[Image courtesy of skywayballpark]
One thing I love about following election administration as closely as I do is discovering new ideas around the country that make me literally say “wow.” My latest “wow” comes from Hillsborough County, FL (Tampa), which has set up an “Adopt-a-Precinct” program. ABCActionNews has more (including a video):
On Election Day you may have noticed candidate signs all over town, but it’s the people behind the scenes that are also making an impact.
By law, Florida poll workers have to be paid.
That’s when Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer thought why not allow non-profits to work the polls, in return use the money for charity.
In 2010, he started the Adopt A Precinct program.
So far, 30 organizations have signed up.
The concept is similar to one that’s being used at sports events nationwide – volunteers staff a concession stand, and their organization gets a cut of the proceeds. In Hillsborough, the idea is already paying off for several local charities:
For the third year, Marcus Hall and other Omega Psi Phi fraternity alumni adopted a precinct Tuesday.
“When I first heard about the program I thought it was too good to be true,” said Hall.
He says each member makes about $200, which goes to fund the Epsilon Mu Mu Education Foundation. In a seven year span they have given out $23,000 in scholarships to graduating high school seniors in Tampa Bay.
“We try to promote and give money to underprivileged kids, kids who are financially distressed and cannot afford to go to college,” said Hall.
Hall says it’s their biggest fundraiser of the year allowing them to grow their charity, and promote another civic duty.
The program has other benefits as well – both to the workers themselves and the County:
“To work on the other side of the election is something every American should do,” said Hall.
Latimer says it costs $415,000 to put on an election. So tax dollars going back into the community is a win-win situation.
“We turn around and write a check to their organization. It’s a great way for them to raise money; they do it for tremendous things in the community. And we also are getting some really tech savvy and civically empowered people,” said Latimer.
Over at the County’s Adopt-a-Precinct page, Supervisor Latimer describes the program as a “win-win-win”:
We partner with nonprofits, who recruit poll workers willing to donate their poll worker wages to the nonprofit. We find that poll workers who come on board through Adopt A Precinct are typically community minded, customer service oriented people who do a great job on Election Day! It’s a triple win because we get great poll workers, our nonprofit partners enjoy a fun and relatively easy fundraiser, and everyone benefits from the work the nonprofit is doing for the community.
Details on how organizations can volunteer – and the requirements to do so – are available here.
This is a fantastic idea and one – assuming local law can accommodate the concept – other jurisdictions should examine. It might even be a way for organizations concerned about access for voters with disabilities and/or limited English proficiency to bring qualified and motivated poll workers out on Election Day.
Kudos to Hillsborough County and Supervisor Latimer for this program – and I look forward to seeing other communities try something similar as 2016 approaches!