Lesson Plans

1950 to Present

Electoral College Policy Brief to the Virginia Governor

Author: Georgia Leser

School: Belmont Ridge Middle

Grade Level: 8th

Time Estimated: 2 days (90 minute period)

Historical Background

Since ratification of the Constitution, the Electoral College is the method of electing the President and Vice-President of the United States and is outlined in Article II of the Constitution. Unlike many other aspects of the Constitution, the Electoral College was not the source of much debate. In the Federalist No. 68, Alexander Hamilton said of the discussion,

The mode of appointment of the Chief Magistrate of the United States is almost the only part of the system, of any consequence, which has escaped without severe censure, or which has received the slightest mark of approbation from its opponents.

The Founding Fathers saw the extent of intellect and opinion of the American people as being too great to attempt to elect the Chief Executive. Additionally, the founding fathers were concerned with the Executive Branch gaining too much power for the national government. By instead using the Electoral College, which gives the states the power to select electors who in turn place votes for the President and Vice-President, federalism is sustained.

Today, the Electoral College does not have such consistent support. According to the National Archives, the American public has favored abolishing the favored abolishing [the Electoral College] by majorities of 58 percent in 1967; 81 percent in 1968; and 75 percent in 1981.” The 2000 Election brought more attention to the debate when the popular vote majority went to Al Gore and the electoral vote majority went to the winner George Bush. Over 700 attempts have been made to change or eliminate the Electoral College from the Constitution through bills that propose an amendment to the Constitution; however, none have been successful.

Historical Inquiry Question

Should the United States keep the Electoral College?


Students will be able to:

  1. Describe the function of the Electoral College
  2. Describe the process of the Electoral College, including the role of the Virginia Governor.
  3. Defend a position and evaluate the arguments for the debate over the current utility of the Electoral College.

SOL Skills

Civics and Economics 1: The student will develop the social studies skills citizenship requires, including the ability to examine and interpret primary and secondary source documents, distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information, and select and defend positions in writing.

SOL Content

Civics and Economics 5f: The student will demonstrate knowledge of the political process at the local, state, and national levels of government by describing the role fo the electoral college in the election of the President and Vice President.



Prior to Lesson: Students should be taught the basics of the Electoral College Process.

Day One

  1. Show the video “Electing a President: The Electoral College” on HowStuffWorks.com to review the Electoral College System.
  2. Divide the students into groups of three.
  3. Hand out packets to each student.
  4. Read Project Overview and explain to students.
  5. Ask students to divide up the policy briefs within their project groups.
  6. Explain that today, the students will be analyzing the primary sources and finding answers to their policy brief’s questions.
  7. Have students doing the same policy briefs move to sit together.
  8. Students will complete a source analysis. On notebook paper, students will answer the following questions for each source they are responsible for:
    1. Source Title
    2. Source Author
    3. Important Information for your Brief (Look at the rubric to see what you must include)

Day Two

  1. Students will start class in their project groups
  2. Complete the source analysis from Day one.
  3. Students will type Works Cited Page and Policy Brief Draft.

Day Three OR Through English Classes

  1. Students will edit the draft of another member of their project group.
  2. Students will write final copy of policy brief.
  3. Students will put together the entire policy brief project.


For classes that require additional support, form two-person groups that do not complete part four.


Use the Rubrics in the Project Packet to assess the student’s comprehension of the Electoral College System.

Note: Changes can be made to update the mission. The names of the new Governor can replace Governor Kaine. Additionally, in non-Presidential election years, the Executive Assistant could be preparing a manual for the next Governor.

References: Web

Georgia Leser, Primary Source Analysis
This document comprises an extended analysis by Georgia Leser of each primary source used in this lesson. Analysis examines the genesis of the source, as well as its significance and includes a list of guiding questions for classroom discussion.
24.2-202. Electors for President and Vice President.." Legislative Information System. 09 Jan 2008. Virginia General Assembly. 19 Oct 2008.
This website includes the sections of the Virginia Code that pertain to the Electoral Process, specifically that for the Presidential Election. The Code describes the relationship between the popular and electoral vote, the expectation for how electors should vote, and the selection of electors.
"Constitution of the United States." The Charters of Freedom. 18 Oct 2008. National Archives and Records Administration. 19 Oct 2008.
This website has original images and transcripts of the Constitution and its amendments. This is part of the Charters of Freedom exhibit at the National Archives.
Samples, John. "In Defense of the Electoral College." Opinion and Commentary. 10 Nov 2000. Cato Institute. 19 Oct 2008.
This is an editorial initially published at cato.org after the 2000 election controversy written to defend the Electoral College to its critics.
Green, Gene. United States. House of Representatives. Congressional Record. Washington, D.C.: GPO, 2004.
Speech: Every Vote Counts
This is the speech read by Representative Gene Green when introducing the “Every Vote Counts” Amendment to the Constitution that would abolish the Electoral College.
"United States Constitution." Legal Information Institute. 27 March 2000. Cornell University Law School. 19 Oct 2008.
This is a website with transcripts of the Constitution that allow users to go imbed a link that goes straight to a specific Article and Section.
United States. Office of the Federal Registrar, National Archives and Records Administration. The 2008 Presidential Election: Provisions of the Constitution and United States Code. Washington, D.C.: US Government Printing Office, 2008.
This is a packet sent to the Governor between June and October in a Presidential Election year. The packet includes important dates, sections of the Constitution applicable to the Electoral Process, the state electoral vote allocation, and names of recipients of important Electoral Vote forms.
"U.S. Electoral College." US National Archives and Records Administration. 11 Aug 2008. US National Archives and Records Administration. 11 Aug 2008.
This is a great website with a variety of Electoral College Resources. Each state’s Certificate of Vote and Certificate of Ascertainment can be accessed, as well as a Ticket to the Electoral Vote Count, and the Governor’s Packet for the Electoral Process.