By Michael Diamond, co-founder
The Infection Prevention Strategy (TIPS)
Executing a flawless election is exponentially harder during a pandemic. The normal process of managing an election is compounded by the need to establish safe in-person voting, supply alternative voting channels and cover longer voting periods. With many jurisdiction personnel focused on making voting safe, it’s easy to overlook a critical element to ensuring voter turnout: communication.
Informing citizens, poll workers and volunteers what you’re doing to keep them safe is every bit as important as actually making them safe. It gives them confidence in the system. In fact, if you convince voters to participate but fail to persuade poll workers and volunteers, you will create the perfect storm for long lines, unhappy voters and negative media coverage.
As you read this, your messaging should already be going out. Even as your elections team is putting the final touches on your November plan, it’s important to engage the public about what you are doing and why, followed by concrete information in subsequent communications.
Aside from the obvious questions about sanitization, your audiences may ask:
• What should I expect at the polling place and what is expected of me?
• What procedures are being put in place to ensure safety?
• What are you doing to screen poll workers’ health, so they don’t spread illness?
• Is it safer to touch voting machines or handle paper ballots?
Poll workers and volunteers will have their own questions, which should be covered in communiques directed specifically to them.
• How are you going to protect my health?
• What is the quality of the PPE you are providing?
• How do I communicate our hygiene practices to voters?
Your public outreach should be spread across as many different channels and repeat as frequently as your budget allows. If your plans are far enough along, consider proactively arranging interviews with local media. This lets you control the message and, best of all, it’s free.
All signs points to massive voter interest in this election. Public outreach will instill confidence in voters in your efforts to ensure safe in-person voting and will help with volunteer and poll worker recruitment.