and tally the completed ballots. Regardless of the procedure, monitors are needed at the site of a finalized ballot.
  • First vote
    • In some elections, the first voter to complete a ballot is asked to ensure that the ballot box is empty. Either you or the registrar will then seal the ballot box.
  • Computerized mechanisms
    • One or two students will monitor the ballot entries.
  • “I Voted” stickers
    • Distribute a sticker to each voter who casts a ballot.

4. Applying Knowledge and Skills: Casting a Vote in the Simulated Election

Each student will have the opportunity to cast his or her informed vote on the election ballot.

As poll workers, students will assist and guide other voters through the voting procedures.

5. Tallying the Vote

If the registrar of voters is present, he or she may tally the vote with the help of students, announce it to the class, and determine when and if the simulated election results will be announced publicly.

If older machines are used, students can tally the votes as the registrar reads the results from the back of the voting machine.

6. Concluding the Lesson

Ask for volunteers to help you and the registrar break down the polling area.

Distribute the Citizens, Not Spectators student questionnaire and have students complete it.

  • The questionnaire asks students not only to rate lessons and activities, but also gives them the opportunity to answer questions about their experience and offer recommendations to make that experience better.
  • If you are out of time, schedule fifteen to twenty minutes of the next class meeting for completion of the questionnaire.



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