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Lesson Plans

Super Civics 2020: Voting during a pandemic

May 13, 2020

Full Lesson




Directions: Read the news summary, watch the video and answer the discussion questions. The video has been edited for length. To watch the video in its entirety or read the transcript, click here.


Summary: With just six months until November’s presidential election, states across the U.S. are trying to determine how to safely collect and count ballots during a national health emergency. After the primary elections held in early April led to 40 COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin and problems in other states, state leaders worked to implement better strategies to the voting crisis. On Tuesday, the first major in-person elections were held in more than a month in Nebraska (one of eight states to never issue a statewide stay-at-home order), Wisconsin and California.

The elections helped test out mail-in voting for November. While dozens of states allow mail-in ballots or absentee voting, some states are more restrictive than others, leading to a patchwork of coronavirus election plans. Pro-mail-in ballots versus in-person voting have been battling it out state by state, raising questions over health, voter fraud and economic issues.


Discussion questions:

  1. Essential question: How does the patchwork of voting plans reflect the effectiveness of federalism? 
  2. What are some of the different voting plans for the upcoming November elections? 
  3. What happens to voter turnout if more people are allowed to vote by mail?
  4. What are the different perspectives presented in the segment regarding mail-in voting and voter fraud in Connecticut?
    • How significant is the issue of voter fraud in elections in Connecticut or across the country? How about with elections that involve mail-in voting?
  5. Media literacy: Check out at least three other news outlets to see how they are reporting mail-in voting plans. What are the headlines? Who is interviewed? Are statistics and data used?


Extension activity:

NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report joined NewsHour to discuss the latest political news, including COVID-19 complications on politics and what voting looks like during the pandemic. See the transcript here

Discussion questions: 

  1. What connections can you make from the first video to this one in regards to voting? What differences do you see?
  2. What do you think is the best way to keep voters safe during the coronavirus pandemic?
  3. What could be the significance of mail-in ballots in the May elections for the upcoming presidential election in November, according to Amy Walter?


Today’s Daily News Story was written by Yareni Murillo, a senior at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginia, with editing by EXTRA’s Victoria Pasquantonio.


For monthly updates containing teacher resources on Election 2020, click here. Sign up for short education highlights from the PBS NewsHour here.


If you are making plans for distance learning, take a look at our list of PBS resources that covers a variety of subjects for middle and high school students.