Appendix C

Appendix C

Appendix C

Communication Channel Examples

Table of Contents

Local News Outlets

Local news outlets clearly vary across states and communities but can include:

  • Radio stations
  • TV news
  • Print newspapers
  • Blogs
  • State-specific nonprofits
  • Hyperlocal online outlets

See Appendix B for a sample breakdown of the local media landscapes in California, Ohio, and  Mississippi. 

Public, Private, and Community Organizations

Civic engagement through public, private, and community organizations is very effective in reaching voters, especially those in smaller or rural communities:

  • Disseminating news via churches
  • Civic education programs in high schools
  • University and college registry and voting campaigns
  • Information drives through local organizations
  • Utilizing public notice boards and bulletins 
  • Town halls

Again, Appendix B includes full sample lists of civic organizations, schools and universities, and more in a collection of states. 

One national model worth pointing out is the Harvard Votes Challenge (HVC), a partnership started in 2018 between student organizers and faculty that aims for college voter turnout to reach 100 percent. By enlisting student groups across the university as varied as the Association for Black Harvard Women to the Fleur-de-Lis Club to the Harvard Veterans Alumni Organizations, the challenge has campus organizations pledging to register and turn out all of their eligible members. So far, 50 groups have signed on to the pledge, committing to organize town halls to discuss turnout in local elections, utilizing Big/Little relationships in sororities, fraternities, and peer mentoring programs to help fellow students request vote-by-mail ballots, and hosting fun voting-themed events on campus. HVC says it is also looking to involve high schools in the Boston area and other institutions for higher education nationwide.

Meanwhile, civics education programs in high schools are not new. Their efficacy, however, has been questioned. Since 1985, Texas has required its nearly 3,000 high schools to provide voter-registration cards to eligible students twice a year. But as of 2019, the Texas Civil Rights Project found that only 34 percent of the 232 counties with public high schools were complying. A new pilot program this year in North Carolina’s Guilford County Schools could offer a revamp for schools and districts nationwide: civics education field trips, which included class discussion and instruction on the voting process, and escorted students to the local polling place for early voting before the Super Tuesday primary.

Digital Initiatives

A digital communication strategy includes a wide swathe of options for primarily targeting urban and suburban residents.

  • Social media (shareable posts and graphics and use of official government media accounts)
  • Search engine optimization
  • Online news outlets and national television stations
  • Email newsletters or listservs 
  • Potential influencer partnerships with celebrities and athletes

At a meeting on Aug. 21, 2020, Maggie Toulouse Oliver, the New Mexico secretary of state and National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) president, acknowledged that state budgets for addressing election communications are limited. Amid campaigns, parties, foreign actors, and advocacy groups, all releasing information about where, when, and how to vote, the “challenge is to cut through all of this clutter to encourage voters to go directly to local election officials,” she said. NASS launched a Trusted Info 2020 campaign last year that urges people to visit and view local and state election officials’ websites and social media pages as the credible and verified sources for election information.

In recent months, nonprofits and local governments have also partnered with several influential sports teams to host polling stations in their arenas. Since the teams have high profiles nationally and across the internet, national outlets online such as ESPN, CNN, USA Today, and CBS News (as well as local news outlets such as the Los Angeles Times, ABC7, and CBS46 News Atlanta) have jumped at the opportunity to publicize the coordination and spread relevant voter information. The teams have also used their social media accounts to advertise arena/stadium polling locations to their millions of followers.

To date, these venues are all slated to become polling places: Dodger Stadium (LA Dodgers), the LA Forum (LA Clippers), Bankers Life Fieldhouse (Indiana Pacers), Fiserv Forum (Milwaukee Bucks), Capital One Arena (Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals), Fenway Park (Boston Red Sox), Heinz Field (Pittsburgh Steelers), and the Prudential Center (New Jersey Devils). As of Aug. 29, the NBA additionally committed all of its team-owned arenas as polling places; though the pledge has already been met with skepticism, which may lead to yet another communication challenge.

In collaboration with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, LeBron James’s athlete collective More Than A Vote announced a multimillion-dollar initiative on Aug. 24 to boost poll workers in Black districts. One month before, More Than A Vote partnered with the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, committing $100,000 to help restore the rights of felons in the state to vote. Both received a fair amount of coverage on social media and in the national press.

Text Messages and Other Push Alerts

While non-emergency push alerts such as election and voting updates require people to opt-in for receipt, they’re a great way to engage with civically-attuned voters who are looking to receive the most up-to-date information on their personal devices or social media pages.

  • Automatic smartphone alerts
  • Online calendar syncing
  • Facebook alerts from the verified pages of local election officials

A number of popular civic organizations offer opt-in voter information alerts: I Am A Voter dispatches election updates, local volunteer opportunities, and reminders that help users vote with confidence in upcoming elections. Vote.org sends reminders for when and what users need to vote. TurboVote, a service promoted by some local governments, sends text and email reminders about registration deadlines, upcoming elections, and where to vote. Rock the Vote reminds users of upcoming election dates and deadlines in their areas. The League of Women Voters (LWV) has opt-in smartphone text alerts operating on a state chapter basis in Alabama, Ohio, and Texas, but requires a LWV account to register.

