“The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all.”
~ President John F. Kennedy

(Visit Student News Daily’s Presidential Election 2020 page.)



The 2020 General Election will be held on Tuesday, November 3.  This is a presidential election year.  In addition to voting for the president, the 2020 election includes:

  • Gubernatorial elections in 11 states and two territories (American Samoa and Puerto Rico)
  • U.S. Senate elections for one-third (33) of the Senate seats.
  • U.S. House elections will be held to elect representatives from all 435 congressional districts across each of the 50 U.S. states. The six non-voting delegates from the District of Columbia and the inhabited U.S. territories will also be elected.
  • Many county and municipal (local) elections. On the ballot are many mayors, a wide variety of citizen initiatives in various states, and many more local public offices. Special elections to fill vacancies in various federal, state and local offices are also held when required.

For links to all races by state (federal and local), go to Ballotpedia


→ Should voters be prohibited from posting a selfie with their completed ballots on social media? (Many states have such laws.)

The secret ballot is a voting method in which a voter’s choices are private, preventing attempts to influence the voter by intimidation and potential vote buying. It permits  political privacy.

Articles on ballot selfies:

Those who agree with bans on photos of completed ballots say this does not prevent voters from telling everyone HOW they voted, it just prevents them from proving it by taking a picture of their ballot. The purpose of the current law is to prevent voter intimidation or vote buying (two types of voter fraud).

The NCSL suggests, “If one of the goals of posting ballot selfies is to foster vote engagement, there are other ways without eliminating the secret ballot. For example:

  • Take a photo with an “I Voted” sticker.
  • Take a selfie next to a “Vote Here” sign.
  • Taking a photo of a ballot (or with your ballot) before it is filled-in.

The ACLU disagrees, arguing a ban on ballot photos is outdated – that it prevents voters from exercising crucial political speech and discourages the use of technology in get-out-the-vote efforts: that it has a “chilling effect” on voters’ free speech.

Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern wrote in 2016 that courts have said free-speech considerations override vote-buying concerns. In a commentary, Stern wrote: “For millennials especially, ballot selfies have become perhaps the primary mode of political expression on Election Day. They amplify voter excitement and might even increase turnout. They are an exercise in two fundamental rights at once — free speech and voting — and help to promote democracy.”

Questions  (Ballot Selfies):

1) Does your state have a law prohibiting or permitting posting a selfie with a completed ballot?
2) How might a law allowing people to take a photo of their completed ballot enable someone to intimidate a voter into voting for a particular candidate?
3) How might a law allowing people to take a photo of their completed ballot enable a candidate to buy votes?
4) What effect could voter intimidation or vote buying have on the outcome of an election?
5) With which point of view above do you agree: the ACLU, or the NCSL?  Explain your answer.

You can also print the questions in this PDF worksheet about ballot selfies:


→ Do you support state laws restricting what voters can wear when they cast ballots?
(Laws which prohibit voters from wearing clothing with the name of a candidate or political party – or that reference an issue on the ballot or promote a group with recognizable political views)

In 2010, when Minnesota voter Andrew Cilek showed up to vote wearing a “Don’t Tread on Me” t-shirt with a Tea Party logo – and a button that said “Please I.D. Me,” he was told by a poll worker to cover them up or take them off before he could cast a ballot. He changed his shirt a few times – to others deemed unacceptable by the poll workers.

A long-standing Minnesota law prohibited clothes or buttons that mention not only a candidate, a political party or a ballot issue, but also any group with recognizable political views, such as the conservative/libertarian Tea Party or the liberal/progressive MoveOn.

Mr. Cilek was finally allowed to vote after a poll worker took down his name and address for possible prosecution.  When he and other Minnesotans sued, lower courts upheld the law as a reasonable way to preserve decorum at the polls. In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.

Read the article:  Dress code to vote? Supreme Court hears case

In appealing to the Supreme Court, the challengers said the law went too far, restricting “The most peaceful method of political expression – the silent wearing of clothing,” including T-shirts that merely name a political group or ideology and make no attempt to persuade voters.

The ACLU agreed, arguing that the electorate “is surely hardy enough to vote their conscience,” even if they see a Black Lives Matter shirt or a Women’s March hat [or a “Don’t tread on me” t-shirt].

The state said its approach preserved order and decorum at polling places and helped prevent voter intimidation.

In June 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with Mr. Cilek and struck down the Minnesota law that prohibited voters from wearing political buttons and apparel when they cast ballots.

