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

9-12 Curriculum, Teacher Materials for Lesson 3:
Dimpled Ballots, Hanging Chads and Reform


Vermont has never faced problems as large as Florida's in the 2000 presidential election. This is in large part because we stopped using voting machines in the 1980s and every town must follow the same rules when it counts and recounts ballots. But we are as vulnerable to human error as any state in the country. Vermont has had its own share of problems, albeit on a much smaller scale. For example, a court in Chittenden County threw out a local election because the town could not explain why more ballots were cast in the election than voters were checked off on the voter checklist.

Students need to understand that their adult leaders are trying to learn from mistakes by making improvements in the election system. They need to feel that steps are being taken to enhance the reliability and credibility of voting results.

This lesson will:

  1. Acquaint students with some of the recent reforms our state has implemented in the election system.
  2. Engage students in critical thinking about the intent, impact and desirability of these changes.
  3. Invite students to propose reforms of their own and communicate their ideas to elected officials.


Vermont's response to the issues generated by the 2000 Presidential election are reviewed in two articles published in 2003 by former Secretary of State Deborah Markowitz: Majority Rule in Vermont's Elections, and Election Reform – Challenges and Opportunities. These can be found at

Copy Student Lesson Three for each student. As an introduction, you may choose to teach them the background above. It is recommended that you also prepare a brief overview of the infamous voting problems associated with the 2000 Presidential Election. You should explain the difference between ballot system "reliability" (to produce accurate and consistent results) and "credibility" (to engender public confidence in the voting system.) Individually or in small groups, ask the students to examine the challenges posed by the Secretary of State's articles. Next ask them to address the questions that follow, either in writing or as a class discussion.


    1. Not likely, because we do not use the same procedures.
    2. Many possible answers.
    3. See articles above.
    4. To reform voting procedures to prevent the Florida 2000 debacle.
    5. A central source of voter registration information could aid a voter who recently moved to a new town but never informed the Town Clerk.
    6. Student answers will vary.

    An extension activity you might suggest to one or more students is to write a letter to the Secretary of State (secretarnully@sec.stnullate.vt.unulls), or to their State Representative, or U.S. Congressional member expressing their views on election reforms. This could be in support or in opposition to one of those listed on their activity sheets or it could be their original suggestions for reforms not listed.

Vermont Secretary of State