Our research team has not encountered instances in which local governments distribute election updates via “push” alerts. With few exceptions, local jurisdictions are unwilling to deem voting information a public emergency and thereby use push emergency alerts (such as those issued during a weather emergency). But many elected officials are supportive of the concept and willing to use constituent communication tools to push out information and poll changes. 

However, many counties and cities use an information push infrastructure to distribute emergency alerts, and offer residents the option to voluntarily register for local emergency and civic alerts. Some counties and cities with opt-in election notifications include: King County Elections Department (Washington), which sends email and text notifications; Johnson County Election Office (Kansas), where residents have text VOTEKS, their address, and zip code to 74574 and receive a return message within 60 seconds that displays their polling place; and 2Vote, a GlobalMobile tech firm service used in several states, including California, Georgia, Indiana, and Pennsylvania through which users can receive information on election dates, status updates about requests to municipal offices, ballot tracking, polling place locations, and voter registration status. The two states with the most cities and counties utilizing push alerts are California and Colorado, which employ among their alert clients Civic Live and CivicReady — a mass notification system used by 4,000 local governments to issue emergency and non-emergency alerts. 

  • King County Elections Department (WA)
    • Users can sign up for email or text notifications.
  • Johnson County Election Office (KS)
    • Users can find out “Where do I vote on election day?” by texting VOTEKS, their address, and ZIP to 74574. Within 60 seconds a return message displays their polling place.
  • Maricopa County Elections Department (AZ)
    • Users can sign up for email or text notifications.
    • This requires either a voter ID, an SSN, or a driver’s license number.
  • 2Vote
    • Service of GlobalMobile tech firm used in several states, including California, Georgia, Indiana, and Pennsylvania. Depending on their location, users can receive information on election dates, the status of requests to the 2Vote office, ballot tracking, polling place locations, and voter registration status.
    • To sign up, users text a keyword, which varies based on location, to 2VOTE (928683).
    • Areas utilizing this service include:

The two states with the most cities and counties utilizing push alerts are California and Colorado. The notification systems used include:

  • Civic Live
    • Allows government agencies to inform and engage with citizens for a variety of non-emergency purposes. 
  • Everbridge Mass Notification with Incident Communications
    • Emergency communications.
  • Regroup Mass Notification
    • Standard mass notification system. Regroup also offers automated alerts from the Integrated Public Alert & Warning System (IPAWS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather System (NWS), ShakeAlert early earthquake warnings, and more.
  • CivicPlus – CivicReady
    • Mass notification solution used by 4,000 local governments to issue emergency and non-emergency alerts.
  • Rave Mobile Safety
    • For state and local authorities: Provides an IPAWS-compatible mass emergency notification system for the government that fills the gaps in the federal system.
    • The Integrated Public Alert & Warning System (IPAWS) is a national system for local alerting that provides authenticated emergency alert and life-saving information messaging to the public through mobile phones using Wireless Emergency Alerts, and to radio and TV via the Emergency Alert System.

Based on their existing use of opt-in push information infrastructure, the following areas have great potential for creating voter information alerts with relative ease:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Civic Live
    • Sierra Madre, CA
  • TylerTech MyCivic
    • Newport Beach, CA
    • Aliso Viejo, CA
  • Everbridge Mass Notification with Incident Communications
    • Torrance, CA
    • Ventura County, CA 
    • Tulare County, CA
    • Inglewood, CA
    • Glendale CA 
  • Regroup Mass Notification
    • San Francisco County, CA
  • Civic Live
    • La Plata County, CO
    • Aurora, CO
  • Everbridge Mass Notification with Incident Communications
    • Garfield County, CO
    • Douglas County, CO
  • Rave Mobile Safety
    • San Juan County, CO

*NOTE:  The process for subscribing to these alerts varies across platforms; typically it is much easier to register for NGO alert services. Some local government services require information such as voter ID or driver’s license numbers.

Paid or Free Advertising

Paid or in-kind promotion is another obvious way to advertise reliable and up-to-date voting information to specific target demographics. 

  • Paid advertisements on social media where political promotion is permitted
  • Paid media advertisements
  • Public notices
  • Corporate partnerships
  • Google advertisements
  • Billboards

In late January, a prominent group of businesses joined together to create the Civic Alliance, a nonpartisan coalition focused on increasing voter turnout, civic volunteerism, and taking action ahead of the 2020 elections and Census. Founded in partnership with Democracy Works and philanthropic entity the CAA Foundation, the Civic Alliance now has 144 members companies, including Airbnb, Amazon, AMC Theatres, the Atlanta Hawks, BET, Blue Apron, Capital One, care.com, Comedy Central, Etsy, Gap, Inc., GitHub, H&M, Instagram, Lyft, Microsoft, MTV, MLB, Patagonia, PayPal, Reddit, Spotify, Starbucks, Target, Twitter, Uber, and Verizon Media. 

Social media companies are likewise spearheading initiatives to inform their users about voting — though, again, much of it is registration-focused. Facebook has its Voting Information Center, a “one-stop shop for information on how to register and vote” with a proclaimed goal of registering four million new voters. Snapchat’s new Voter Registration Mini allows users to learn about their different voting options and register to vote directly inside the platform. Google Search features will direct people to verified, “one box” information at the top of the page based on their internet protocol location when they search “how to vote” or “how to register.” Twitter is developing similar plans.

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For media and other inquiries

Contact Tiffany Shackelford at tshackel@usc.edu