On Tuesday, November 8, Americans will head to the ballots to exercise their right to vote for #POTUS. The first US president was elected in 1789, and while some traditions remain, many voting laws have changed and evolved since then. So, who gets to vote? Why do Americans vote on Tuesdays? And, what’s even on the ballot?
Let’s face it: Politics can be baffling. As important as it is to research the candidates, it’s just as important to understand the political system, so you can be empowered to participate effectively in your government. Here are a few TED-Ed Lessons that can help to demystify US elections:
In the United States today, if you are over eighteen, a citizen, and the resident of a state, you can vote (with some exceptions). So, how have voting rights changed since the first election in 1789? Nicki Beaman Griffin outlines the history of the long fight for a more inclusive electorate. Watch this TED-Ed Lesson below.
Since 1845, Americans have been voting on Tuesdays – but why? In this humorous video, Jacob Soboroff shares the history of Election Day and shows how voting on a Tuesday affects voter turnout. Watch this TED-Ed Lesson below.
Why might you vote as part of a different district than your neighbor across the street? District lines, and the groups of voters within them, may seem arbitrary, but a lot of thought (and political bickering) is put into these carefully drawn lines. From “packing” a district to “cracking” a district — learn how the shape of districts impacts political parties during election season. Watch this TED-Ed Lesson below.
You vote, but then what? Discover how your individual vote contributes to the popular vote and your state’s electoral vote in different ways — and see how votes are counted on both state and national levels. Watch this TED-Ed Lesson below.
Okay, so what does the President do? And how is that different from what Congress does? Articles I-III of the United States Constitution allow for three separate branches of government (legislative, executive, and judicial), along with a system of checks and balances should any branch get too powerful. Belinda Stutzman breaks down each branch and its constitutionally entitled powers. Watch this TED-Ed Lesson below.
This November, Americans are not just voting for President, but for congressional seats, as well. If you’re a US citizen over 18, take a look at what seats in your district are up for reelection before heading to the ballots. And of course, make sure you are registered to vote! You can register to vote here.