I. In Focus This Week
Pasco County registration program makes lemonade from lemons
Program has reached nearly half a million residents
By M. Mindy Moretti
Jury duty… two words that are probably rivaled only by Tax Day in their ability strike fear and loathing into the heart of most Americans.
But Pasco County, Florida Supervisor of Elections Brian Corely sees those two words as an opportunity. The opportunity to engage a captive audience and extoll the virtues of becoming a registered voter.
In 2010, the county began a partnership with the county clerk and comptroller to do voter outreach to the pool of potential jurors called for duty on Monday mornings.
While prospective jurors wait through the jury selection process, Corley does a brief presentation on the importance of voting and keeping your voter registration current, and explains the different voting options.
Voter registration forms are available to interested persons as well as vote-by-mail ballot request forms, Voter’s Guides, and postcards with the Elections’ Office contact information.
“Although the goal of this outreach was to make registering to vote readily available and convenient, it was launched during a period of strict budget cuts in which we sought innovative, cost effective methods of reaching large segments of the population,” Corley said.
Since the start of the program Corley estimates he’s reached almost half a million Pasco County residents.
“Through the jury pool program, we reach over 40,000 citizens of our county yearly with little to no impact on our yearly budget,” Corley said. “The program remains a mainstay of our voter outreach due the success of cost effectively reaching the over 450,000 citizens of Pasco County one captive audience at a time!”
Corley makes the trip to Circuit Court himself each Monday morning, although he does now have staff come with him to assist with registration, registration confirmation and signing up for vote-by-mail.
“Not many people actually get super excited about jury duty but they get it-the awesome responsibility and role they play in our criminal justice system and the 7th amendment,” Corley said. “I sense an occasional vibe of ‘annoyed to be there’ but most are good natured about the experience.”
Another change to the program since it began seven years ago is the addition of an e-poll book that Corley brings with him.
“Now, when voters are unsure of their voter registration, we can look in the database, and advise them of their status and if an update is needed,” Corley said. “This immediate feedback in combination with the convenience of required paperwork and the availability of time offers immediate list maintenance that isn’t dependent on the voter following through at some future date.”
Corley also gets an opportunity to talk to voters about a variety of issues and dispel some rumors about the elections process.
“You name it- I've heard it!” he said.
The inquiries range from vote-by-mail — and the myth that vote-by-mail ballots only count in a recount to early voting. Corley also loves being able to dispel the biggest myth of all about voter registration.
“What better way to dispel the myth that names for jury duty are selected from the voter registration rolls, and to reach those potential voters who didn’t register because of it.”
And for those wondering, interestingly enough Corley has not been called for jury duty himself in the entire time he’s been running this program.
(Editor's Note: Do you have a unique voter registration program? Let us know, we'd love to share it with our readers.)
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