News Impact Project: Impactful Election Stories

News Media Alliance Illustration: Photo via Fredex8 / iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images


Election news coverage is often considered horse-race coverage, but this election, news outlets across the country have focused on something far more impactful in 2020 — how Americans are being affected by changes to voting procedure amidst the ongoing public health crisis, as well as what voters need to know to ensure that their votes count. From local outlets focused on their regions’ residents to national outlets giving voice to concerns of disabled voters, publishers have turned their attention to helping ensure a deeper understanding of the election process and Americans’ civic responsibility. Americans need this kind of critical reporting ahead of the U.S. Presidential election, as well as future elections, and local news media have a unique ability to provide it.

In this special section of the Index of Impactful News, we provide several examples of impactful election news stories that would not have been possible without the work of local news publishers.

Impactful Election Stories

Alaska Public Media, “By mail, early, in person: Here’s a guide to voting in Alaska” – “Early voting started Monday in Alaska for the general election, and more than 35,000 Alaskans have already returned their absentee ballots. For those who haven’t cast their ballots yet, here’s a quick guide on how to vote this year.”

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Election 2020: Georgia voter guide” – “Much is at stake, with polls showing close races for president, two U.S. Senate seats and a few U.S. House seats. A number of state legislative races are considered competitive. And then there’s the Covid-19 pandemic, which is changing how Georgians are choosing to vote, and court battles that are already being fought over voting issues and ballot access.”

Austin Monthly, “Tired of Our Broken Democracy? The Texas 2020 Voter Guide is For You.” – “Instead of focusing on hotly debated partisan issues, it addresses 10 core problems that are deteriorating our political system—and where local politicians stand on each.”

Avant-Youth, “Election debacles: A closer look at Georgia’s voting system” – “The first step in finding a solution to our election problems is understanding the voting process, at least this way we can understand who’s responsible for what. Georgia’s voting laws can be really difficult to understand, mostly due to its nebulous systems and obscure rules as to who or what is in charge of anything.”

Bangor Daily News, “Everything Mainers need to know to vote in the 2020 election” – “We’ve been asking you all year about the subjects you care about. We used those responses to ask pointed questions of the candidates. The result is this voter guide, which distills the positions of top-tier candidates while putting questions to every candidate for Maine’s 186 state legislative seats.”

The Beacon, “Young Kansans could prove to be a powerful voting bloc on Election Day” – “Kansas’ electoral landscape looks a lot different than it did four years ago, especially for the state’s youngest eligible voters, according to a Beacon analysis of the most recent voter registration data from the Kansas Secretary of State’s office.”

Charlottesville Tomorrow, “How to “cure” and avoid ballot mistakes” – “With a higher volume of mail-in votes occurring this year, some worry that the margins for error in the hands of registrars and voters is higher. Meanwhile, new state law passed during Virginia’s special session aims to make it easier for voters to vote — however they choose — and to fix errors that arise.”

Civil Eats, “Fighting Voter Suppression, Environmental Racism, and Corporate Agriculture in Hog Country” – “In an election like none before it, the residents of North Carolina—particularly the hog- and poultry-intensive eastern counties—are fighting long odds to regain the power of their vote.”

CNN, “How to help people with learning disabilities cast their votes” – “There are a lot of Americans who find the act of voting difficult because of learning disabilities and their obstacles are getting new attention as awareness of these disabilities increases.”

Colorado Public News, “The Colorado Voter’s Guide To The 2020 Election” – “We hope this comprehensive and convenient non-partisan guide will help voters across the state make sense of a lengthy ballot in a crucial election. Curious how we put this guide together? Take a look at this quick explanation. Looking for more in-depth information on what’s up for the vote in Denver? Fear not, Denverite has you covered.”

The Colorado Sun, “Colorado money tracker: A look at the candidates and campaigns spending to influence the 2020 vote” – “The majority of the money spent in a political campaign is aimed at persuading voters to pick a certain candidate and turnout to vote. The tools of the trade are familiar: television commercials, glossy mailers, yard signs, flashy digital ads, text messages, phone calls and more.”

The Denver Post, “Colorado’s vote-by-mail ballots begin life in Washington State and end in storage. Here’s what happens in between.” – “Colorado’s mail-in voting system is as safe as it gets, local and national experts, election judges, Republicans and Democrats agree — despite efforts by President Donald Trump and others to question the security of voting by mail.”

Detroit Free Press, “Heads up, Michigan. Here’s what disinformation experts are watching for on Election Day” – “Given attempts to mislead or deter voters ahead of the election and the possibility that no presidential race winner will be declared on Election Day, researchers and experts on disinformation advise Michiganders to be extra careful about where their information comes from in the next few weeks.”

Detroit Free Press, “Michigan prepares for possible legal challenges on and after Election Day” – “While it’s rare for legal action to decide the ultimate outcome, election-related lawsuits are not new in Michigan. And the impact of the delay in final results from an unprecedented number of absentee ballots, COVID-19 complications and misinformation about the veracity of the election from President Donald Trump make it clear voters should not be surprised to see some litigation after polls close on Nov. 3.”

