Spring Lesson 1: Becoming a Voter

In this lesson, students apply their state’s requirements for registering to vote. 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 classroom may be adapted for reference as needed.

This Citizens, Not Spectators middle school curriculum correlates with the We the People,

Level 2 text’s 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. 253–59).


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
  • abstain
  • citizen
  • felony
  • Fifteenth Amendment
  • grandfather clause
  • independent voter
  • mentally incompetent
  • Nineteenth Amendment
  • parole
  • poll tax
  • register
  • suffrage
  • Twenty-fourth Amendment
  • Twenty-sixth Amendment
  • Voting Rights Act

Materials Needed

Teacher Resources


  • Quick Vocabulary (Teacher Resource 1)
  • State Voting Qualifications (Teacher Resource 2)
  • Who Can Register to Vote? (Teacher Resource 3)
  • Absentee Ballot (Teacher Resource 4)

Student Handouts


  • Building Our Vocabulary (Student Handout 1)
  • Who Can Register to Vote? (Student Handout 2)
  • Voter registration forms from your secretary of state’s website or the National Mail Voter Registration Form (Student Handout 3)
  • Homework assignment for Lesson 2
    • If an election is scheduled in your community, distribute a Quick Reference Guide or Voter Information Guide to students (one per student)


  • We the People: The Citizen & the Constitution, Level 2, or a comparable social studies text


Before the Lesson


A week or two before 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 voter registration forms from the registrar of voters or you can download,  print, and photocopy the form from your secretary of state’s website. Another alternative is to use the National Mail Voter Registration Form.

  • Absentee ballot form
  • 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 guide and one ballot per student).
  • Request “I Voted” stickers for the simulated election—one for each student in your class.
  • Research your state’s requirements for registering and voting. 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.

Assign students to read We the People, Lesson 25, or a comparable text.

Distribute Student Handout 1 and have students define the terms marked with an asterisk.

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.


Ask students to take out their homework assignment. Inform students that in today’s lesson, they will learn new vocabulary terms that are associated with the voting process.

Begin the lesson by calling on individual students to define the vocabulary terms they were assigned for homework. Ask students to identify who is eligible to vote today. From their homework assignment, students should respond that U.S. citizens and groups such as African Americans, women, and eighteen-year-olds are eligible. Ask students to explain what makes a person a citizen.

Ask a student to read aloud a brief passage from a social studies book that addresses what it means to be a citizen. If using the We the People, ask a student to read “What does it mean to be a citizen?” (page 254).

Ask a student to define the term citizen and direct students to add the definition to their vocabulary list.

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 to each student. Inform students that in today’s lesson they will learn about rules for registering to vote, and will make 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 different 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 for these terms can be found on Teacher Resource 1.
    • Add the definitions to the vocabulary chart.
    • Have students 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 (Student Handout 3) 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 the students that in most states, voter registration must be completed a few weeks before an election. Inform students about 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 forms.
  • Collect 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 reregister to vote.

Ask students whether they would have to reregister 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 changed their name.

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

Define and explain the term absentee ballot (reference Teacher Resource 1). Show students the absentee ballot (Teacher Resource 4) you have obtained from the registrar.

  • Add the definition to the vocabulary chart
  • Have students add the definition to Student Handout 1.
  • 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

Also 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 in a specific number of consecutive elections, you may have 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 you mailed the forms 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 introduced to an actual election ballot.

  • If an election ballot is not available, tell students they will have the opportunity to create a ballot. Ask students to start thinking about which classroom or school rules they would like to change, and what they would like to add as new rules or policies.

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


Decide whether you would like students to cast their votes in a simulated election using an actual ballot (Lesson 2a) or create their own ballot questions (Lesson 2b) for the simulated election. Assign homework accordingly.

Becoming an Informed Voter: Preparing for the General Election (Lesson 2a)


  • If an election ballot is available, distribute a Quick Reference Guide or Voter Information Guide to each student. Assign students a review of offices and questions on the ballot as preparation for Lesson 2. Students should prepare a list of questions they may have about any item(s) they reviewed in the guide. This homework assignment will be graded.

Becoming an Informed Voter: Creating Our Ballot Questions (Lesson 2b)

  • If a ballot is not available, instruct each student to write one suggestion for a new class or school rule for their class ballot. Explain that they need to prepare reasons for the suggestion. This homework assignment will be graded.



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