Division A - Public Relations Programs
Category 2 - Public Service
COUNT ME IN! A Community Outreach Program for Minority Populations
Vicki Davis, Kherri Anderson, Martin County Supervisor of Elections Office

Judges' Award

Research/Situation Analysis: Based on county and Elections Office statistical information, voter registration and Election Day turnout is historically low among minorities in Martin County (African-Americans, Hispanics, Latinos and persons with disabilities). Primary and secondary research was performed by staff in January 2006. Data was generated from county demographics and Elections Office voter software. Additionally, through partnerships with the local NAACP chapter, the Latin Chamber of Commerce and organizations that provide services to disabled citizens, focus groups were conducted to identify voter obstacles and needs. Not wanting to disenfranchise eligible voters, the Supervisor of Elections initiated a voter registration outreach program for minority populations.

Objectives: In order to boost minority voter registration and Election Day turnout, four objectives were created: (1) To increase minority voter registration by a minimum of 10% based on comparisons of the 2002 and 2006 Governor’s election; (2) To increase minority outreach activities by 50% as compared to the previous year (10 events); (3) Establish/increase relations with local minority organizations (baseline is zero as this is a first-year effort) (4) Implement the program and remain within a budget of $4,000.

Implementation: Phase one of the voter registration outreach program was to assemble civic leaders and administrative staff of local minority organizations in order to develop program strategies and gain support. Churches and community events were selected for voter registration drives and voting machine demonstrations. Radio broadcasts were recorded by local prominent African-American leaders. Additionally, in an effort to engage visually and hearing impaired residents, staff developed voter drives that included Braille sample ballots and specially equipped voting machine demonstrations. Clients from agencies that included Helping People Succeed, 20/200 Fellowship, Association for the Rights of the Challenged and Deaf & Hard of Hearing Services of the Treasure Coast were thrilled to receive this first-time advocacy. Four thousand newsletters were distributed to targeted businesses, agencies and individuals; three thousand voter guides were distributed; the outreach coordinator participated in 26 community events demonstrating voting machines and registering voters.
The second phase of the program focused on meeting the needs of our Spanish-speaking voters. At this time, our county is not required to provide bilingual voter materials; however, the Supervisor of Elections was concerned about the lack of Hispanic/Latino voter turnout. Taking a pro-active approach, staff met with the local Latin Chamber of Commerce and participated in a state-wide bilingual task force. As a result, voter materials are now available in Spanish; voter drives have been held in Hispanic/Latino neighborhoods, radio broadcasts were created in Spanish prior to the 2006 Elections and participation in a recent Latin Chamber Expo generated much interest and raised awareness among this minority group. Additionally, the Supervisor of Elections Office website is in the process of being translated into Spanish.

Evaluation: The outreach program achieved each of its objectives. Comparing minority voter registration for the 2002 and 2006 Governor’s election, there was a 17% increase. Using the same demographics and election races, voter turnout also increased by 5%. Participation in outreach activities exceeded the 50% goal with 26 outreach events. Staff registered 38 new voters with special needs, including a blind woman that did not realize she could cast her vote independently in spite of her disability. Representatives from the NAACP, Latin Chamber of Commerce and Deaf & Hard of Hearing Services of the Treasure Coast, and Coalition for Independent Living Options are active members of the Supervisor of Elections Community Advisory Committee. Partnerships and outreach activities continue to expand throughout Martin County, creating “unity in our community.”

Budget: The program successfully remained below the budget. Cost for creating radio broadcasts & airtime ($1,000), Newsletter Printing ($900), Printing for voter guides, posters, flyers ($600), Postage ($390), Latin Expo fee ($125), website translation (internal/staff). Total cost = $3,015