9 Things You Can Teach Your Kids About The Presidential Election Process

You don't have to be 18 to know how it works.

In November 2016, a new president will be elected to serve a four-year term, so now is an ideal time to start teaching kids about the presidential election process.

Even though they may not be quite old enough to vote, kids can still benefit from learning about elections and how they can take part in the political process.

Below, some things you can teach your children about the upcoming presidential election:

What A Presidential Candidate Needs To Win
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The U.S. Electoral College, made up of 538 electors, determines who will be the next president. The number of electors varies by state, and is equivalent to the combined number of representatives and senators that state has in Congress.

To win the presidency, a candidate must get 270 electoral votes. Usually, a candidate who wins the popular vote in a state will get that state's electoral votes.

Who Can Cause Change? (Hint: Not Just The President)
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While the president of the United States has the most powerful job in the world, he or she isn't responsible for making every big decision. There are three branches of government that work together. The president works for the executive branch. The U.S. Congress, which is made up of elected officials who serve in the House of Representatives and the Senate, is the legislative branch. And the judicial branch is made up of the Supreme Court and other federal courts.

These three branches of government don't just work together on a national level. Each state has elected officials that work together the same way, and even cities across the U.S. have lots of lawmakers working together to keep things running.

What Is A Swing State?
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While some states traditionally vote for candidates in a specific party, others are a little less predictable. These are called swing states, because they can swing an election in favor of a certain candidate if that person gains enough support from voters there. Colorado, Iowa (whose statehouse you see above) and Virginia are examples of swing states to watch ahead of the 2016 election.

The Difference Between A Primary And A Caucus

There are actually two different ways that Americans in each state choose the candidate that they want to represent their party in the general election: a primary and a caucus.

In a caucus, residents gather with their neighbors at their local precinct at a specific time and choose a candidate. Because the caucus is communal, one candidate's supporters can try to persuade an undecided neighbor to back their candidate. A candidate's level of support at a caucus determines how many delegates they get at their party's nominating conventions.

In a primary, voters go into a voting booth and cast a secret ballot for their preferred candidate, which then determines how many delegates a candidate will receive at their party's nominating convention. Unlike in a caucus, voters can cast their ballots throughout the day or over the course of several weeks if the state allows early voting.

Yes, Your Vote Matters
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Some people argue that individual votes don't matter, especially in certain states. But that's not the case.

Sure, the presidential race has never been decided by a single vote, but there are lots of other elections that have come close. A lot of down-ballot races -- like elections for congressional, state or local lawmakers -- can come down to just a few votes, and those officials have a big effect on what kind of legislation gets passed in your country, state or city.

If everybody thinks their one vote won't make a difference, it adds up to a lot of voices not being heard.

Voting Booths Have Rules. No Selfies!

If you're tempted to snap a selfie of you and your ballot inside the voting booth on Election Day, beware: Many states have laws that ban these types of photos, out of a fear that intimidation or vote-buying would be easier with photographic evidence.

The punishment for a voting booth selfie can range from simply making you delete the photo or leave the polling place to a fine or even jail time. However, a federal court just struck down New Hampshire's law banning voting booth selfies, saying it unconstitutionally limited free speech, so more states may follow.

Better safe than sorry, though!

You Don't Always Have To Be 18 To Vote In A Primary Election

In some states, you can vote in the presidential election even if you're not 18. Some states will allow 17-year-olds to vote in the primary as long as they are turning 18 before the general election. For a summary of voting age requirements, go here, or check with your state's secretary of state.

You Have Several Opportunities To Vote

Some states allow you to vote before Election Day by going to an early voting location. In other states, if you are unavailable to vote on Election Day, you must request an absentee ballot that you can mail in advance. In a few states -- Colorado, Oregon and Washington -- all ballots are cast by mail.

If you’re a college student who doesn’t live with your parents anymore, you will want to consider where "home" is for you. You might choose to vote from your parents’ address, if that is still your principal home, using an absentee ballot if you will not be in the area on Election Day. Or you could register to vote where you go to school.

If you decide to wait until Election Day, many states require your employer to give you either paid or unpaid time off to cast your ballot. If you wish to do that, be sure to check your state’s laws and see if you are required to give your employer advancer notice of your plans or to bring back proof that you voted.

Everyone Can Get Involved
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There are more ways to get involved in elections than just voting. People of all ages can attend political rallies, wear T-shirts and even write letters to candidates addressing issues they're passionate about.

Kids can visit a polling station to see what the process of voting is like before they get to do it themselves.

Sara Bondioli and Samantha Lachman contributed to this report.

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