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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

ACC Elections Policy Center Informing Voters

When it comes to municipal elections, only a fraction of voters in Brazoria County turnout to cast their ballots.

Hoping to increase voter participation as well as inform them about what’s on the ballot, Alvin Community College faculty and staff members created the Election and Policy Center with a $1,000 Innovative Initiative Grant from the ACC Foundation.

“Only 7 percent of registered voters in Brazoria County came to the polls during the May elections,” Communications Coordinator John Tompkins said. “That means out of every 100 voters, only seven decided who would be on city councils, the school boards or other government entities.”

The Innovative Initiative Grants are designed to encourage, facilitate, recognize and reward innovative and creative approaches to fulfill the mission of Alvin Community College. The grants will be used for the 2014-15 academic year. The Foundation began issuing the grants in 2012.

The Elections and Policy Center will use the Innovative Initiative Grant for printing costs for a voter guide that will be distributed throughout Brazoria County. The guides will include information about all of the candidates in the May and November elections including their hometown, public service experience as well as the position’s term length and pay.

“In addition, they will find out the goals of the candidates who are running," Government instructor Elizabeth McLane said. "Voters also can learn about local offices and what their functions are.”

The grant will also fund two stipends for students who will compile the candidate questionnaires for the voting guide.

Alongside the candidate information, students from ACC Government courses will also submit research papers on elections and public policies that will be published in the guides.

“Having students participate with the publication gives them valuable experience with local officials and education about the formation of public policies whether it’s a tax investment zone proposal or a city charter amendment,” Tompkins said.

Non-partisan voting guides are often available with information on state and national elections. Providing a local election guide will hopefully spur voter interest in their city, county and school board races, Tompkins said.

“Our local governments provide many services to constituents,” he said. “And it’s important for those constituents to know as much as they can about the candidates in their local races.”

In addition to the guides, the Election and Policy Center will help sponsor public events that will include candidate forums and guest speakers.

For more information about the center, please call 281-756-3551 or e-mail jtompkins@alvincollege.edu.

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