The Debrief

All About Elections: The Top Elections-Related Stories in Newsela

The Newsela Team
Mar 3, 2020

There’s nothing that dominates the U.S. news cycle quite like an election. From the earliest debate to the first Tuesday night in November, it’s impossible not to be caught up in the swirl of stories about who Americans will elect to government.

So this Super Tuesday, we wanted to explore the elections-related content that’s been most popular in classrooms this school year. And from newsworthy moments to articles that provide historical context, there’s plenty to unpack.

If there’s one theme that defines the top 10 most-viewed articles, it’s that elections are complicated. The most widely-read article about an historical election covers the presidential election of 1800, when electors failed to distinguish between president and vice president on their ballots (Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr both received an equal number of electoral votes, forcing the presidency to be decided by the House of Representatives). Other articles in the top 10 touch on more current election complexities, from the ever-present threat of election hacking to a 2018 poll showing rising levels of election-related anxiety among young people. 

Another angle we can take when looking at elections-related content is exploring the most popular articles by state so far this year. 

Which “election” article was most popular in your state?

While in 17 states the most-viewed article goes back in time to unpack that fateful election of 1800, in 16 states the most popular piece is about a much more current issue: the efforts of Native Americans in Utah to be elected to local government

This story—which is the most popular piece about elections not just in Utah, but in many neighboring Western and Southwestern states—is especially interesting because of all of the complex themes it touches on. 

Students learn:

  • about gerrymandering, and how it has been used over the years to give certain types of voters (usually wealthier white ones) disproportionate power in a district. 

  • how voting laws can be used to try prevent certain minority groups from voting, and how not having political representation hurts these groups when they’re unable to advocate for things like running water or new roads 

  • about the importance of grassroots campaigning, and how seemingly simple acts like voter registration drives and going door-to-door in support of a candidate can impact the outcome of an election

 With so many valuable, difficult lessons packed into one story, it’s no surprise that this piece garnered the most views of any article about elections this year. It’s also encouraging to know that through relevant, current-day stories, students can learn about the challenges—and successes—of democracy in action.

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