Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Lesson Plans

Will more voters vote by mail this fall?

June 12, 2020

Full Lesson

View

DOWNLOAD VIDEO

Directions: Read the news summary, watch the video and answer the discussion questions. This video has been edited for length. To watch the full video and read the transcript, click here.

Key terms:

partisanopinion lining up along political party affiliations

Summary: As states prepare for voting in the fall, ensuring safe elections during coronavirus remains a key issue. Voting experts like Tammy Patrick, former elections official in Arizona and current senior adviser at the bipartisan foundation Democracy Fund, argue that one of the main ways to keep people safe is to allow voting by mail (in which voters receive a ballot by mail, fill it out and mail it back or take to a drop off location). President Donald Trump and members of the Republican party claim there is a higher risk of fraud with voting by mail. 

  • Voting by mail has existed since the Civil War, according to ProPublica’s Jessica Huseman.
  • In a recent PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll, just over half of voters said they would vote by mail in November, if given the option. But the partisan divide is stark. About 60 percent of Democrats said they would vote by mail compared to only about 40 percent of Republicans; 56 percent of Republicans say they would still vote in person.
  • Patrick explains that there is no evidence that voting by mail leads to widespread fraud and multiple security measures include signature verification. 
  • Even though there is no evidence of widespread fraud, there were charges filed in the 2018 North Carolina congressional race.

Discussion questions: 

  1. Essential question: What are the cases for and against voting by mail? 
  2. What security measures are in place to protect states against voter fraud?
  3. Why has vote by mail become a partisan issue?
  4. Could voting by mail in this or future elections increase voter turnout? Do you believe increased voter turnout is an important goal? 
  5. Media literacy: Were other voting methods mentioned in the story that could help people stay safe during the coronavirus? Why do you think that was the case?

Extension activities: 

  1. ProPublica’s Jessica Huseman said that President Trump’s allegations about fraud could be based around campaign strategy. How would limiting voting by mail help Trump? Check out this NewsHour EXTRA lesson plan on Election 2020 campaign strategies to provide some important context. You may also want to look at recent polls to see how presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and Trump are faring.
  2. In 2018, NewsHour EXTRA created a lesson plan in collaboration with Student Reporting Labs series, Turning Out: The Youth Vote, which focused on increasing voter turnout among young voters. Do you think youth voter turnout will be affected by the pandemic? Why or why not? Can you think of some ways to raise the number of youth who turn out to vote?

Today’s Daily News Story was written by EXTRA’s intern Ramses Rubio, a junior at Amherst College.


Follow us:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PBSNewsHourExtra/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/NewsHourExtra

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/newshourextra/

Subscribe:

PBS NewsHour education stories newsletter

EXTRA’s Super Civics 2020 election teaching series newsletter

Media literacy education

What is media literacy?

Media literacy is the ability to access, evaluate and create all types of media, including news media.

All of NewsHour Classroom's resources contain lessons in media literacy, including questions like who produced the piece and what do you know about them?

Start by evaluating this video introducing NewsHour Classroom here.

SUPPORTED BY VIEWERS LIKE YOU. ADDITIONAL SUPPORT PROVIDED BY: