Wise County, Virginia recruits poll workers with Facebook posts

This story was featured in our ELECTricity newsletter in September 2015. 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!

Wise County is tucked in the Appalachian Mountains of southwest Virginia, about 100 miles northeast of Knoxville, TN. It is the home of the official outdoor drama of the Commonwealth, The Trail of the Lonesome Pine, which tells the story of two feuding families coping with social and economic change in a Virginia mountain community.

Wise County’s registered voter population fluctuates between 23,000 and 24,000. The Office of General Register is staffed by one full-time Registrar, one full-time Assistant Registrar, and one part-time Assistant Registrar. Wise County has 12 precincts and 12 Election Day polling places, along with a Central Absentee Precinct (CAP) for all absentee voters.

Meeting people where they are

Allison J. Robbins is the Registrar for Wise County, and recently she’s been using Facebook as a tool to recruit poll workers. 

Allison J. Robbins sitting at her office desk. Photo courtesy of Allison J. Robbins.

Allison J. Robbins sitting at her office desk. Photo courtesy of Allison J. Robbins.

“I believe there are civic-minded citizens in our communities who are interested in serving as poll workers. Using Facebook to recruit poll workers gives election officials another tool to reach out to those citizens.”

Facebook is one of the most popular websites in the world. As of March 2015, it had over 1 billion active users. This month’s spotlight story, along with our Facebook Boosted Post step-by-step tech tutorial, outlines why and how an election office might boost posts on Facebook. 

Boosting Facebook posts

As far as online ad campaigns go, it was a simple process in Wise County. Allison created a post on Facebook and included the link to their poll worker sign-up form in the text of the post. She then boosted the post and narrowed the target audience to Wise County. 

Screenshot of Facebook ad recruiting poll workers using the iconic "I want you" Uncle Sam imagery

Screenshot of Facebook ad recruiting poll workers using the iconic "I want you" Uncle Sam imagery

The numbers

  • $40 budget

  • 2-week duration

  • Over 10,000 people reached

  • 27 online and 6 offline responses

Once the post was live, people showed interest by sharing the post, and 27 people submitted responses through the online form. After Allison and her staff received the responses, they contacted the interested citizens using the email address or phone number they provided. Staff verified their eligibility, gave them their training date, and assigned them to a precinct on Election Day. Thanks to the boosted Facebook post, Wise County was able to fill all of their poll worker vacancies in November 2014.

Next steps

Because of its ease of use, affordability, and positive results, boosting Facebook posts has significant potential for local election offices. Since last year’s ad campaign was so successful, Wise County plans to promote poll worker recruitment and other election events on Facebook throughout the year.

If you want to learn more about Wise County Registrar’s use of Facebook or their poll worker recruitment efforts, contact Allison J. Robbins at registrar@wisecounty.gov.

And you can visit the Center for Technology and Civic Life website to see more Facebook tech tutorials, including how to get started on Facebook and an example of a Facebook comment policy.

What do you think is the most effective way to recruit election workers in your jurisdiction? Has your election office developed new tools or programs that you’re really proud of? We want to hear from you. Email us at kurt@techandciviclife.org.