Which Is Better: Paper Ballot or Voting Machine?

Friday, October 16, 2020
paper and machine voting - two workers unlock ballot boxes

Commissioners from each party in Memphis, Tennessee work in pairs to unlock sealed steel boxes filled with absentee ballots. | PBS NewsHour Extra

Paper or Machine Voting?

Read the summary, watch the video and answer the discussion questions. To read the transcript of the video above, click here

During this election, early and absentee voting are expected to reach record levels, with mail-in ballots drawing significant attention as a result. President Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed, without evidence, that voting by mail is not safe or reliable — but what do election experts say is the best method? Find out more with NewsHour’s Miles O’Brien.



Discussion Questions: Paper or Machine Voting?

Warm up questions: Have your students identify the 5Ws and an H:

  • Who is the story about? Who is affected by mail-in ballots?
  • What is the difference between paper and machine voting?
  • When and where are these election officials working?
  • Why do different states or even different polling places use different technology?
  • How can voting technology affect voting outcomes?

Then have students share with the class or through a Learning Management System (LMS).

Focus Questions

  1. What do you think should be done to make voting as secure, reliable and convenient as possible?
  2. Who do you think should have the authority to make sure voting procedures are safe, fair and reliable?

Media Literacy: Who else’s opinion would you want to hear, aside from other election officials, about the best way to vote securely and conveniently?

Dig deeper: This election year is a little different than most, with the pandemic leading more voters to choose mail-in ballots and election officials encouraging mail-in voting for public health reasons. But President Trump has waged a campaign against mail-in voting, suggesting it’s subject to fraud. So how does it work? Watch the video below to find out, and if you would like to access a lesson on the security of mail-in ballots, click here.

Ask your students: What are the tradeoffs in safety, security and fairness between mail-in voting and in-person voting?



Republished with permission from PBS NewsHour Extra.