Like most states, Texas would like to see an increase in the voter education and participation of its citizens. So in 2006, it enlisted Burson-Marsteller to help implement a statewide voter education project called VOTEXAS.
As part of The Help America Vote Act, which Congress passed in 2002, each voting jurisdiction received more money to improve voter education and the overall voting process by doing things like buying better voting equipment.
Russ Keene, director of Burson's public affairs practice and GM of its Austin, TX, office, says the primary goals came from Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams. Williams wanted a marketing education program aimed at all Texans that would create a new generation of informed and engaged voters, educate voters about their rights and responsibilities, and build confidence in electronic voting machines.
Burson used several subcontractors to design an approach to target general and multicultural audiences. Along with media and grassroots outreach, a mobile exhibit, and speaking engagements, there was opinion research and awareness tracking, and minority and special audience outreach. There also was $3 million in paid advertising, an English- and Spanish-language Web site, and spokespeople, such as Texas Tech basketball coach Bobby Knight.
Aside from the more than 350 media reports and nearly a dozen major Op-Eds, results show the effort resonated with Texans. A survey taken after the first 90 days showed 80% believed voting was easier and faster, while 72% said voting was more secure. And numbers from Williams' office show 85,000 more voters were registered compared with last year.
Keene says while the effort "concluded after the election, Williams' intention is to explore a way to use state funds to continue these educational efforts."
PR team: Texas Secretary of State (Austin, TX) and Burson-Marsteller (Dallas, Houston, and Austin, TX)
Duration: January to November 2006
Budget: $5.99 million