As the year comes to an end, we want to recognize the work of our many state and national partners, along with the local nonprofits who made an impact on voter turnout by registering and educating their communities.
In 2012, the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) had 175 members that conducted voter registration activities. The participating health centers were located in 34 states–from Oklahoma to Massachusetts, South Carolina, and Hawaii–representing both urban and rural locations with mixed demographics. These health centers registered or re-registered over 25,000 voters and collected an additional 10,000 voter pledges.
Although NACHC has managed their Community Health Vote program for a number of years, in 2012 they made great strides in working to develop a reservoir of best practices to help additional health centers determine what strategies might be successful at their specific sites. Health centers engaged in a variety of voter registration, education, and get-out-the-vote activities: a health center in Philadelphia distributed educational materials on voter ID, while centers in Las Vegas and North Carolina provided transportation to the polls during early voting. Some health centers established voter registration and information kiosks in waiting rooms. NACHC also maintained a national number that voters could text to find their polling place which over 1,000 individuals utilized. A provider in South Carolina helped a 108-year-old woman register and vote for the first time.
The National Voter Registration Act requires health centers that enroll patients in WIC and Medicare to ask about voter registration. Thus, many health centers already offer voter registration on an ongoing basis and have used this requirement to consider how to expand voter registration to other points of service. Rather than episodic registration drives, some are considering how to maintain voter engagement efforts year round while expanding the work during general elections.
One barrier is that there is no template for doing this work at health centers because their staffing, foot traffic, services, and populations vary so much. A half dozen health centers participated in case studies to provide ideas and guidance for others moving forward. Like other nonprofits it is often left to the individual organization to determine what will work best for their constituents and community.