In an effort to increase political voting participation, a local group of people banded together this summer to form the non-partisan Gulfport Votes 100% initiative.
They also wanted to have fun “while building voting muscles in people that maybe haven’t been as engaged before,” said Ingrid Brendenberg, the group’s organizer.
Recently, the group participated in GeckoFest to publicize their goal of increasing voter turnout.
“Having non-partisan, uplifting and positive conversations about voting is such a fun thing to do. It’s easy for people to say, ‘Yeah, I can do that,’” she said. “I meet my Gulfport neighbors in doing this, so it’s been very rewarding.”
The group “has done a good job of promoting awareness of the initiative, procuring funding and organizing volunteers,” said Gulfport Councilmember Paul Ray. “I was honored to be able to assist in getting volunteers and [the free transportation service] GetGo to provide rides to and from the polls as well as helping in the promotion.”
(For more information about GetGo rides, call 727-542-7757 or visit facebook.com/GulfportGetGO.)
The most important aspect of this community-based effort is that “it is non-partisan,” said Ray. “I find that most important in the current day of hyper-partisanship.”
How does the Gulfport Votes 100% objectively measure their efforts?
“Let’s shoot for 100 percent or ambitiously double” the previous voter turnout, said Brendenberg. “Success looks like more participation. Most people want to better their best. The proof will be on election day when we get the actual tally in terms of moving the dial on participation.”
And, replication in Gulfport and other communities also shows progress.
One of the “big picture” goals of the group is to create a template that others can follow by building on what the non-partisan League of Women Voters is already doing with their effort to register people to vote, she said.
“Our goal became an added value – register and vote,” said Brendenberg.
As part of the group’s effort to get people involved, they are handing out commitment bracelets that make the voting process “special and fun. It’s just a playful thing,” said Brendenberg. “Anyone from Gulfport who committed to vote and voted should have one.”
The color of cord purchased to make the bracelets is named Gecko Green. “I mean, how could we not make them out of that color!” said Brendenberg.
To locate your precinct by your street address or to view a list of all 712 in Pinellas County by city, click here.
To view local voter turnout statistics by precinct from 2004 to present, click here.
Party at the Polls
On Tuesday, November 6, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., the group is sponsoring a “Party at the Polls at the Port,” which is a new bar that is part of the Artisan Art & Food Collective located at 2832 Beach Blvd.
The non-partisan event includes a free beverage for each visitor wearing an “I Voted” sticker or Gulfport Votes 100% green bracelet along with live dancing music by the Urban Gypsies of Florida.
“Captain Vote and Tanya Turnout will also lead a sing-along,” said Brendenberg. “We’re going to be doing some fun things and sharing neighborly camaraderie.”
“This is very much an ad hoc, small-but-mighty team of fun and smart people with a shared vision who have stepped up,” said Brendenberg. “It will disappear after November 6 in its current form.” However, “this is an evergreen kind of project so I think it would be worth doing again next spring for the city elections. Anybody can pick it up in the future and make it happen. I’m willing to be the chief cook and bottle washer, cheerleader or even organizer.”
This “is not a once and done effort,” said Ray. “This is setting the stage for a continuing effort of educating and promoting to get out the vote that will be moving forward to the 2020 elections and beyond.”