Voters are hungry for updated information from election agencies like never before.
There’s a strong need for state and county elections offices to directly communicate time-sensitive changes to voters in the upcoming 2020 elections.
Running a fair election is challenging in the best of circumstances, but even more so during a pandemic.
The risk of the public not getting accurate voting information is high. Due to last-minute changes — changing polling place locations, deadlines, and processes — people may get voting information that is incorrect or outdated. Intentional misinformation may also be prevalent.
To counteract this, state and county elections officers should look at rapid response communications tools like text messaging to directly communicate with voters.
COVID-19 already disrupted elections in the spring, when many states had to shut down polling locations at the last minute due to health department orders. Other states faced long lines at polling places.
For the general election, we’re seeing many states that are still finalizing their absentee/vote by mail deadlines, witness requirements, and processes.
Furthermore, many voters will need to re-register to vote because they have moved — due to job loss, moving back home to parents, or quarantining in safer locations. States and counties need to do outreach to remind people to re-register to vote — otherwise people will not be able to vote if their ballot gets sent to their old address, or they show up at a polling place that they are not associated with.
State and county election officials are the ultimate source of truth. Voters trust and want to hear from their election offices the latest information on how to vote.
In our work with voters at CommunityConnect Labs, we have found text messaging to be extremely effective to educate, motivate, and activate people to take civic action. In one state, it increased participation by 26 percent. The participation increase was evident especially in hard-to-reach communities where civic participation has traditionally lagged.
State and county elections officials, who have CARES Act funding, need to plan direct communications strategies for how they will quickly — and effectively — inform voters about any changes to voting.
Perla Ni is the CEO of CommunityConnect Labs, whose election solution — ElectionOutreach (www.electionoutreach.org) — enables governments and nonprofits to directly communicate with voters.