Report the Vote: Election 2020

A project of the Freedom Forum and Fors Marsh Group, providing resources for journalists reporting on registration and voting in the 2020 elections

Report the Vote: Election 2020 is a resource for journalists, particularly at the collegiate level, in reporting on the process of voter registration and election voting.

The report was prepared by the nonpartisan Freedom Forum and the Fors Marsh Group, a national market and consumer research and strategy company.

While candidates and issues are the major components of election news coverage, the process by which citizens register and then cast ballots has become a significant element in virtually every election this century — starting with the delayed results and recounts in the 2000 presidential election.

In particular, students will be faced with significant barriers to navigating the 2020 elections, including attempts at voter suppression and changes to how votes are cast. In the past, some local election officials have attempted to block or divert student voting in towns where universities and colleges are located, given the potential impact of a sizeable voter bloc in relation to others in the community.

Students — and all voters — need reliable, clear and credible information about registration and voting from local, familiar and trusted news sources focused on communities and on local election news.

As traditional news media outsource, abandon or simply no longer have the resources to provide significant election coverage, particularly in low-density and rural areas of the United States, college student-run publications can provide an accessible means of locally focused, independent, objective news reporting in those areas.

According to a University of North Carolina School of Media and Journalism study in 2018, more than 1,300 U.S. communities have lost news coverage. These communities may be able to turn to college media to fill gaps in local election reporting — if journalists for those university news outlets have knowledge of how registration and voting work, what problems may arise and who to contact about registration and voting procedures and discrepancies.

To that end, Report the Vote: Election 2020 is intended as a primer and resource guide on the registration and voting process, to help journalists as they perform the “watchdog” role envisioned by the nation’s founders in creating First Amendment protection for a free press. RTV 2020 includes overview articles and online resources on:

  • The history of the right to vote;
  • The ways citizens may register to vote;
  • How our election system is rooted in state and local laws, unlike many nations;
  • Sources of information and possible questions to ask if registration or voting issues arise;
  • The cybersecurity challenges in guaranteeing free and fair elections in the 21st century;
  • The changing technology of voting;
  • Student voting and the “domicile concept;”
  • How election results are tabulated, reported and sometimes challenged, leading to recounts;
  • Federal election laws, including recent changes to the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965;
  • Different options in voting, from Election Day precincts to absentee ballots.

Materials in this project are intended for publication or background information. If quoted or republished, credit should be given to “Report the Vote: Election 2020,” a project of the Freedom Forum and Fors Marsh Group (FMG).

Freedom ForumFors Marsh Group

The principal writer of the project is Doug Chapin, director of elections research, FMG; principal editor of the project, and a contributing writer, is Gene Policinski, Freedom Forum Senior Fellow for the First Amendment and president and chief operating officer, Freedom Forum Institute. Graphics and illustrations were prepared by FMG.

 

Scripps Howard Foundation

The “Report the Vote: Election 2020” project and guide is supported in part by a grant to the Freedom Forum Institute by the Scripps Howard Foundation.