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October 22, 2020

Lesson Plan: Contested elections in American history

For a word doc version of this lesson, click here. For a Google doc version, click here.

Subjects

History, U.S. Government, Civics

Estimated Time

One 50-minute class period

Grade Level

7-12

Objectives:

  • Students will learn about elections that have been contested in American History, most recently the Election of 2000.
  • Students will understand the political and legal controversies that have surrounded these types of elections, and they will leave with a better understanding of what might happen in the  Election of 2020.

Activities:

  1. Start by watching this 5 minute TEDed clip on the Electoral College:
  2. Answer the following questions:
    1. How are the numbers of electors determined for each state?
    2. What is the difference between the popular vote and the electoral vote?
    3. How can a candidate win the popular vote and lose the electoral vote?
  3. Read this excerpt from the 12th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “The person having the greatest Number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice.”
  4. Answer the following questions:
    1. What happens if no candidate has a majority of electors? 
    2. How many votes does each state get?
  5. The House of Representatives decided the elections of 1800 and 1824. Then, all of Congress decided the election of 1876. 
    1. Use the Election of 1876 Worksheet to read more about this election and to answer questions.
  6. Election of 2000:
    1. Use the Election of 2000 Worksheet to read more about the case and to answer questions. 
  7. Election of 2020:
    1. Read these articles about the 2020 election:
      1. Biden assembles legal team ahead of potential court challenges after 2020 election
      2. This Is Democrats’ Doomsday Scenario for Election Night
    2. What do you think are the major issues that could make this upcoming election a contested election?
    3. How could the Election of 2020 wind up in the Supreme Court?
    4. How could the Election of 2020 wind up in the House of Representatives?
    5. Do you think there are any ways to prevent this election from being contested? If so, what are they?

Stephanie Schragger teaches American and world history at Saint Ann’s School in Brooklyn. Stephanie has an A.B. in History from Princeton University and a M.A. in History from Yale University.


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Updates for EXTRA’s Super Civics 2020 election teaching resources doc

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  • Standards

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    Relevant National Standards:
      Common Core State Standards CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.7.4 Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with pertinent descriptions, facts, details, and examples; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.8.4 Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with relevant evidence, sound valid reasoning, and well-chosen details; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-10.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and task. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence, conveying a clear and distinct perspective, such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning, alternative or opposing perspectives are addressed, and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and a range of formal and informal tasks.   College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards D2Civ.2.9-12 Analyze the role of citizens in the U.S. political system. D2Civ.9.9-12 Use appropriate deliberative processes in multiple settings. D2Civ.14.9-12 Analyze historical, contemporary, and emerging means of changing societies, promoting the common good, and protecting rights.   National Standards for Civics and Government (Center for Civic Education) Conflicts among values and principles in American political and social life: Students should be able to evaluate, take, and defend positions on issues in which fundamental values and principles may be in conflict.

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