Fall Lesson 1: Becoming a Voter

In this lesson, students apply their state’s voter registration requirements. Students learn when and how to register, how to complete a voter registration form, and when and how to reregister.

Supplemental Materials

We the People: The Citizen & the Constitution student text correlations are offered as examples to use with Citizens, Not Spectators lessons when applicable. A comparable social studies text used in your classroom may be adapted for reference in its place.

The Citizens, Not Spectators middle school curriculum correlates with We the People, Level 2, Unit Five, Lesson 25: “How has the right to vote expanded since the Constitution was adopted?” (pp. 215–24) and Unit Six, Lesson 29: “What are the rights and responsibilities of citizenship?” (pp. 252–59; this lesson focuses on pp. 257–59).

Suggested Grade Level

Middle school (Grades 6–8)

Estimated Time to Complete

50 minutes

Lesson Objectives

After completing this lesson, students will be able to

  • explain general voting requirements,
  • understand the voter registration requirements and process in their state, and
  • complete a voter registration form.


  • absentee ballot
  • citizen
  • felony
  • independent voter
  • mentally incompetent
  • parole
  • register

Materials Needed

Teacher Resources

  • Quick Vocabulary (Teacher Resource 1)
  • State Voting Qualifications (Teacher Resource 2)
  • Who Can Register to Vote in the United States? (Teacher Resource 3)
  • Absentee Ballot from your registrar of voters

Student Handouts

  • Building Our Vocabulary (Student Handout 1)
  • Who Can Register to Vote in the United States? (Student Handout 2)
  • Voter registration forms from your secretary of state’s website or the
    National Mail Voter Registration Form
  • Quick Reference Guide or Voter Information Guide from your secretary of state’s website
  • We the People: The Citizen & the Constitution, Level 2, or a comparable social studies text

Before the Lesson

A week or two before introducing Lesson 1, communicate with the registrar of voters’ office. Prepare for the lesson by obtaining the following materials and information:

  • Voter registration forms (one per student)
    • You can obtain these from the registrar of voters or download, print, and photocopy the form from your secretary of state’s website. An alternative is to use the National Mail Voter Registration Form.
  • Absentee ballot (one)
    • You can obtain this from the registrar of voters.
  • Determine who can vote by absentee ballot in your state.
  • Determine the date for the simulated election (Lesson 3). The simulated election can be timed to coincide with or precede the general election.
  • If applicable, request Quick Reference Guides or Voter Information Guides and official ballots for the upcoming election in your community or state (one ballot per student).
  • Request “I Voted” stickers—one for each student in your class.
  • Research your state’s requirements for registering and voting. You can find this information on your secretary of state’s website. You will use this information for Teacher Resource 1.

Review and photocopy all Lesson 1 student handouts and teacher resources.

Lesson Procedure

1. Beginning the Lesson: Why Do States Control Voter Registration?

Student Handout 1 and We the People, or a comparable social studies text, are needed throughout this lesson.

Distribute Student Handout 1. Inform students that in today’s lesson they will learn new vocabulary terms that are associated with the voting process.

Ask students to explain what makes a person a citizen.

So that students can learn about the term citizen and add the definition to their vocabulary list, ask a student to read aloud a brief description of the term from a social studies text. If using We the People, ask a student to read aloud “What does it mean to be a citizen?” on page 254.

As an introduction to the concept of registration, ask students whether they have a guaranteed right to attend school.

  • Ask them if they had to register to attend school.
  • Remind them that although they have the right to attend school, there is a procedure that must be followed to realize that right.

Inform students that both the U.S. Constitution and state constitutions establish voter registration qualifications.

Ask students to define the phrase register to vote. Remind them about registering to attend school.

2. What Are the Requirements to Register to Vote?

Student Handouts 1 and 2 and Teacher Resources 1, 2, and 3 are required for this part of the lesson.

Distribute Student Handout 2. Inform students that in today’s lesson they will learn about rules for registering to vote. They will compile a list of the rules on this handout.

On a screen or the classroom board, project the first half of Teacher Resource 3. It indicates voting requirements for all citizens of the United States.

  • Ask various students to read the registration requirements and instruct the class to take notes on Student Handout 2.
  • Students may need help with the vocabulary terms felony, independent voter, mentally incompetent, parole, and register. Definitions can be found in Teacher Resource 1.
    • Add the definitions to the vocabulary chart.
    • Instruct students to fill in the definitions in Student Handout 1.

Show students the second half of Teacher Resource 3. Indicate your state’s additional requirements for voter registration.

  • Ask individual students to read each state requirement.
  • Have students add the state requirements to Student Handout 2.

3. Applying Information: Registering to Vote

A voter registration form is required for completion of this part of the lesson. You can obtain a voter registration form from your secretary of state’s website. Inform students that in most states, voter registration must be completed a few weeks before an election. Tell students the voter registration deadline in your state.

Distribute a voter registration form to each student.

  • Review the registration form step by step with students.
  • Assist them in completing the form.
  • Collect all the registration forms.

4. Is My Voter Registration Good for the Rest of My Life?

Inform students that there are a number of reasons why they might have to register to vote again.

Ask students whether they would have to register again if they change their address.

  • They might respond that they will have to reregister.

Ask students whether they would have to register again if they change their name.

  • Ask students to give reasons why people change their name.

Define and explain the term absentee ballot (reference Teacher Resource 1).

  • Add the definition of absentee ballot to the vocabulary chart.
  • Instruct students to add the definition to Student Handout 1.

Show students the absentee ballot you have obtained from the registrar.

  • Ask students to think of voters who qualify to use an absentee ballot. Here are some examples of possible responses:
    • College students who cannot get home to vote
    • Military personnel who cannot get home to vote
    • Adults who cannot get to the election polls because of work
    • Physically disabled adults

Inform students that some states remove people from the list of registered voters if they do not participate in elections. This means that if you fail to vote for too many elections in a row, you may have to go through the effort to reregister.

Ask students whether a homeless person can register to vote given that they have no permanent address.

  • Some voter registration forms allow an intersection of streets to be used as an address. This allows homeless people to register to vote.

5. Concluding the Lesson: Would Our Registration Forms Be Accepted?

Ask students whether the class would meet the state’s deadline for registering to vote if the forms were mailed today.

Ask students whether all the rules to register to vote were followed.

  • They should answer that they do not meet the age requirement.
  • If everyone in the class were eighteen years old, would the registration forms be accepted?

Explain to students that during the next Citizens, Not Spectators lesson they will be given the opportunity to cast their vote on a ballot.

6. Homework Assignment: Preparing for Lesson 2a or 2b

If an official ballot for an upcoming election is available, proceed to Lesson 2a: Becoming an Informed Voter: Preparing for the General Election and assign the following as homework:

Distribute a Quick Reference Guide or Voter Information Guide to each student.

  • Ask students to review the offices and questions on the ballot.
  • Students should prepare a list of questions they have about anything in the guide.
  • This homework assignment will be graded.

If an official ballot is not available, proceed to Lesson 2b: What Is a Good Rule? Creating Our Ballot Questions and assign the following as homework:

Instruct each student to write a suggestion for a new class or school rule for their class ballot. Explain that they need to prepare reasons for their suggestion. This homework assignment will be graded.


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