Easy Ways to Explain to Your Kids How the US Presidential Elections Work

Elections can be hard for adults to understand, so you can imagine that explaining to your kids how the presidential elections work can be even harder. It's quite a complex process, but since we have a presidential election in 2020, now is a great time to discuss the process.

Even though your child isn't old enough to vote, kids still benefit from learning about elections. With my kids, we create a mock election to have fun and to learn about the process.

We know that presidents are fun! We talked last month about all of those interesting facts, and you've been using your educational placemats or posters to learn all of the presidents of the United States. Now is the perfect time to talk about elections! 

Here are some ways to explain to your kids about the presidential election. 

Who Can Vote?

At one time, the US government only allowed white men over the age of 21 years old to vote. Luckily, that has changed drastically. Nowadays, anyone who is a citizen and is 18 years old and above can vote regardless of race or gender. 

What Is Needed to Win the Presidential Election

In order for the US presidents to win, they need to win 270 Electoral College votes. In total, there are 538 votes to win and 270 is the majority. 

If for some reason, it would be a tie, then the House of Representatives elects the president. 

The People Vote But The Winner Doesn't Always Have More Votes

You might think that the president is voted on by all of the citizens who are older than 18 years old in the country. Does that mean that the person with the most votes wins?

No, even though some people do believe that it should work that way. The process is a bit more complicated than that. Presidents are elected through something called the Electoral College. 

The Process of the Electoral College

Kids get most confused when adults start to talk about the Electoral College, so try to make this as easy to understand. 

Each one of the 50 states in the United States has a certain number of delegates assigned to it, and those numbers are called the Electoral College. The number each state receives is based on the population of the state.

So, at the end of election night, each state counts their votes - what a hard job that must be! When all of the votes are counted, the person with the most votes in the state wins all of the electoral votes for that state. 

Here is an example.

On election night, all of the votes in North Carolina are counted and candidate #1 is awarded 14 Electoral College votes. 

That same night, all of the votes in Illinois are counted and candidate #2 receives 22 Electoral College votes. That means candidate #2 is in the lead, for now, until the next state counts their votes and gives their Electoral College votes to one of the candidates. 

Your Vote Still Matters 

Especially with the process of the electoral college, you might start to wonder if your vote even matters, but it really does! Every citizen needs to vote and it's important that you get your voice out there to be heard. Citizens all need to cast their votes; that's a vital part of democracy. All citizens have a right to have their voices heard. 

Especially If You Live in a Swing State

On election night, you'll hear a lot of talk about swing states, and your child might wonder what that means.

Here's what you need to tell your child.

Some states traditionally vote for candidates in one of the two political parties - Democrats or Republicans. Those states typically award their votes to the candidate for the party. 

Some states are less predictable, and they might vote Republican or Democrat. We call these states swing states because they can swing in an election. During the election season, politicians tend to spend a lot of time campaigning in these states trying to convince voters to go their way. 

Get Involved!

Your child might not be old enough to vote, but there are other ways to get involved. Your family can attend political rallies, wear T-shirts depicting your favorite candidate, write letters to candidates, and visit polling stations. Take your kids with you to vote and talk about the issues that matter the most to your family. 


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