Ramsey County, Minnesota helps voters and poll workers with shareable YouTube videos

This story was featured in our ELECTricity newsletter in March 2014. Sign up to receive more success stories from election offices across the country. And how is your election office using technology to run excellent elections? Tell us about it by emailing kurt@techandciviclife.org -- we'd love to share your story!

Ramsey County is home to Minnesota’s capital, St. Paul. Like its twin city, Minneapolis, St. Paul is home to an elaborate skyway system that goes from building to building, allowing pedestrians to walk around downtown while avoiding bad weather. Ramsey County is the smallest and most densely populated county in Minnesota. Naturally, folks huddle to stay warm.

The Ramsey County elections office manages 127 polling places and trains an average of 1,300 election workers every year. One of the office's ongoing goals is to continue to make voting more accessible, and Ramsey County is bringing to life the recommendation of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration to better train poll workers on how to set up accessible polling places. 

The office is using communication to help improve the voter experience. Election staff members maintain a YouTube channel where they post instructional videos for voters and training videos for poll workers. They also use social media, like Facebook and Twitter, to publicize official election information.

Check out their series of videos for poll workers that cover topics from setting up the polling place to operating their ballot-marking equipment, the AutoMark.

Screenshot from Ramsey County's training video on the AutoMark machine

Screenshot from Ramsey County's training video on the AutoMark machine

Why video?

  • Produces uniform presentation of training material

  • Reduces costs of in-person training

  • Increases transparency and confidence in the voting process

Consistent curriculum

Videos help Ramsey County administer a standardized poll worker training program. Regardless of what class a poll worker attends, each worker is presented the same information.

In addition to posting videos online where poll workers and the public can access information anytime, Ramsey County uses the videos for in-person trainings. They perform the same training program online and offline, creating a consistent experience for everyone.

Ramsey County has received plenty of positive feedback on their videos. Overall the videos have been well received, replacing the method of a trainer just reciting a PowerPoint slide presentation.

Costs and savings

The Ramsey County elections office partners with its county and city communications departments to post videos to YouTube. Department managers ensure that posting YouTube videos is within the prescribed boundaries of the county's social media policy and internet use policy.

The elections department was one of the first Ramsey County departments to rely heavily on videos for training, and it also uses social media. So, consulting with management and having written policies in place helps them build buy-in and address concerns throughout the process.

The videos are recorded and produced in-house. The office staff does not have a professional background in video production, so to prepare, three staff members attended classes on how to use video editing software.

“The first year, there was a lot of trial and error," explains Elections Specialist Megan Haugen, "but once we figured out a workflow, it was a really fun challenge.”

Costs are mostly staff time with minimal costs for new software. The staff time included three full-time staff members working part time on the video project for a few months, plus the cost of hiring election judges for the filming.

But there are savings, too. Part of the staff time was already dedicated toward election judge training development. And in addition, the costs for in-person training time are reduced because they lower the number of in-person trainings conducted.

Telling the story of local election administration

Videos are easily shared with the public, which helps increase transparency of the voting process and voters’ confidence in election results. Ramsey County election administrators tell the story of their work through many media – in-person, local newspapers, videos – and pictures are another powerful platform.

Photo collage used for the Ramsey County elections Instagram account. Photo courtesy of Ramsey County election department.

Photo collage used for the Ramsey County elections Instagram account. Photo courtesy of Ramsey County election department.

To take just one example, Ramsey County uses Instagram to edit and share pictures and short videos.

If you'd like to see how election office are using Instagram, check out the New York City Board of Elections and the Collier County, Florida Supervisor of Elections. You can also find ELECTricity on Instagram.

How are you using video and pictures to meet challenges in your election office? Email us at kurt@techandciviclife.org and share your story.