You’ve completed steps 1 through 5. Now it’s time to start the conversation with your local election officials.
The elections office that has authority in your jurisdiction will be the decision maker on whether your campus can host a voting site. Let’s check and make sure you are fully prepared for your conversation with them.
Contact your county/city clerk, board of elections, or local elections officials:
- Initiate these conversations as soon as possible after completing the first five steps; many elections administrators start determining voting locations and budgets anywhere from a few months to a year in advance of Election Day. If you’re past this window of time, still try and initiate contact! If you don’t make the cut for the current election, you can at least plant the seed for the next ones.
- Double-check: Does anyone on your campus already have an established relationship with your local elections official, such as a government affairs or civic engagement office? If so, ask them to facilitate an introduction.
- Sometimes it’s not clear based on the website what the best email is to initiate your outreach; don’t be afraid to call the office or stop by in-person and find out who you should be directing your initial inquiry to!
The meeting date is set, so think through what you need to prepare and bring with you to the appointment:
Determine your mission.
What’s your mission/purpose in asking for this on-campus voting site? Make sure you describe how this will benefit students and the broader community.
- Make a case. What are the burdens of the current voting site and how can a move to your campus or new voting site help them and poll workers serve voters? What are the benefits of a new site or move to your campus?
- Connect to their goals. Look up the election official’s mission statement and connect how your missions overlap.
Who on campus is supportive of these efforts?
- Bring evidence of support from across your campus - resolutions from student government, campus petitions, letters from administration and senior officials, etc.
- Bring a campus administrator or professor with you to the meeting - especially if you’ll have graduated by the time the election happens. This helps elections officials understand there’s an institutional commitment behind your request
- Seek support from off-campus community leaders that could help your cause! Elected officials, non-partisan community organizations, and nearby neighborhood associations could be strong allies
Do you have data?
Come prepared with the following info:
- Number of enrolled students, depending on the TYPE of voting site you’re requesting, you may want to note staff and faculty in those figures too. If they live in the same jurisdiction, they would benefit from an early voting site, drop box, or vote center too!
- Number of current registered student voters at your campus
- The proportion of student voters using voting sites near campus
- The distance and methods of travel available to students to reach existing voting sites. For example, a mile walk from campus to a voting site does not sound too bad, unless it is a mile walk along a 4-lane highway with no sidewalk.
- Any qualitative data you have about students who’ve had challenges voting at the current voting locations. Has there been any previous press coverage of voting issues for students in your area or at these voting sites
- Your campus’s NSLVE report (See details in Step 2)
Make sure you bring any information you have about your suggested location
- Pictures. Bring pictures of the locations (if possible) and a map of campus.
- Accessibility. Address how you will work to make the facility accessible to voters from outside the campus community (if applicable)
- Offer a Walk-through. Be prepared to offer the elections staff a walk-through of the space after your meeting, pulling together student leaders, administrators, and staff from facilities, IT, marketing/comms, campus safety/parking, etc. This not only helps them visualize the space and work out necessary logistics, but it also demonstrates that the campus is supportive of this movement.
- Precinct Lines. Work with election officials to find out if redrawing precincts will be needed. If you are asking to adjust or create a precinct, there are additional points you need to discuss with your local elections office and a longer timeline should be expected.
What questions might they be thinking of when you introduce your suggested location(s)?
Try to come prepared with a rough sense of the following:
- Will the boundaries of existing precincts need to be redrawn?
- What’s the approval process for establishing a new voting site and/or redrawing existing precincts? (Some jurisdictions require final approval from a board of commissioners while some let the decision rest solely with the elections official.) If you’re unsure, this is a question you can bring with you to your meeting.
- Are you pulling resources from another voting location? Who does that impact? Is that what’s best for your community?
Any other data that helps your specific case!
- At UT-Austin, student leaders were asking for a second campus polling place to alleviate long lines. They used turnout data and UT-Austin enrollment numbers to show that statistically UT should have 11 polling places and so the ask of only a second polling location was a necessary and realistic compromise.
What questions do you have?
Don’t worry about having it ALL figured out for your first meeting with your elections official. The main point is to show them that this is a significant need on your campus, that it will best serve voters, and that the campus is supportive of these efforts. Think through any questions you may have for them and jot those down.
Besides the specific, logistical questions think of general questions too such as:
- How can we help support each other’s goals with this voting site?
- What questions should I be asking that I haven’t asked yet?
- What are our next steps?
- How else can our campus support election work and civic engagement?
Bring a packet to your meeting. It isn’t a necessity, but it sure helps make your pitch more official!
- Mission overview
- Examples of support (letters, petitions, SGA resolutions, etc.)
- Pertinent data
- NSLVE report
- Campus map with highlights of potential locations
- Contact info for yourself and anyone else leading these efforts
It’s meeting time!
You’re ready. You’ve prepped for this. You’ve got it! Remember not only are you meeting for a specific outcome (get that campus voting site) but you’re also building a lasting, working, positive relationship with your local elections official. Establishing this partnership is mutually beneficial because you’ll have a direct line of communication for when voting related questions or concerns pop up, and they’ll have responsive, supportive campus contacts. While you’re obviously doing all this work to secure a voting site for your campus, keep in mind that you want to also show your elections official that you’re interested in election issues beyond just voting sites. You can attend local election office public meetings to learn more, stay engaged, and demonstrate your commitment.