Current Event October 26, 2020
The practice of observing elections, when people from both major parties watch the voting process to ensure it runs smoothly, has a long tradition in the U.S. People who watch polls must follow rules established by state and local governments. Historically, however, some election observers have been accused of acting aggressively to intimidate groups of voters and keep them away from the polls. Listen to hear more about guidelines for observers at the polls, and learn what one voting expert believes election officials can do to safeguard the 2020 election.
Current Event October 6, 2020
President Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden recently faced off in Cleveland, Ohio, in the first of three presidential debates leading up to the 2020 election. The debate was marked by angry exchanges, frequent interruptions, and calls for order by the moderator. This audio story analyzes the two candidates’ goals going into the debate and how well they succeeded in meeting them, as well as the impact of the president’s remarks about white supremacist groups and the peaceful transfer of power. Listen to learn more about this unusually contentious and chaotic presidential debate.
Current Event August 25, 2020
Many states are encouraging voters to cast ballots by mail in November to protect themselves from virus exposure. However, voter confidence in the process has been shaken by politicians who are saying that mail-in ballots may not be secure. Listen to a Republican election official from the state of Washington, where elections are 100% vote-by-mail, explain why voter confidence in elections is crucial and what steps she takes to ensure that voting is secure.
Current Event July 15, 2020
With the presidential election months away and the coronavirus pandemic raging, some people are concerned about the health risks of in-person voting. Now, athletes are helping to address that problem. Several NBA teams have volunteered their sports arenas as polling places. The large spaces provide plenty of room for social distancing, which election officials hope will encourage voter turnout. Listen to learn how sports arenas could solve a range of voting challenges and why black athletes are speaking out about political causes more than ever before.
Current Event March 27, 2020
A town in Washington state made plans to boost voter turnout by offering smartphone voting. Less than 1% of eligible voters showed up for a prior election in King County, Washington, and officials reasoned that making elections more accessible to all voters, including people living overseas and the disabled, would increase voter participation. Opponents say the security risks of smartphone voting threaten our democracy, since it is only a matter of time before they are hacked. Listen to hear more about the pros and cons of electronic voting, and then debate: Is smartphone voting a good idea?
Update: Since this story aired, the election has taken place, and voters cast ballots by smartphone or in person. Voter turnout was half of 1%.
Current Event March 19, 2020
What is the best way to persuade others to support your views? A stump speech contest in New Hampshire invited teens to explore that question. Students from across the country wrote and delivered compelling political campaign speeches focused on issues that matter to them, including climate change, immigration, and equal pay for women. Listen to hear students read parts of their winning speeches and learn what one judge believes makes speeches especially strong.
Current Event March 6, 2020
Caucuses and primaries are two different ways of allowing voters to choose their party’s presidential nominee. The caucus system requires citizens to gather together for discussion and debate before casting their vote. Some prize the highly democratic nature of caucuses, where people meet face-to-face to discuss political issues. But others say caucuses discourage participation since they demand so much time and energy. Most states have opted for primaries, a simpler system of voting at a ballot box. Listen to hear more about the pros and cons of each method of voting and then debate: Are caucuses or primaries more democratic?
Current Event February 10, 2020
The Senate voted to acquit President Trump of charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The House of Representatives had impeached the president on these violations in December, but the Senate’s decision means he will not be removed from office. Senators cast votes along party lines, with the exception of Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, who was the first senator to vote to convict a president in his own party. Listen to hear how Romney came to his decision and how Congress plans to move forward after an exhausting and divisive impeachment trial.
Current Event December 26, 2019
President Donald J. Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives in December 2019 for high crimes and misdemeanors. The first article of impeachment charges the president with abuse of power, and the second with obstruction of Congress. Trump is the third president in the history of the United States to be impeached. In a deeply divided Congress, the voting was split along party lines, with almost all Democrats voting to impeach and all Republicans voting against impeachment. The articles of impeachment now go to the Senate, where a trial will be held to determine whether or not to remove President Trump from office. Listen to learn about the historic impeachment.
Current Event December 16, 2019
The first shipload of enslaved people reached the American colonies four hundred years ago, in 1619. Although the event marked the beginning of a system that profoundly shaped American life, the date is likely unfamiliar to most people. The 1619 Project aims to change that by exploring how the legacy of slavery still impacts our country today. Listen to hear the journalist behind the project reveal truths about slavery that schools often do not teach and why the project has personal meaning for her.
Current Event December 9, 2019
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced that the House Judiciary Committee will write articles of impeachment against President Trump. The announcement follows weeks of hearings where witnesses testified about the president’s actions in Ukraine, which Pelosi says showed that the president abused his power. If the House of Representatives votes to approve the articles, President Trump will be impeached, and then the Senate will hold a trial to determine whether to remove him from office. Listen to hear Speaker Pelosi explain why she believes impeachment is necessary and learn what charges may be included in the articles of impeachment.
Current Event November 18, 2019
Congress has launched an impeachment inquiry. Impeachment involves an investigation by the House of Representatives into potential wrongdoing by the president and, if they find it, a vote on whether to impeach. If a majority of House members vote yes, the president is impeached. His case then goes before the Senate for a trial to determine whether to remove him from office. Listen to hear a reporter clarify the steps in the impeachment process and explain what to expect as the impeachment of President Trump proceeds.
Current Event October 14, 2019
The U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to impeach a president considered unfit for office. First, the House of Representatives investigates whether the president has committed a crime and votes on articles of impeachment, and then the Senate holds a trial and votes on whether to remove the president from office. The current impeachment inquiry investigating President Trump is taking place in a strongly divided country. Listen to an expert explain what today’s Congress can learn from the past, and why no president facing impeachment has ever been removed from office.
Current Event September 13, 2019
Congress recently held a hearing to consider how technology companies might be endangering the news industry and threatening democracy. Some newspaper publishers argue that online platforms like Google and Facebook unfairly threaten their existence and are controlling public access to information. Some technology executives say this is not the case, suggesting that the news media are not keeping up with innovative competition. In order to resolve this issue, lawmakers have proposed a bill with bipartisan support. Listen to learn more and then debate: Are online platforms threatening democracy?
Current Event August 19, 2019
Boris Johnson was recently elected the new prime minister of the United Kingdom. His first challenge will be to withdraw Britain from the European Union, which is required under a referendum voted by a slim majority of citizens in 2016. This is a difficult and controversial issue, commonly referred to as “Brexit.” Johnson is a distinctive and divisive figure. Some British citizens like and believe in him, while others find him unlikable, incompetent, and even dangerous. Listen to learn more about this new British leader and what he promises to do as prime minister.
Current Event August 13, 2019
Retired Supreme Court Justice Paul Stevens recently died at the age of 99. Appointed in 1975, he served on the Supreme Court for decades. He authored numerous important majority opinions for the court and helped to decide many significant cases, even through difficult times and political changes. Listen to learn more about the judicial legacy of Supreme Court Justice Stevens.
Current Event May 15, 2019
A fourth-grader in Texas had an idea to help kids put down their digital devices and have some fun outdoors. She partnered with a state representative to write a bill that would make state parks free to fifth-graders and their families. Listen to find out more about the case the student made to state legislators and next steps in making her idea a reality.