Although civics doesn't have to be about a connection to government or the big issues, not surprisingly, election stuff is on my mind, so thought I'd post these activities I've done in past elections (I will date myself in the process). I have done this activity with both 2nd graders and 5th graders during the presidential elections starting back in '96 ('96 was cool b/c Bill and Hillary actually visited our school district and President Clinton signed our 2nd grade class ballot. Woot woot! Gotta dig that out for a photo ;) Students traveled to our local youth center (a voting place for adults too) on the Tuesday of the presidential elections and voted. For the 2nd graders we created voting booths out of refrigerator boxes and streamers. Students had to sign in as they would at a regular voting place. Along with voting for local leaders, some propositions, and US President, etc (these results were made public to the community) students previously spent time researching/creating their own propositions. Over the years, these have included topics such as school uniforms, no homework. student choice for lessons/projects, kids teaching classes, all day recess, etc. Students not only voted on these propositions, but also had to explain the 'why' behind their opinions. Some students then took this further and brainstormed ways they could possibly make some of these changes on campus; petitions, letter-writing campaigns, presentations to administrators, discussions with other classes, etc.
These activities give the students the experience of participating in the 'real election' out in community and the tie into issues they feel important are important in their own classrooms and school.