The Gazette, “Voter guide: What you need to know about early voting, voting by mail and Election Day voting” – “Early voting in Iowa for the Nov. 3, 2020, election begins Oct. 5 and ends Nov. 2. Here’s what you need to know and where you can go to find information about voting and the candidates on the ballot.”

Gothamist, “2020 Voter Guide For New York And New Jersey” – “Are you ready for the most consequential general election of our lifetimes—which also happens to be occurring during a global pandemic? If you need to brush up on some details our new, comprehensive 2020 Voter Guide for New York and New Jersey, from WNYC/Gothamist, City Limits, and Gotham Gazette.”

The Hastings Banner, “The difference between absentee and vote-by-mail” – “This year, more Americans than ever will be voting absentee or by mail so it is important to understand the similarities and differences between the two. While vote-by-mail and vote absentee are often used interchangeably, there actually is a difference between the two systems.”

Indiana Daily Student, “How to Vote” – “Voting is confusing. If you’re a college student or Monroe County resident, this quiz will help you register and plan how you’ll submit your ballot for the November election.”

Isthmus Community Media, “College students fill gaps in Wisconsin’s poll worker shortage” – “Currently, there is a nationwide shortage of poll workers. Older and retired volunteers typically staff poll stations around the country but many this year are not working due to concerns around COVID-19.”

KALW, “Reaching Communities With Low Voter Turnout” – “As Election Day approaches, we’re focusing on communities with historically low voter turnout in five Bay Area counties. These 5 areas include West Oakland in Alameda County, Richmond’s Iron Triangle in Contra Costa County, Bayview-Hunter’s Point in San Francisco, East Palo Alto in San Mateo County, and Fairfield in Solano County.”

The Kansas City Star, “Want to make sure your mail ballot is counted in KS or MO? Here’s what you need to know” – “For anyone casting a mail ballot for the first time in 2020, here’s what you need to know to make sure your vote gets counted.”

KCAW, “2020 Election Hub” – “On Tuesday, November 3, Alaskans will cast their ballots in the 2020 General Election. To help voters make informed decisions, Raven Radio has expanded our election hub this year to provide election coverage beyond Sitka’s municipal election, to include information on regional races and elections in our listening communities.”

KQED, “11 Million Households, 10 Languages — That’s Right, It’s The Official Calif. Voter Guide” – “‘Who gets to write the arguments for and against the ballot measures in the state’s official voter information guide?’ Nichols asked. ‘How are they picked? And why does Gary Wesley write so many of them?'”, “GENERAL ELECTION 2020: How To Vote” – “Thanks, in part, to a grant from the American Press Institute and the team, we’ve been able to create this everything-you-need-to-know guide for voting either in-person or by mail.”

Long Beach Post, “Long Beach Voter Guide: Debate roundups, local measures and vote center locations” – “Over the past several weeks we’ve written about where and how voters can cast their ballots, what is at stake with the local Measure US and the multiple candidates running for office. Here is a breakdown of everything you need to know in order to help you make the best decisions.”

The Longmont Leader, “Longmont voter guide: What you need to know for the 2020 election” – “How to cast your ballot, when to vote and everything else you need to know to have your voice heard in November.”

Los Angeles Times, “The Times Publishes Voter Guide and Election Resources as Early Voting Begins” – “The collection includes step-by-step guides, explainer videos, in-depth reporting on candidates and ballot propositions, and more.”

Mahoning Matters, “What you need to know about Ohio drop box restrictions” – “How many drop boxes can each Ohio county set up for collecting absentee ballots cast in the November presidential election, and where can they be located? It’s a seemingly simple question with a complicated answer.”

Malheur Enterprise, “VOTING VITALS: The latest count on ballot returns in Malheur County and key voting information

The Mercury News, “2020 California Election Guide: What you need to know about mail-in ballots, propositions and more” – “Have you cast your ballot yet? Hundreds of thousands of California voters have already voted. If you’re one of them, or are still looking over your ballot, here’s a collection of stories that will bring you up to date on the voting process and the important issues and races on California’s 2020 ballots.”

Mississippi Free Press, “Bipartisan Bill Would Allow All Mississippians to Vote In-Person Absentee Starting Oct. 5” – “Mississippi voters could have the opportunity to begin voting in person on absentee ballots with no excuse necessary if the Legislature adopts a bill a bipartisan group of three Mississippi House representatives proposed today. Without changes, most Mississippi voters will have to vote in person on Election Day with few exceptions—and without a statewide mask mandate in place as of the governor’s decision yesterday.”

Montgomery Advertiser, “A voter’s guide to the constitutional amendments on Alabama’s 2020 ballot” – “Alabama’s ballot includes six state constitutional amendments, covering voting; the operation of the state judiciary; racist language in the state’s 1901 Constitution, and the use of guns in churches in two counties in north Alabama.”

The Nevada Independent, “In long Nevada early voting lines, enthusiasm and a sense of election’s high stakes” – “Droves of Nevada voters came out to the polls for the first day of in-person early voting in a divisive election that some characterized as one of the most important of their lifetimes.”

