Get Out the Vote – Getting Voters to the Polls

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 or civic engagement and you would like to write a guest blog post, email your post to CHCVote@nachc.org.

Guest blog post by Tara McCollum Plese and Emily Oake with the Arizona Association of Community Health Centers

Get Out the Vote – Getting Voters to the Polls

This year we had a strong partnership with Mi Familia Vota for registering voters in many of our Arizona health centers and decided we had a great opportunity to continue this effort by offering health center patients rides to the polls.

Originally we thought that offering the health centers as a pick-up and drop-off location would be a great opportunity to provide convenience to many patients who may have a difficult time getting to the polls. However, we soon realized that many people who would need rides would be those that already had a difficult time getting to their health centers. We decided to simply advertise for the rides to the polls in our health centers, giving patients the ability to call a phone number and set up a time to be picked up and dropped off at their homes.

As Phoenix and Tucson are our two largest metropolitan areas, we decided to focus on these two cities for our ride to the poll efforts.

Mi Familia Vota handled the recruitment of volunteers and scheduling the rides, while we took care of printing all the materials and providing the vehicles.

We printed up posters and fliers for all of our Phoenix and Tucson health centers with phone numbers to call to set up rides to the polls. Mi Familia Vota also did their own advertising, so of course, not everyone was a health center patient who was given a ride, but this was just another service to the community from our health centers. We set up a very reasonable contract with Enterprise Rentals for 7 passenger vans – they were almost as excited as we were to be helping people get to the polls! In addition, we had large magnets made to put on the sides of the vans saying “Rides to the Polls with” and all the participating organizations’ logos.

We had one early election day opportunity for rides to the polls in Tucson, which was not hugely successful (early voting at the polls is not very popular in Arizona), but were still able to get one voter to the polls, as well as pick up and drop off a few early voting ballots. Hey, everything helps, right?

On Election Day, we had 4 vans in Phoenix and 2 vans in Tucson available for rides to the polls. All the volunteer shifts were pretty short – about 3 to 4 hours. A few people even showed up with their own cars near the end of the day in Phoenix, as the phones started ringing off the hook from people looking for rides later in the day.

Just a few highlights of some of the people that were given rides to the polls:

• Several first times voters, including Manuel, who came from an immigrant family. His mother went with him because she was so proud that he was able to vote.

• A blind voter, who was helped through the entire process by one of the volunteers.

• A wheelchair-bound voter, who otherwise was not going to vote.

• A voter who was receiving cancer treatment, who felt too weak from the treatments to make it to the polling place on her own.

• A recent transplant from California, whose husband did not want to register to vote because he thought he would get jury duty, so she had to find her way on her own.

• One of the last rides provided for the day was from a homeless shelter in downtown Phoenix, where 7 people were waiting to be picked up.

All in all, we consider it a huge success – 83 people were given rides to the polls and an additional 14 ballots were dropped off. This was all thanks to our great partnership with Mi Familia Vota and all the volunteers that were willing to drive people to the polls.

Of course, the financial support secured with NACHC’s assistance helped too.

–Tara McCollum Plese and Emily Oake, Arizona Association of Community Health Centers

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