Voting in the United States

Contributor: Stefani Allegretti. Lesson ID: 13198

Why do we vote? How do we vote? Who gave us the right to vote? What makes it so important? Learn the answers to these questions and more as you study voting in the U.S.


United States, United States

learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Lion, Beaver
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!


FDR quote

  • Have you ever wondered how this very important process in the United States works?
  • Or maybe how voting in the United States began?

Find out in this lesson!

To vote in an election means to choose between two or more candidates in an official capacity, usually through a ballot.

The United States of America is a unique and special country because it gives its citizens the right to vote. This means that every U.S. citizen is given the right to help shape the future of America by voting for the public officials who they think should represent them.

America's Founding Fathers made sure that voting, along with other fundamental human rights, were a part of the earliest foundations of this country.

The Declaration of Independence states:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,..."

signing of the Declaration of Independence

Read The Founders and the Vote from the Library of Congress to better understand the phrase consent of the governed.

The history of voting in our country is long and has evolved quite a bit since 1776 when only men who owned land could vote. Over time, people fought to amend that law until every United States citizen, regardless of race, gender, religion, or education, had the right to vote. Check out the history of voting rights in the U.S. timeline within the Business Insider article noted below. Consider reading the entire article for a more detailed look at how voting rights how evolved.

In the United States today, any American citizen who is 18 years of age or older can vote in an election. Because every state has its own voting requirements, where a citizen lives can impact his or her right to vote. For example, some states restrict the voting of people who have committed federal crimes. Certain states may also have slightly different age requirements to register to vote; however, you must be 18 years of age when you actually cast your ballot.

Watch How to Vote from Howcast for tips on how to vote in the United States:

Hopefully, you noticed the very necessary actions every U.S. citizen must take in order to vote. They are:

  • registering to vote
  • finding your local polling place, which is where you will cast your ballot
  • making sure you know when to vote
  • bringing a government-aissued ID to your local polling place on election day

An important term associated with voting is the ballot. When you vote for a public officer in the United States, such as a president, judges, senators, or mayors, you cast a ballot. A ballot refers to a slip or piece of paper used to cast your vote. Before electronic voting began, everyone used paper ballots.

Another unique aspect of voting is that it's done in secret. No one else but you sees who you vote for when you cast your ballot.

Now that you know a little more about the history of voting, let's learn how U.S. elections actually work. While the Founding Fathers based America's democracy on the one found in England, they instituted several important differences. Take a moment to watch US Elections - How do they work? from the UK Parliament:

Wow! Great job in the Get It! section. Hopefully, you learned a lot about voting in the United States. Now, let's move on to the Got It? section and apply what you've learned.

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