Lesson Plan: Should States Shift to Mail-In Voting during the Coronavirus Pandemic?

Challenges for States Holding Elections

Tim Storey, executive director of the National Conference of State Legislature talked about the challenges that state face in holding elections during the coronavirus pandemic. He specifically addressed proposals like mail-in voting and how states have previously implemented this policy.


With the 2020 primary and general elections coinciding with the coronavirus outbreak, policymakers at the national and state level have called for states to shift their elections to allow all citizens to vote by mail. This lesson looks at the challenges that states face in holding elections during the pandemic and if vote-by-mail policies can address this. Students will view videos from experts and lawmakers to decide if state governments should shift to mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic.


  • WARM-UP:

    Before beginning class, have the students brainstorm what they know about how elections are run.


    Have the students define or be familiar with the following vocabulary terms. These will be used throughout the video clips in the lesson.

    • Absentee

    • Ballot

    • General Election

    • Polling place

    • Primary Election

    • Social Distancing

    Have the students view the following two clips that introduce the idea of voting by mail during the coronavirus outbreak. Students can use the Google Doc handout linked below to answer the questions for each clip.

    Handout: Voting By Mail (Google Doc)

  • Video Clip 1: Challenges for States Holding Elections (2:39)

    • Describe the different types of mail-in voting that individual states provide currently.

    • What is meant by absentee voting?

    • How has Congress supported mail-in voting strategies?
  • Video Clip 2: Vote-By-Mail Proposals In Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic (1:39)

    • From this video clip, what problems does the coronavirus outbreak cause for states holding elections?

    • Describe the bill proposed in the Senate that would address these issues.

    • How might voting-by-mail address some of the issues relating to voting and social distancing?

    Based on the video clips and their own experiences, have the students use the handout to brainstorm ways that the coronavirus outbreak might impact the primary and general elections in 2020.


    After students have viewed the introductory video clips and brainstormed ways that the coronavirus outbreak can impact elections, they should use the handout to view video clips exploring the question: Should states shift to mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic?

    Handout: Voting By Mail (Google Doc)

    Students will view each video clip and take notes on the arguments for and against switching to vote-by-mail elections.



    In a written response, have the students answer the question listed below. They should include specific arguments and examples to support their position. *This question can also serve as a prompt on an online discussion board.**

    • Should states shift to mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic?

    Researching Your State’s Voting Laws- Use the National Conference for State Legislatures website to research your state’s absentee and mail-in-voting laws. For your state provide the following information.

    • Summarize your state’s laws regarding absentee and mail-in-voting laws.

    • In what situations can individual receive absentee or mail-in ballots?

    • In your opinion, are the voting policies in your state equipped to address the possible voting issues relating to the coronavirus outbreak?

    • Besides vote-by-mail proposals, what other actions should states take to address the concerns about elections during the coronavirus?

    • Does the national government have the authority to require states to use mail-in voting?

    • Does the current decentralized system of state-run elections still meet the needs of the United States?

    • What are the benefits and drawbacks of having state-run elections?

Additional Resources


  • Absentee
  • Abstentee
  • Ballot
  • Contingency Plan
  • Coronavirus
  • Disenfranchise
  • Election
  • Election Day
  • Election Judges
  • Election Security
  • Elections
  • Infrastructure
  • Mail-in Ballot
  • No Excuse Absentee Voting
  • Pandemic
  • Polling Places
  • Post Office
  • Primary
  • Social Distancing
  • State Legislature
  • Vote-by Mail
  • Voter Regret
  • Voter Turnout


Campaigns & ElectionsFederalism and State Issues


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