The Electoral College Game module is meant to teach students about the electoral college and give a introduction to possible strategic concerns for a political campaign. While commercial election-themed games are available as well, the game provided here is simple and free to play. To access free printer-friendly PDF versions of lesson plans and worksheets, please subscribe to our email list using the form in the sidebar or bottom of this page.
Supplies: 52-card standard playing deck, paper, printer, pencil
- Give the student a printed copy of the Electoral College Game Rules, the Electoral College Game Scoring Table, and the Electoral College Game Map.
- The student should play the game with one other partner such as the teacher.
- After playing the game at least once, the student should discuss with the teacher how an electoral college system changes campaigning strategies compared to a purely popular vote election.
Electoral College Game Rules
Number of players: 2
- Shuffle a 52-card standard deck (no Jokers).
- Each card is equal to a number of votes based on the card value regardless of suit. Ace = 1, 2 = 2, 3 = 3, and so on. Face cards (Jack, Queen, King) are all equal to 10 votes.
- Each game lasts for 5 CAMPAIGN WEEKS.
During each Campaign Week:
- At the start of a week, each player takes 5 cards from the top of the deck. Do not show the cards to the other player.
- The two players play rock-paper-scissors to see who goes goes first for that week.
- The player who won rock-paper-scissors picks a STATE and picks a CARD from his or her hand to play. On the Scoring Table, add the number of VOTES to the row and column corresponding to the selected state. For example, if player 1 chooses California and plays the 7 of hearts, player 1 should write down 7 votes under the player 1 scoring table for California in week 1.
- GEOGRAPHY BONUS: Every state that is adjacent to the selected state also receives half the number of votes of the original card. Round down for odd numbers. Alaska and Hawaii do not receive any geography bonus. In the example above, player 1 would gain 3 votes (7 divided by 2 rounded down) to Arizona, Nevada, and Oregon for the week 1 voting total.
- The played card is returned to the discard pile face down.
- The second player now picks a STATE and picks a CARD to play. Add the number of VOTES to the row and column corresponding to the selected state. Add a GEOGRAPHY BONUS to every state that is adjacent to the state selected by the second player. Return to the played card to the discard pile face down.
- The first player picks another STATE and picks another CARD to play. The first player can pick the same STATE as before if he desires. The first player adds the votes accordingly. Then, the second player picks another STATE and picks another CARD to play. The players take turns until no cards are left in their hands, which signals the end of that campaign week.
- Players continue for 5 campaign weeks total, with a rock-paper-scissors being used at the start of each week.
At the end of the 5 weeks of campaigning is ELECTION DAY.
During Election Day:
- Reshuffle all 52 cards.
- Players choose a color to represent their side. Diamonds/hearts are usually RED, while spades and clubs are usually BLACK. For example, player 1 may choose red and player 2 may choose black.
- Start with the first state in alphabetical order on the Scoring Table.
- Draw the first card from the deck and place it face up. Assign the number of Election Day votes to the player with the corresponding color in the Scoring Table under Election Day. Continuing the example, if the card is a queen of spades, player 2 would gain 10 votes to the first state, Alabama. Discard the first card.
- Draw the second card from the deck, and assign the votes for the second state, Alaska, to the appropriate player.
- Continue drawing cards until all states have finished with Election Day.
At the end of Election Day:
- For each state, add up the total number of votes during the campaign and on Election Day.
- COMPETITION BONUS: If only one candidate campaigned in a state, that candidate automatically gains 5 votes as a bonus. For example, if player 1 selected California during week 1 of the campaign, and player 2 never selected California during the entire campaign, player 1 gains 5 votes.
- The winner of each state is determined by the player with the greater number of votes in that state.
- Assume that the winner of each state gains all of the corresponding ELECTORAL VOTES from that state.
- Add up the electoral votes for each player to determine the winner.
Electoral College Game Scoring Table
If the table’s font is too small in your browser, we recommend saving and opening the image in a separate window by itself. You can also download the PDF version using the link provided to mailing list subscribers.
*Electoral votes through 2020. Washington DC has 3 electoral votes but is left out for the purposes of this game.
Total Electoral Votes Earned by Player:
Electoral College Game Map