Read the article:  U.S. Supreme Court strikes down Minnesota dress code for voters

Watch a March 2018 local news report (prior to the Supreme Court ruling):

Watch a June 2018 CBS News report (following the Supreme Court ruling):


Questions (Voter Apparel):

1) In defending the law, the state of Minnesota said its approach preserved order and decorum at polling places and helped prevent voter intimidation. How might voters be intimidated by another person’s t-shirt or hat? Do you think it would influence their vote? Explain your answer.
2) a) If a group of 5, 10 or 20 people wearing the same t-shirt were to vote at the same time as you, would this affect your answer to question #1?  Explain your answer.
b) Should groups be permitted the same rights as individuals in this instance? Explain your answer.
3) Among the defendants in the case was Minnesota County Attorney Mike Freeman, who said he believed Cilek was overreacting. He said, “My sense of the First Amendment is not offended by saying, ‘Tea Party folks, don’t wear your “I.D. me please” buttons into the polling place.’ I’d like to be left alone when I go to vote.”  Do you agree with Mr. Freeman – do people have a legal right to not be annoyed by you? Explain your answer.

You can also print the questions in this PDF worksheet about voter apparel:


Should a paper ballot system replace touch-screen machines used in some states?

→ Should states use electronic voting machines or voting apps without paper ballot backups? Or should states use only paper ballots (to prevent hacking/fraud)? 

Consider the following:

How to vote? — Paper ballot, electronic machine or voting app with or without paper backup, vote by mail

When to vote? — Election day only unless absentee – OR, early voting also; if yes, how early?

Where to vote? — Online, through the mail, drop off at polling station, in person at polling station


→ Should voters be required to show photo ID to vote? 

Two points of view:

  • Voter ID laws are necessary to prevent voter fraud.


  • Voter ID laws are racist and cause voter disenfranchisement (voter suppression).

SUPPORT for Voter ID laws
An October 2018 Rasmussen poll found that 67% of Likely U.S. Voters think voters should be required to show photo identification such as a driver’s license before being allowed to vote. This is down slightly from 70% the year before but down from a high of 82% in 2010. Support for voter ID requirements has mostly run in the mid-to-high 70s in surveys since 2006.

A total of 35 states have laws requesting or requiring voters to show some form of identification at the polls, as of the 2020 November election. — A 36th state, North Carolina, has a law that has a temporary injunction on it, as of Dec. 31, 2019.  (see details at ncsl.org)

The right to vote encompasses two critical considerations: (1) that voters have access to the ballot; and (2) that lawful votes are not diluted by those cast fraudulently. These are not competing considerations. By preventing or detecting fraud with a photo identification voting requirement, states are better able to ensure honest and fair elections.  (from rpc.senate.gov)

OPPOSITION to Voter ID laws
The ACLU opposes Voter ID laws. An ACLU fact sheet states: “Voter ID laws deprive many voters of their right to vote, reduce participation, and stand in direct opposition to our country’s trend of including more Americans in the democratic process. Many Americans do not have one of the forms of identification states acceptable for voting. These voters are disproportionately low-income, racial and ethnic minorities, the elderly, and people with disabilities.  Such voters more frequently have difficulty obtaining ID, because they cannot afford or cannot obtain the underlying documents that are a prerequisite to obtaining government-issued photo ID card.”

States with voter ID laws provide free ID for those who cannot afford to pay and make further exceptions for those who say they cannot obtain an ID. See New Hampshire  and Texas.


Cartoons – Voter ID (March 2021)

Video – Photo ID and voting:



→ Should states automatically send mail-in ballots to all voters for the November 3, 2020, general election?

  • As of September 4, California, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey and Vermont will automatically send mail-in ballots to all voters for the November 3, 2020, general election.
  • Other states will send mail-in ballot applications to all voters for the November 3, 2020, general election. These include:
    Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota (and Wisconsin to some voters).

NOTE: Five states have held all-mail-in voting for some time: Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington. Every voter receives a mail-in ballot by default. (Limited in-person voting is also available.)

Those who SUPPORT automatically sending mail-in ballots to all voters say that it is the only way to keep people safe from COVID-19. They argue:

  • Polling centers pose a significant risk of spreading the virus; Mail-in voting reduces the spread of COVID-19
  • In-person voting forces people to chose between voting and safety
  • Turnout will be low without mail-in voting
  • Supporters dismiss the concern that mail-in voting will increase voter fraud, saying it is rare and that the number of instances of absentee/mail-in voter fraud are insignificant.

