Lesson Plan: Electoral College Map Virtual Scavenger Hunt

How the Electoral College Works

University of Baltimore Law Professor Kimberly Wehle talked about how voting in the electoral college works in most states.


This lesson has students explore C-SPAN’s online Historical Electoral College Map resource to learn about the process, history, and current patterns and trends relating to the electoral college. This self-guided activity will have students use a series of online electoral college maps and results from 1900 to 2016 to complete a virtual scavenger hunt. Students will use this resource to analyze maps and data to better understand how the electoral college works.


  • WARM-UP:

    Before beginning class, have the students brainstorm what they already know about how presidents are elected.


    Review what the students know about the process for electing a president. After addressing any misconceptions, introduce the concepts of the electoral college and the popular vote by having the students watch the video clip below. They should answer the questions as they view it.

    Video Clip: How the Electoral College Works (1:05)

    • Who actually picks the president?

    • Explain how the popular vote impacts the electoral college.

    • How do most states allocate their electoral votes?

    After introducing the electoral college, use the handout linked below to have students analyze the collection of historical electoral college maps found on the Historical Electoral College Map resource.

    Students will search through the various election slides and answer each of the following questions relating to the electoral college. They will view the maps and data associated with the answers and complete the chart. Answers might be found using the map, the election results or the “Did you know?” section on the slides.

    The handout is organized into the three sections relating to how the electoral college works, the history of the electoral college and current trends. Teachers can choose one of the following ways to implement this resource in their classes.

    • Individual Scavenger Hunt- Have the students work individually to complete either all of the activity or individual sections.

    • Jigsaw- Divide the class into groups of three. Assign the students in the groups one of the three sections. Students will become experts on that section and report back to their group.

    • Students Choose- Require that students complete a specific number of questions from either the entire activity or specific sections.

    Website: C-SPAN’s Historical Electoral College Maps

    Handout: Electoral College Virtual Scavenger Hunt (Google Doc)


    Once students have completed the activity and have a strong understanding of how the electoral college works, students will use the previous electoral college maps and electoral results to predict the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

    Students can print out the blank electoral college map below and color in the states or use the blank map on 270toWin

    Handout: Blank 2020 Electoral College Map (PDF)

    Have the students address the following when explaining their prediction.

    • Summarize your prediction. Which candidate won? How many electoral votes did you predict each candidate will get?

    • Which major states/areas of the country did each candidate win? Why did you predict this?

    • How did you use the previous election results to make your prediction?

    Electoral College Math- Using the current electoral college map, answer the following math questions. What would be the smallest number of states needed to win 270 electoral votes? Which states would this include? What would be the largest number of states needed to win 270 electoral votes? Which states would this include?

    State Research- Choose a state. Using the electoral maps, track how that state voted in each election from 1900 to 2016. From this explain the following:

    • How often did your state vote for each party?

    • How often did your state’s winner become president?

    • Explain how the population of your state has changed.

    • Does your state’s voting patterns match neighboring states?

    • What assumptions can you make about your state and its influence in presidential elections?

    • How much does the popular vote matter in presidential elections?

    • Should more states move away from winner-take-all systems? Explain your answer.

    • How can candidates win the popular vote but lose the electoral vote?

    • What type of states does the electoral college favor? Explain your answer.

    • How do regional differences in the United States impact electoral politics?

Additional Resources


  • 12th Amendment
  • Allocate
  • Delegates
  • Elector
  • Electoral College
  • Faithless Elector
  • Popular Vote
  • Presidential Election
  • Swing State
  • Third-party Candidate
  • Winner-take-all System


Campaigns & ElectionsConstitutional FoundationU.S. History


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