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Learning Civics

Election Facts for Kids

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Updated October 22, 2010

Girl holding sign saying

Girl holding sign saying "vote"

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It's never too early for kids to start getting some civics lessons. A good way to start learning is with the election process. The major American election is the presidential election that takes place every four years. However, two years after the presidential election are the midterm elections. Americans also vote in local and state elections. Here are some quick facts to share with your children about American national elections.

Presidential Election
  • We elect a president every four years.
  • The first president, George Washington, was elected by a unanimous vote.
  • George Washington chose not to run for a third term in order to set a precedent for future presidents. Every president voluntarily followed that precedent until Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who ran and was elected four times. He died in 1945 during his fourth term.
  • The Twenty-Second Amendment to the Constitution now limits a president to two terms, the number set by Washington. The Amendment was passed by congress in 1947 and ratified by the necessary number of states in 1951.
  • The presidency is part of the executive branch of government.
Election of Senators
  • We elect senators for terms of six years.
  • There are no term limits so a person can serve as long as he or she gets elected.
  • Each state has two senators. The reason for this is so that small states would have as much of a voice as large states.
  • Everyone in the state votes for both senators to represent the state. There are no senate districts for U.S. senators.
  • Senators are supposed to represent the interests of the states, so they were originally elected by the state legislatures. The Seventeenth Amendment, which was ratified in 1913, changed that process. Senators are now elected by direct vote of the people of the states.
  • Senators are not elected all at the same time. The Constitution requires that only about one-third of the senators are elected at one time. The reason for this was to make sure that the government would not be changed based on current popular fads and passions. The founding fathers knew that issues people were passionate about could change quickly, so they didn't want the entire congress to be filled with people who reflected those current issues alone.
  • The senate is part of the legislative branch of government.
Election of Representatives
  • We elect representatives for terms of two years.
  • There are no term limits so a person can serve as long as he or she gets elected.
  • Representatives are supposed to represent the interests of the people, so they were always elected directly by the voters.
  • States are divided into districts depending on the population and people vote for the someone to represent the people in that district.
  • The House of Representatives has 435 members split unevenly among the states. The number of representatives each state has depends on the population of the state, and the population is determined by a census, which is taken every ten years. States with a larger population have more representatives than states with smaller populations.
  • The first House of Representatives had 65 members, one representative for every 30,000 people, as mandated by the Constitution, with every state guaranteed at least one representative. As the population grew and more states entered the union, the number of representatives grew. Finally, in 1929 Congress passed the Reapportionment Act of 1929, which put a cap on the number of representatives.
  • Today, each member of the House represents about 650,000 people.
  • The House of Representatives is part of the legislative branch of government.

    What are the requirements people must meet to run for office?

    President
    • At least 35 years old
    • A natural born citizen of the United States
    • A resident of the United States for 14 years
    Senator
    • At least 30 years old.
    • A citizen of the United States for at least 9 years.
    • A resident of the state from which he or she is elected.
    Representative
    • At least 25 years old.
    • A citizen of the United States for at least 7 years.
    • A resident of the state from which he or she is elected.
    Whether your children are old or young, help them understand our government and the election process. Presidential elections are exciting, but midterm elections are just as important to our system of government. Books about elections: http://childrensbooks.about.com/od/elections/tp/elections.htm
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