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Election lesson: The Electoral College



  • Statistics
  • Civics
  • Government
  • U.S. History


  • 3-12

Brief description

When has the Electoral College been a deciding factor in an election?


Students learn about the Electoral College's role in the election process. They learn about an election (1876) when the Electoral College played a deciding role in the election. They use a resource to determine which other elections were decided by the Electoral College.

Electoral College, election, president, Rutherford B. Hayes

Materials needed

Computers with Internet access or printouts of the resource referenced in the Lesson Plan section below

Lesson plan

The election of 1876 was a unique one. In that election, Samuel J. Tilden got more of the popular vote than candidate Rutherford B. Hayes, but Hayes won the election because he got more of the electoral vote. Ask students to use the Electoral College Box Scores Web page to figure out the next election when the electoral vote decided the presidential election. (Answer: 1888.) Has it ever happened since again since then? (Yes, in 2000; read more.)

NOTE: The Electoral College Box Scores site ends with the 2004 election. For a complete rundown of U.S. Presidential Elections please see The National Archives' site on presidential elections.

You might have your students try their hands at using the Electoral College calculator to predict the winner of the next presidential election.

To learn more about the Electoral College, see the FAQ page of the U.S. Electoral College Web site.


Students correctly identify the elections in which the Electoral College played a deciding role.

Lesson plan source

Education World

Submitted By

Gary Hopkins

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