Harbor Health Services’ Voter Engagement Plan

This blog post is part of a series sharing voter registration and civic engagement tips and ideas from health center advocates. If your health center is offering voter registration and you would like to write a guest blog post, email your post to CHCVote@nachc.org.

Guest blog post by Kathryn M. Audette, MSW, Senior Policy Analyst at Harbor Health Services, Inc., located in Mattapan, MA. Kate shares the strategic plan she developed this year for her health center’s voter engagement activities.

Harbor Health Services’ Voter Engagement Plan

Harbor Health Services, Inc. is a nonprofit community health agency consisting of federally qualified health centers, a Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), a Woman Infant and Children Program (WIC) and other community services. We are located in Boston, Massachusetts and in south east Massachusetts on Cape Cod.

Photo © Kelly Creedon, www.kellycreedon.com

Starting in August, Harbor Health Services, Inc. launched its largest civic engagement strategy to date. The strategy focuses on: 1. Board and staff, 2. Patients, 3. Community

The goals of Harbor’s civic engagement strategy are to have 100% of eligible board members and staff registered to vote. To date we have 100% of the board registered. For the staff we have secured voter pledge cards from NACHC that were distributed starting in July. These cards will help us quantify the number of our over 500 staff that pledge to vote in 2012. We are also registering eligible staff to vote and helping staff update registrations where appropriate.

For patients and the community our goal is to register a minimum of 100 people per location, or 500 people Harbor-wide. To do this, we have made registration materials available at all of our locations and have voter registration drives regularly, in addition to having a presence at community events and meetings where we also do voter registration.

Our PACE program also known as Harbor’s Elder Service Plan (ESP), kicked off their voter engagement efforts during their Flag Day celebration in June. The focus at ESP is reducing barriers for frail elders to vote. In addition to providing and coordinating transportation for the seniors to vote on Election Day, this effort also includes helping participants with mobility issues to access absentee ballots.

We received a $1,000 mini grant from MassVote, a local non-partisan voter registration

Photo © Kelly Creedon, www.kellycreedon.com

partner, to support our efforts. This money has been spent on clip boards, pens, materials for signage for voter registration and postage to mail registrations. We are in the process of designing banners, table cloths and permanent voter registration stations for each of our health centers. In addition we have received technical assistance from MassVote and access to the Voter Action Network, or VAN. We are currently applying for a second small grant from MassVote to further support our initiative.

As the election draws closer we will create small pocket voting guides in various languages for our patients. The guides will include reminders of the date to vote, time polls are open, how to find a polling location, how to locate a ride to the polls and nonpartisan information about the statewide ballot questions.

In 2010 Harbor took a position on ballot questions; this year we will not. Instead we will work to educate our staff, board and patients about the three ballot questions. An internal document explaining the questions about – automobile repairs, life ending medications for the terminally ill and medical marijuana have been distributed to our entire staff and meetings to discuss the questions are ongoing.

Photo © Kelly Creedon, www.kellycreedon.com

Ready, Set, Register is our Harbor-wide competition that started in August and runs through October 17th (Massachusetts’ deadline to register to vote). The Harbor location with the most points will win a free catered lunch party at the health center on Election Day. Lunch will be provided using the grant funds. Points are earned when staff complete a pledge card and when a voter is registered or an absentee ballot request is completed. As part of the competition all of Harbor’s locations will simultaneously hold voter registration drives on National Voter Registration Day on September 25th.

To help coordinate all of these efforts, we created a calendar of events for our civic engagement campaign, it is updated regularly and available to our staff as well as our state and national partners so that they can join us for events or offer volunteers.

In the weeks leading up to the election we will start our GOTV (Get out the vote) efforts that will include using our new patient portal as part of our electronic medical records to email our patients and remind them of the date of election, where their polling location is and other important information.

Harbor Health Services, Inc. owns and operates the first community health center in the nation, the Geiger Gibson Community Health Center (formally Colombia Point Health Center) and since the start of the health center movement has been committed to serving underserved populations and giving a voice to underrepresented communities. We believe that our latest civic engagement campaign is an extension of that tradition and commitment.

— Kathryn M. Audette, MSW

Learn more about Kate’s voter engagement plan by listening to the Community Health Vote webinar she participated on: “Non-Partisan Voter Registration at Your Health Center: The Basics”

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