When We Look Back at this Moment, We’ll Remember How Local Collaboration Won the Day
By Brian Carr, Director of Marketing and Communications, Midtown Alliance
While there’s no guarantee we’ll know the results immediately from one of the most pivotal presidential races in memory, it’s important to reflect on the history being made in Atlanta and across the state with regard to voter registration and turnout. New ventures between private institutions and government to get out the vote have inspired us this fall. On the topic of public-private partnerships – the bonds that have catalyzed many of Atlanta’s greatest achievements over decades – three things truly stand out about how we’ll remember the run-up to this 2020 election, and what’s possible in the future:
Local institutions created a new definition for what a polling place can be.
Among the 30 designated early voting sites in Fulton County, several nontraditional venues and institutions created a new role for themselves in civic engagement by opening their doors to voters. Early voting last month at the High Museum of Art offered voters the unique opportunity to cast their ballot in its Anne Cox Chambers Wing. Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion, the Georgia International Convention Center in College Park and State Farm Arena downtown, among other venues, also opened their facilities to Fulton County early voters. These solutions were borne out of necessity after the challenges voters experienced in the June elections, when many traditional polling sites in the city were shut down or moved due to the pandemic.
Photo credits: @respectfullyro, @mrsnancyetheredge, @timothykeysatl, @djtrauma
Atlanta’s startup ecosystem stepped up to solve problems.
Following the widely documented shortage of poll workers, a volunteer role often served by senior citizens who are also the most vulnerable to COVID-19, recent Georgia State University grad Evan Malbrough created the Georgia Youth Poll Worker Project. Word spread quickly among his peers to get involved: in just four months, the effort has attracted more than 800 volunteers to work the polls on Election Day, vaulting this grassroots startup effort into the national spotlight. The Metro Atlanta Chamber and many other organizations also assisted with poll worker recruitment on a massive scale. In all for the November 3rd election, 7,000 volunteer applications were submitted in Fulton County for 2,900 poll worker slots.
Companies re-examined what Election Day means for their employees.
Many local employers are offering options for the first time for workers to formally take time off to vote. Across the state, some 60 employers across a variety of industries signed on with Time to Vote, a nonpartisan cause that promotes early voting access, paid time off to vote on Election Day, and other strategies. Atlanta area participants in Time to Vote range from large employers such as The Coca-Cola Company, Interface and Jamestown to tech companies including Parkmobile and CallRail, all the way to local chocolate maker Xocolatl, among many others. Like many other discoveries during the pandemic about when and where work can be performed, this movement validates the idea that employers can adapt their operations to make room for daytime commitments including voting.
These actions demonstrate the very best of what Atlanta can be – a city with a long history of creative, accessible ideas that galvanize the private sector and the public sector to meet new challenges. If Atlanta’s leaders and institutions can rise to the occasion in support of the democratic process, imagine what we can achieve together tomorrow to improve our city for everyone.