Daily Video

August 4, 2020

How the Electoral College and claims of voter fraud may complicate election 2020


Directions: Read the summary, listen to the excerpt of the podcast (9m:30s) and answer the discussion questions.

Summary: In the first episode of a brand new podcast, Office Hours, produced by EXTRA interns Ramses Rubio and Carolyn McCusker, Rubio interviews Professor Lawrence Douglas who teaches Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought at Amherst College. The interview covers teaching during the pandemic and Douglas’s new book, “Will He Go? Trump and the Looming Election Meltdown in 2020.”

  • Though he won the 2016 election, President Donald Trump questioned the legitimacy of the popular vote, which his opponent, won by about 3 million votes. Trump claimed at the time — without supporting evidence — that many of those votes for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were fraudulent.
  • Douglas began writing his book after asking himself what powers and political leverage a president might have in seeking to delegitimize an election result.
  • Douglas believes that Trump may already be setting out a strategy to question the legitimacy of any loss in closely contested states. Because of the Electoral College system in the Unites States, a large popular vote loss may be offset by close swing state results.

Discussion questions:

  1. Essential question: Why might the Electoral College system help create uncertainty about results on election night?
  2. According to this interview, why was the Electoral College established as part of the democratic process? What might have changed in the United States since the Electoral College was first established?
  3. Should states each have their own rules for national elections, or should there be a single electoral system? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each system?
  4. Do you think presidents should be elected through the Electoral College system? Why or why not? What are the possible advantages or disadvantages of a direct popular vote?
  5. Media literacy: This podcast is an interview between a student and his teacher. Were there details from the questions and answers that you think might be different if the interviewer had been a journalist instead of a student?
    • What are the advantages and disadvantages of interviewing someone you know?


Extension activity:

1. Listen to the full Office Hours podcast episode here. If you would like to pitch an interview with your professor on Office Hours, email pbsofficehours@gmail.com.

2. Donald Trump has claimed that mail-in voting will lead to fraud, as explained in this NewsHour story. Have students watch this video and then research your own state’s vote by mail rules. Answer the following questions:

  • Who is permitted to vote by mail in your state? What restrictions exist?
  • What is the process for obtaining, filling out and returning ballots?
  • What procedures does your state follow to make voting by mail more safe and secure?
  • Do you think voting by mail should be more accessible in your state or less accessible? Why? Should your state adopt new vote by mail rules? What new rules would make voting safe, secure and accessible?


Follow us:

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/NewsHourExtra

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


PBS NewsHour education stories newsletter

EXTRA’s Super Civics 2020 election teaching series newsletter


  • Tags:

  • Related Stories

    Tooltip of related stories

    More Videos

    Tooltip of more video block

    Submit Your Student Voice

    NewsHour Extra will not use contact information for any purpose other than our own records. We do not share information with any other organization.

    More Videos