Presidential Elections: A Unit Study

On the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, voters head to the polls to cast their vote for candidates running for government office. Presidential Elections are held every four years, and one of the ballots voters cast will be for the President of the United States. Non-presidential election years are referred to as midterm elections.

The Electoral College

The election of president in the United States is actually a vote for members of the United States Electoral College who cast the ultimate vote for president and vice president.

The states are allocated electoral college members equaling the number of senators and representatives in their state. Each state legislature decides how it will choose its electoral college members.

The Countdown to Election Day

Of course, the countdown to Election Day is a very long and arduous one.

First those deciding to run or “throw their hat into the ring” must first meet the qualifications for president. These candidates are winnowed by the primaries, where voters choose candidates will represent their party ticket. The candidate chosen by the party picks a vice presidential running mate.

Millions of dollars are spent on party conventions, campaign advertising, and other necessities in order to help the candidate define himself and make his views known.


There are usually several debates between the candidates leading up to the election. Most are presidential debates. There is also usually one debate between the vice presidential candidates.

Political pundits are ever on the lookout for the “October surprise” — an unexpected event that may become the turning point in the upcoming election.

Voting Day

Finally, the voters have their say.

The candidate receiving a minimum of 270 electoral votes is declared the winner of the election.

The new president is inaugurated and takes the Oath of Office on January 20 of the following year.


  • Use this interactive from ReadWriteThink to make a compare/contrast chart for each of the candidates on the major issues.
  • Create a brochure for your favorite candidate.
  • Learn more about the electoral college process (see resources below). How many electoral votes does your state have?


Further Investigation

Election of the President
Basic information from Ben’s Guide.

The President of the United States
A brief description of his responsibilities and roles.

Electoral College Fast Facts
Just the fact from the U.S. House of Representatives.



Hit the Trail
Interactive from PBS Kids where you hit the trail with two presidential candidates.

Be President
PBS Kids interactive that lets you be the president for a day.


Unit Studies & Lesson Plans

Winning the Vote: How Americans Elect Their President
16-page download from the Smithsonian Institute covering art, geography, language arts, history and civics in three lessons.


Printables & Notebooking Pages

2020 Printable Electoral College Map
Blank map for notebook.

Electoral College Infographic
Free infographic at makes a great addition to a notebook.  (Free registration required for PDF download.)

How to Become President of the United States
Downloadable poster — great for notebook.

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