Vermont Votes for Kids: A project of the Vermont Secretary of State

Curriculum Grades 9-12, Teacher Materials for Lesson 2:
Who's Watching the Ballot Box?

 

People need to know when they go to the bank to deposit hard-earned funds that their investment is safe. Similarly they need to feel confident when they go to the polling place or send their ballot through the mail that their hard-won right of suffrage is secure. From the registration process, through the counting of ballots, and the contents on the ballot, to the certification of the final results, their investment in democracy needs to be safe and reliable.

The Elections Division of the Vermont's Secretary of State plays a vital and ongoing role in safeguarding and enhancing the quality and reliability of the entire election process. This elected office not only serves as the "watchdog" (guardian) of the procedures and results of elections but also strives continually to make voter registration and voting ever more accessible, reliable and efficient. However, each person also plays a vital role and has the responsibility to help protect the integrity of the electoral process by guarding against fraud during voter registration.

This lesson will:

  1. Examine ways our state tries to keep campaigns and candidates accountable to the public and to prevent election fraud.
  2. Explore the nature of our state's election system and ask students to objectively evaluate it and its alternatives.
  3. Present web sources for student research on these topics.

ACTIVITY: WEB BASED

Copy Student Lesson Two for each student. This activity can be done individually or collaboratively in teams of two or three students.

Students are directed to destinations on the Internet where they will research some of the safeguards that are in place of the election process. These assignments can be assigned as homework or be done in a computer lab setting. The activities challenge them to teach themselves in a directed fashion, seeking answers to questions on three separate topics.

For activities one, two & three students are directed initially to write their answers. You can then decide whether to have those written answers turned in as a quality writing assignment (more formal) or used as the basis for sharing in class, or both.

Activity three is designed to be a collaborative effort using the "1-3-6" technique wherein each student does initial reflection alone, then combines his/her thoughts with those of two others for initial pooling of ideas and views. Next, each small group pairs with one other group to further refine arguments and maximize the chance for each student to again share questions and learn with others. Note that at the end you will need to facilitate a polling of group results on the issue. This could lead to a very fruitful discussion by the entire class since each individual has had several prior opportunities to engage the topic already.

ONE: THE FINANCING OF CAMPAIGNS IN VERMONT

  1. Find and list at least three ways Vermont attempts to keep the candidates and campaigns accountable to the public and the election process safe from undesirable influence.
  2. What is the role of the Secretary of State's off ice in the effort to maintain voters' confidence in the election system?
  3. What is the email address for questions about the the Vermont Campaign Finance Law?
Possible Answers:
  1. Limits on campaign contributions.
  2. Clearinghouse for information about candidates' campaign finances with some investigatory and enforcement powers.
  3. The email address is mjacobsnull@sec.stnullate.vt.nullus

TWO: INFORMING VOTERS

  1. What information is available to help Vermonters exercise their right to vote?
Possible Answers:
  1. Informing readers of Voter registration procedures.
  2. Helping voters to find polling places.
  3. Explaining how handicapped voters can exercise their right.
  4. Providing a complaint procedure.

THREE: THE 2006 Election

  1. When do candidates have to file petitions for the 2006 election?
  2. When is the first campaign finance report due?.
  3. Who determines what constitutes a vote in Vermont, when it is not clear? How do they do this?.
  4. Do Political Action Committees exist in Vermont? If so, find the name of one and explain what it does.
Possible Answers:
  1. June 5 or July 17.
  2. August 3.
  3. The rule on what constitutes a vote can be found at http://vermont-elections.org/elections1/ruleonvote2.12.pdf. The last three pages of this document explain the rule. Two election officials make the determination. An election official may be a member of the Board of Civil Authority, an assistant Town Clerk, or any election official appointed by the Board of Civil Authority to assist in an election. They follow the procedures in the rule.
  4. Students can find a list of Vermont PACs at http://vermont-elections.org/elections1/PAClist_2003.html.



Vermont Secretary of State Deb Markowitz: http://www.vermontvotesforkids.com