Voters in multiple states question mail-in voting after problems” (from Oct. 13, 2020)
Theft at Election Warehouse: Still No Security” (Oct. 5, 2020)

Those who OPPOSE mail-in voting argue:

  • Mail-in voting poses a higher risk for fraud and manipulation, that recent elections show mail-in ballots are vulnerable to fraud (such as the Paterson, NJ primary election)
  • States cannot prevent mail-in voter fraud (filling in someone else’s ballot or filling in their own mail-in ballot and then voting in person?
  • States already provide voters access to absentee mail-in ballots; those concerned for their safety can utilize the method already in place.
  • The post office is not reliable and will not be able to ensure every ballot is delivered accurately to every voter, and that all of the ballots being mailed back by voters will make it to the election board (and on time).
  • Opponents argue businesses such as grocery stores, restaurants, post offices, etc. are able to safely conduct in-person business, and people are now very familiar with proper social distancing, mask wearing and hand sanitizer use.

Watch the videos and then answer the questions below:

Questions (Mail-in Voting):

1) Will a state conducting in-person voting cause mass-spreading of the virus?

2) Will a state conducting in-person voting deny many people the right to vote?

3) Considering the post office’s delivery record, do you think it can ensure mail-in ballots will not be mis-delivered, lost, delayed, etc.? (Ask a parent: Have you recently received a neighbors’ mail, or not received a piece of mail you were expecting? – Do you trust the post office to correctly handle every mail-in ballot?)



→ Should states implement early voting laws? If so, how early should voting begin – one or two days, a week, a month, 45 days?

Today, 40 states and the District of Columbia allow early voting, some as many as 45 days in advance, many ahead of the presidential debates. (see ncsl.org for a chart)

  • Early voting typically ends just a few days before Election Day.
  • Early voting periods range in length from 4 days to 45 days; the average length is 19 days.

Election Day isn’t just a tradition; it’s in the Constitution. Article II, Section 1 states:

“Congress may determine the Time of choosing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their votes; which day shall be the same throughout the United States.”

Congress codified this requirement in 1872 by setting a uniform presidential election date. But [in acknowledgement of] the notion of federalism, today’s courts have nonetheless been reluctant to invalidate state laws that go against this dictate.

Arguments for and against early voting: (from ballotpedia)

“Early voting eases Election Day congestion, leading to shorter lines and improved poll-worker performance. It allows election officials to correct registration errors and fix voting system glitches earlier. And polling has shown that early voting enjoys popular support. … [S]tarting in 2011, lawmakers in some states have sought to cut back on early voting. In many cases, these reductions have targeted voting days used heavily in African-American communities, such as the last Sunday before the election, when churches organize ‘souls to the polls’ drives. States that cut back on early voting have faced lawsuits and some rulings that the changes were discriminatory.”
– The Brennan Center for Justice (2018)

Also read: “Expand Early Voting

“Although voters may find early voting convenient, turnout data show that early voting may actually decrease turnout, not increase it. Early voting raises the costs of political campaigns, since expensive get-out-the-vote efforts must be spread out over a longer period of time. There is also no question that when voters cast their ballots weeks before Election Day, they do so without the same access to knowledge about the candidates and the issues as those who vote on Election Day. When there are late-breaking developments in campaigns that could be important to the choices made by voters, those who have voted early cannot change their votes.”
– Hans von Spakovsky of The Heritage Foundation (2017)

Also read: “Early Voting Disadvantages Seem to Outweigh Benefits

What do you think: do the benefits/convenience of early voting outweigh the problems its causes?


Anything that appears on a ballot other than a candidate running for office is called a ballot measure.  Ballot measures are broken down into two distinct categories:

  • Initiative (or proposition) – Citizens, collecting signatures on a petition, place advisory questions, memorials, statutes (laws) or constitutional amendments on the ballot for the citizens to adopt or reject. “Initiative” refers to newly drafted legislation submitted directly to a popular vote as an alternative to adoption by a state legislature. Twenty-four states have the initiative process.
  • Referendum – In many of the same states the citizens have the referendum process – the ability to reject laws or amendments proposed or already passed by the state legislature.

The terms above are both forms of “direct democracy” practiced by various states.

In a direct democracy, all citizens, without the intermediary of elected or appointed officials, can participate in making public decisions. Ballot measures are a form of direct democracy practiced by many states in the U.S.

