For midterms, America Amplified will use community engagement to answer questions about voting

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America Amplified

A map of stations participating in America Amplified's Midterm Election Information Project. Yellow pins mark 10 stations that were added for this project.

A new project from America Amplified seeks to give people the tools and information they need to vote.

The Midterm Election Information Project is working with 29 public media stations in 25 different states to answer questions about the process of voting for their audiences and communities. 

Ten stations have joined the original cohort of 19 that started with America Amplified last year.  Each new public media organization received $10,000 per station or, in cases where multiple stations work together, per collaborative.  

The midterm election project is “very much about the mechanics of voting,” Alisa Barba, managing editor of America Amplified, told Current. “It’s not about issues, it’s not about candidates, it’s not a voter guide. It’s basically, do you know where to vote? Do you know how to vote? Do you know what you need to bring to the polling station? What are the deadlines for absentee ballots? How have rules and regulations changed since 2020?”

CPB provided $375,000 in new funding to the community engagement initiative, increasing its total investment in the latest iteration of America Amplified to more than $1.35 million since 2021. The initiative has worked with public media journalism collaboratives and individual stations to develop and implement community engagement strategies since receiving its first grant in 2019. 

Barba began talking with CPB in the spring “about wanting to be more ambitious around the midterm elections,” she said. “What can we do in public media to really engage with our communities and … our audiences to support democracy, essentially, and make sure that … our audiences and our communities, which can be different, have the information they need to participate in the midterm elections?”

CPB CEO Pat Harrison announced CPB’s support for the midterm election project in May. She said in a press release that public media “is ideally situated to engage all citizens, and America Amplified’s listening-first approach will help build trust in the process.”

To find out what their communities and audience members want to know about the voting process in their areas, stations will use Hearken to gather questions online. The initiative is also supplying the stations with a texting line that they can use to collect questions.

Barba is also working with the stations to think about new ways to seek out questions. 

“Of course, you post it online, you put it on Facebook and Twitter and social media, but you also print out 100 postcards with a QR code that you bring to events, and maybe bring up a bunch of fliers and put them in grocery stores and community hubs,” she said. “You work with partners, nonprofit partners in your community to get it out there.”

Stations will answer the questions that come in an FAQ format and distribute the information widely in their communities. 

America Amplified has also hired a data resources firm to create a central database of voter information from all 25 states. Stations that aren’t participating in the midterm project will be able to access information in the database, Barba said.  

The project is a “mindful attempt to …  show that public media can be a trusted source of the information you need to participate in the elections, and also to show and demonstrate that the elections are secure and that you should vote,” she said. 

Barba considers the midterm project a “pilot” and hopes to expand it to all 50 states in the lead up to the 2024 election. 

In addition to the voter information project, America Amplified stations are working on a series called “Democracy from the Ground Up” that profiles local community members who are “good people doing stuff to make our communities better and to build democracy,” Barba said. 

The profiles will air next fall on 1A and America Amplified stations will be able to run them as a series. Barba sees “Democracy from the Ground Up” as a way “to counter all the negative news and the kind of scary stuff that we’re all hearing.”

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