Community Voter Advocates (Refined): Build on existing social ties to increase election access.
(Update of Community Clerks) Underserved communities already have people who know and work with them, and have developed personal relationships. We should train these people to do voter registration, outreach, and education.
Just as important in the process of voting as when and where, is who.
Underserved communities already have people that work with them. This would include health workers, teachers, social workers, religious leaders, shopkeepers, or anyone else that is a regular presence for people. These individuals should be trained as Community Voter Advocates, who would also be able to provide election outreach to those unique individuals and communities they already serve.
Community Voter Advocates would already be very well equipped to work with underserved communities, because they already are doing so. We would be recruiting people who already know the unique needs of these communities to simply provide support specific to an election. Most importantly, these Advocates are people who are already trusted in those communities.
The Community Voter Advocates would be trained by election officials so that they are fully informed about the process. Most likely, the training could take the form of a several hour workshop. Training for the Advocates focuses on accessibility and all of the rights of voters, and is be more involved than poll workers. Staffers for the election would also provide additional support to the Advocates in the form of phone, email, or social network access. The Advocates themselves can meet and form a peer community of their own to share ideas.
Most of the direct role of the Advocate will be to answer questions, provide information related to access, and provide official forms. The Advocates would be lowering the barriers to registration and voting.
All through the process, these Advocates, who are already trusted individuals with underserved groups, would be able to answer questions and provide support in individualized ways for people. For people who have not been included in the election process, the Community Clerk would be a trusted individual, unlike someone else, who may be viewed suspiciously.
Some scenarios of Community Voter Advocates in action with the Personas for Concepts.
Tasha's "reader", who is also an Advocate, provides her with all the forms to register to vote, answers her questions, and tells her what to ask for at the polling place.
An employee of the daycare center where Angela takes her daughter tells her all about absentee voting, gives her the paperwork, and watches her daughter while Angela completes the paperwork. A week before the election date, the Advocate follows up, asking if she has received her ballot, and if she has any questions.
Tyler's dorm RA, a Voter Advocate, keeps him informed about the accessibility options at the campus polling place.
After noticing one of the lay leaders in his local church wearing a pin that says "I'm your Voting Advocate" in his native Mandarin, Minjun mentions how he is excited to participate in his first US election, but is worried about the process and being able to read the ballot. The lay leader lets him know that it is his constitutional right to materials in their native language, and that the precinct will have voting machines especially for those with vision disabilities.
How will this concept improve election accessibility for everyone?
This idea will build on the existing social fabric of every community. It will utilize that unique experience of people who are already working with these underserved communities. These relationships that are already built on trust and individual sensitivity will be used to also increase awareness and participation in an election.
How well does this concept adapt to the changing needs of different voter communities?
This idea would allow individuals who are already aware of the shifting needs of communities that they serve to also adapt election access. Because the heart of this concept is the personal relationships that people already have, as long as those relationships exist, then shifts in the needs of the voter community that the Community Voter Advocates serve would be addressed organically.
What kinds of resources – whether time, money, people, partnerships, technology or otherwise – will be needed to get this concept off the ground?
The biggest resource need would be to train the Community Voter Advocates, and develop resources specifically for them. These costs should be minimal. Additionally, these costs could be offset through grants from get-out-the-vote groups, whose aims dovetail with this concept.
Idea submitted by: Darren McNally
February 27, 2012,
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