NOTE: A legislatively referred constitutional amendment is a proposed constitutional amendment that appears on a state’s ballot as a ballot measure because the state legislature in that state voted to put it before the voters.  A legislatively referred constitutional amendment is a limited form of direct democracy with comparison to the initiated constitutional amendment.  49 states allow citizens to vote on proposed constitutional amendments offered by the state legislature. The exception is Delaware, where the legislature alone acts on constitutional amendments.

Read more about ballot measures (initiatives and referendums) at the Initiative and Referendum website iandrinstitute.org.

For a list of types of ballot measures allowed by your state (if any), visit iandrinstitute.org. (Note: this page does not include info on Kentucky as most types of ballot measures are not permitted there. See ballotpedia for details on Kentucky [and all other states as well].

Map below is of Ballot Measures by state: (Note: Kentucky residents have some limited form of some ballot measures. Map does not reflect that.)

As of September 2, 2020, 121 statewide ballot measures had been certified for the 2020 ballot in 34 states.

See info for each state at Ballotpedia’s 2020 Ballot Measures page.

Questions (Ballot Measures):

1) Does your state practice direct democracy through the ballot measure process?
2) If so, what initiatives or referendums are on your state’s ballot in the upcoming election?
3) If there are ballot measures in your state, how would you cast your vote on each question?

  • CALIFORNIA students: Ask a parent: how will you vote on Prop 18?  Please explain your answer.
  • FLORIDA students: Ask a parent: how will you vote on Amendment 2?  Please explain your answer.
  • NEW JERSEY students: Ask a parent: how will you vote on Public Quesstion 1?  Please explain your answer.
  • ARIZONA students: Ask a parent: how will you vote on Prop 207? Please explain your answer.
  • NEVADA students: Ask a parent: how will you vote on Question 6? Please explain your answer.

All others, check your own state’s ballot measures at Ballotpedia’s 2020 Ballot Measures page (scroll down for list of states), or if none, choose one of the above.


SENATORS – Republicans currently hold the majority in the Senate with 53 seats. There are 45 Democrats, and 2 independent senators (both of whom caucus with the Democrats:  democratic socialist Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine).

One-third of the Senate is up for election every two years (33 seats this year).  There will also be two special elections: one in Arizona to fill the vacancy created by the death of Republican John McCain in 2018 and one in Georgia following the resignation of Republican Johnny Isakson at the end of 2019 due to health concerns.

Including the special elections in Arizona and Georgia, Republicans will be defending 23 seats in 2020, while the Democratic Party will be defending 12 seats.

Questions (Senators):

Generally, a long-time incumbent who has won his/her races by a large percentage declines to debate the challenger. Two incumbent senators who will not debate their challengers are:

  • Oklahoma: Democratic challenger Abby Broyles wants to debate the Republican incumbent, Sen. Jim Inhofe (who had a 39.6% margin of victory in his last race and has held the office since 1994). She said, “He’s held this seat for more than a quarter of a century. What ideas does he now magically have to solve the issues of today and tomorrow?”
    Sen. Inhofe’s campaign spokesperson said: “Everyone in Oklahoma knows where Jim Inhofe stands on the issues. Not only that, he’s done at least 150 interviews so far this year.”
  • Massachusetts: Republican challenger Kevin O’Connor wants to debate the Democratic incumbent, Sen. Edward Markey, who was a Massachusetts congressman from 1976 to 2013 when he was elected to replace Democratic Sen. John Kerry after Kerry was appointed President Obama’s Secretary of State. (Sen. Markey had a 22.8% margin of victory in his last race and has held the seat since 2013). Challenger O’Connor said, “He’s been at this job for 40 years, and he’s gotten nothing done. I am not a career politician.”
    Asked about whether he would debate his opponent, Markey deferred to his campaign manager, John Walsh, “about any details.”

Incumbent senators who face a tight race will be more inclined to debate their challengers. Two incumbent senators who will debate their challengers:

  • North Carolina’s incumbent Senator, Republican Thom Tillis (who had a 1.5% margin of victory and has only served one term) challenged his Democratic opponent to a debate. Former NC State Senator Cal Cunningham accepted. The debate will be held Sept. 22, 2020.
  • Virginia: Incumbent Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat (who had a 0.8% margin of victory and has served since 2008), will debate his Republican challenger, Daniel Gade, three times before the November election, according to an announcement on August 8.

Alabama’s Republican challenger, former college football coach and political newcomer Tommy Tuberville, has not yet agreed to a debate with Democrat incumbent Doug Jones (who won the race to replace Jeff Sessions in 2017 by 1.7% margin of victory).  Why do you think this is so? (Hint: How close is this race predicted to be?)