New Haven Independent, “Voter Guide: What’s On The Ballot” – “Voting has started earlier than ever for more voters this year — so here’s an early guide to articles about competitive races to help you figure out how to mark your ballot.”

The News & Observer, “Voting problems? The N&O’s partnership with Electionland is tracking and investigating” – “Again this election season, The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun are working with Electionland, a national project to track and investigate voting problems in North Carolina.”

The New York Times, ‘A Failed System’: What It’s Like to Vote With a Disability During a Pandemic” – “An estimated 38 million eligible voters have disabilities. It has always been hard for them to vote, and this year has brought even more obstacles.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer, “Easier? Not for all.” – “Pennsylvania’s vote-by-mail law has expanded access — primarily for middle-class and affluent voters who would likely have voted anyway. A year later, poor Philadelphians are still more likely to vote in person.”

Popsugar, “How Casting Your Ballot in the 2020 Election Could Help End Voter Suppression” – “In 2020, voters face even more hurdles, as politicians and officials who want to suppress the vote exploit barriers caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, overcoming these hurdles to cast your ballot could not only affect the outcome of the election, but also help shape policies that safeguard the right to vote in the future. Here’s what experts want you to know.”

QCity Metro, “Inside the work to educate thousands of formerly incarcerated NC residents about their voting rights” – “Groups are reaching out to prospective Mecklenburg County voters, including people whose voting rights have been restored following a recent court ruling.”

San Francisco Chronicle, “2020 Voter Guide” – “Your guide to the ballot measures, propositions and races that Bay Area voters are deciding.”

Scalawag, “How photo ID laws and provisional ballots target the most marginalized Southerners” – “Tennessee is one of seven states with strict photo voter ID laws—along with Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Virginia in the South—meaning anyone who votes without an ID that “matches” their physical presentation according to poll workers is issued a provisional ballot. Those provisional ballots only count if the voter provides their ID shortly after.”

The Seattle Times, “Election 2020 voter guide: What you need to know for your ballot due Nov. 3” – “In Washington, the election is mail-only, though counties provide accessible voting centers for people who need assistance completing their ballots.”

South Florida Sun Sentinel, “Voter Guide: South Florida 2020 General Election” – “The South Florida Sun Sentinel surveyed candidates running in this year’s general election and is presenting their responses below as submitted. Not all candidates responded to the questionnaire. Unopposed and write-in candidates are not included.”

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “Show Me the Money” – “Explore campaign contributions to Missouri’s state and congressional politicians.”

St. Louis Public Radio, “St. Louis Voter Guide: What To Know About The Key Contests On Your 2020 Ballot” – “Nov. 3 will be unlike any other Election Day. New rules for mail-in and absentee voting have granted voters more ways than ever to cast a ballot — and raised concerns about election integrity and legal challenges to the vote-by-mail policies. Officials predict an unprecedented turnout in Missouri, which as of Oct. 2 has added more than 130,000 registered voters to the rolls since 2016.”

Tampa Bay Times, “So you want to vote by mail in Florida? Here’s what you need to know.” – “Some elections officials say some of the political rhetoric has caused confusion about Florida’s longstanding mail voting system.”

Tucson Sentinel, “Friday last day to request vote-by-mail ballot in Arizona” – “Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs told voters to request their ballot-by-mail to get a general election ballot sent to their home. Early voting in person remains available through Election Day, Nov. 3. About 1.3 million people have already cast their ballots in the state.”

Uvalde Leader-News, “Nearly 25% of voters have voted” – “With about a week and a half remaining to vote early before the Oct. 30 deadline, approximately 23.65 percent of Uvalde County’s 17,430 registered voters have already cast their vote for the Nov. 3 general election. Tomorrow is the last day to request a ballot by mail.”

Washington City Paper, “D.C. At-Large Councilmember Voters Guide 2020” – “We asked 22 candidates the same questions about prominent issues in D.C., including housing, education, and policing, among others.”

The Washington Post, “America in Line” – “Long before Election Day, voters across the country have been lining up to cast their ballots. We sent teams of reporters and photographers to six cities — Houston, Albuquerque, Chattanooga, Sarasota, Atlanta and Columbus — to capture how people feel as they wait for their chance to be heard.”

WBUR, “Election 2020’s Voter Suppression Reality” – “Voting is one of the most essential rights of any democratic citizen. We take a look at the various forms of voter suppression we see across the country, and discuss how it’s affecting American democracy ahead of the November presidential election.”

WDET, “Everything You Need to Know to Vote in 2020” – “Find the key information and deadlines you need to know for registering to vote, requesting and returning your absentee ballot, or voting in person.”

WFAE, “2020 N.C. Voters Guide” – “Learn everything you need to know about voting in the upcoming election, including how to vote in person or through the mail as well as local candidates’ positions on various issues and why they think you should vote for them.”

WTOP, “Advocates encourage people with learning disabilities to make plan to vote” – “People with learning disabilities face stigma, low expectations and lack of understanding, but advocates stress that they still have a right to vote.”

If you would like to submit a story for inclusion in our Impactful Election Stories, or the Index of Impactful News, click here.

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