Lesson Plan: Should Congress enact remote voting policies during the coronavirus outbreak?

Rep. McGovern (D-MA) on Voting Rules in the House during the Coronavirus

House Rules Committee Chair Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) spoke by phone about his committee’s report outlining options for House member voting amid the coronavirus epidemic.

Description

With members of Congress working from their home states and districts because of the outbreak of COVID-19, members of the House and Senate have proposed ways to vote on legislation remotely. This lesson examines how voting currently works in Congress and how these remote voting proposals would work. Students will hear from members of Congress and experts to determine if Congress should enact remote voting during the coronavirus pandemic.

Procedures

  • WARM-UP:

    Have the students consider the following question prior to beginning class:

    • What are the steps require for passing laws? How does social distancing complicate this process?
  • INTRODUCTION:

    As an introduction to this topic, have the students use the video clip below to provide a foundation on the issue of voting remotely in Congress. Students can access the video clip and questions with the handout linked below.

    Handout: Remote Voting in Congress (Google Doc)

  • Video Clip 1: Rep. McGovern (D-MA) on Voting Rules in the House during the Coronavirus (3:00)

    • Currently, how can Congress pass legislation without members present?

    • What are the current challenges facing Congress and voting on legislation?

    • What would have to occur for changes like remote voting and proxy voting to be enacted?

    • What is meant by remote voting?
  • EXPLORATION:

    Students will use the handout below further explore the topic of remote voting in Congress. Students will watch each video clip and take notes on the potential benefits and challenges associated with members of Congress voting remotely from their home states. Students will use this information to eventually answer the question: Should Congress enact remote voting policies during the coronavirus outbreak?

    Handout: Remote Voting in Congress (Google Doc)

  • APPLICATION AND CULMINATING ACTIVITY:

    After completing the chart, students will respond to the following prompt in either a written essay or with online discussion board post. If using an in-person class, this can take the form of a discussion or debate. Students should provide examples to support their stance.

    • Should Congress enact remote voting policies during the coronavirus outbreak?
  • EXTENSION/ALTERNATIVE ACTIVITIES:

    Constitutional Interpretation- Read the following provisions from Article I, Section 5 of the U.S. Constitution. “Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members, and a Majority of each shall constitute a Quorum to do Business; but a smaller Number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the Attendance of absent Members, in such Manner, and under such Penalties as each House may provide. Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member.”

    Based on this, is it constitutional for Congress to switch to remote voting in emergencies? Explain your answer.

    Researching a Bill- Research the following resolution relating to remote voting in Congress. Provide a summary of the bill, who sponsored/co-sponsored it and your opinions of the bill.

  • ADDITIONAL PROMPTS:

    • Based on your own experience with social distancing and remote learning, what strategies and tips can you suggest to members of Congress as they work from home?

    • Does remote voting shift too much power to party leaders? Explain your answer.

    • How could remote voting be abused by members of Congress?

    • How do the differences in the House and Senate rules reflect the structure of each chamber?

Additional Resources

Vocabulary

  • Article One
  • Article Two
  • Bipartisan
  • Committee
  • Congressional Oversight
  • Congressional Staff
  • Consensus
  • Constituents
  • Constitution
  • Continuity Of Government
  • Coronavirus
  • District Office
  • Hearing
  • Objection
  • Proxy Voting
  • Regular Order
  • Remote Voting
  • Resolution
  • Rules Committee
  • Senate
  • Skype
  • Social Distancing
  • Unanimous Consent
  • Work From Home

Topics

Legislative Branch

Grades

High SchoolUniversity