  1. The 2014 elections marked 100 years of direct elections of U.S. Senators.  Which amendment established this policy? (see Wikipedia for the answer)
  2. Which article of the Constitution established three classes of U.S. Senators?  What was the purpose for this division?  (see Wikipedia)

REPRESENTATIVES – Democrats currently hold the majority in the House with 232 seats. There are 198 Republicans, 1 Libertarian and 4 vacancies.

Elections will be held to elect representatives from all 435 congressional districts across each of the 50 U.S. states. The six non-voting delegates from the District of Columbia and the inhabited U.S. territories will also be elected.

For information on these elections, go to ballotpedia.org.

Question (Representatives):

Discuss how the majority party in both houses affects proposed legislation — and also the federal government’s budget, spending and taxation.  See Wikipedia for a brief explanation.


Currently, 26 states have Republican governors and 24 states have Democratic governors. Additionally, three U.S. territories (American Samoa, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands) have Democratic governors, while one (the Northern Mariana Islands) has a Republican governor. Puerto Rico’s Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced belongs to the New Progressive Party, which advocates for U.S. statehood for Puerto Rico. Gov. Vázquez lost in the New Progressive primary on August 9, 2020 to Pedro Pierluisi (who caucuses with the Democratic Party).

  • 11 states and two territories (American Samoa and Puerto Rico) will hold gubernatorial elections: Nine state governors are running for reelection, while Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana can not run again due to term limits and Republican Gov. Gary Herbert of Utah is retiring. States holding gubernatorial elections include:
    Delaware,  Indiana,  Missouri,  Montana,  New Hampshire,  North Carolina,  North Dakota,  Utah,  Vermont,  Washington and West Virginia
  • For information on current governors, do an internet search for your governor’s official website and/or go to the National Governors Association website: nga.org.  See map below of current party affiliation of each state’s governor.

Map from UVA’s Center for Politics.

Map:  2020 Gubernatorial Elections in the states and territories from nga.org:

Map from National Governors Association.


Links for all 50 states’ Election Board websites are provided here.

Or, for links to all races by state (federal and local), go to Ballotpedia.

Questions (State Elections):

Visit your state’s official election webpage.
1)  Name the candidates running for state and local office in your state/county/city.  Include party affiliation and office each candidate is running for.
2)  What issue(s) are important to voters in your state and/or local area in one of the upcoming elections you listed in question #1?  How do the opposing candidates stand on the issue(s)?  (Editor’s Note: In 2020, there are many county and state offices on the ballot. In order to make an informed decision on each candidate, we spent a few hours researching the candidates.  We were surprised to find very little information in our state about many of these candidates running for state or county office in the 2020 elections.)
CHALLENGE: How quickly can you find the following information on your state’s Election website:  What requirements does a prospective candidate need to complete to have his/her name on the ballot in your state/county/city?

You can also print the questions in this PDF worksheet about state elections in 2020:

Did you know? 

Trifecta is a term used to describe when the state house, the state senate, and the office of the governor are each controlled by the same political party.

Currently, 36 states have trifectas.  Republicans hold 21 trifectas; Democrats hold 15. (See a Ballotpedia article on trifectas.)

Ballotpedia has identified 22 battleground chambers in 17 states that will be more competitive overall and have the potential to see major shifts in party control. See ballotpedia.org/State_legislative_battleground_chambers,_2020

Party control (trifectas) of state Legislatures and Governorships as of September 2020:

From UVA’s Center for Politics.

Questions (Trifecta States):

Which party controls the state senate, legislature and the governorship in your state?
CHALLENGE:  Follow the results of the November 2020 elections.  Which party, if any, lost trifectas in any states? Name the states. Why do you think this is so?


Check out StudentNewsDaily’s “Conservative vs. Liberal Beliefs” chart.  (NOTE: This is a general overview of the conservative and liberal positions on the issues.)

Question (Conservative vs. Liberal Beliefs):

Read through the chart.  For each issue, state which position best represents your beliefs and explain why.


What do you know about socialism and capitalism? A 2017 report on U.S. Attitudes Toward Socialism found that 44% of millennials would prefer to live in a socialist country. However, when asked to define the term, two out of three got it wrong. Visit our Socialism vs. Capitalism page for information.


Posted at StudentNewsDaily:



Cartoon by Stephan Pastis

Cartoon by Gary Varvel

Cartoon by Gary Varvel

(This page last updated 4/5/21. Information compiled from various sources including Ballotpedia and Wikipedia.)