Public Policy Center receives several national awards
By Emily Thompson
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Sept. 13, 2017
- Div of Ag Public Policy Center recognized for Arkansas Ballot Issue Program.
- Public Policy Center aids voter understanding of issues
- In 2016, the center redesigned its voter guide, posted videos, individual websites for ballot issues to reach more voters.
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LITTLE ROCK — A well-educated voter is critical to democracy and ballot issue education efforts by the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s Public Policy Center have been recognized at the state and national level.
In June, the center received first place in education technology from the National Association of Community Development Extension Professionals.
This month, Public Policy Center Program Associate Kristin Higgins won first place in two categories at the annual National Federation of Press Women Conference for the same ballot issue materials. She received first place at the state competition, as well.
“Receiving awards like these inspire me to take the next step and search out ways to improve our ballot issue education program,” Higgins said.
Since 2004, the Public Policy Center has put out nonpartisan educational materials about every statewide ballot issue to help Arkansans gain a better understanding of the social, financial or policy implications of a proposed law.
Traditionally, these educational materials included fact sheets covering each ballot issue. However, with the rapid rise of social media and Arkansans being faced with the most issues on the ballot since 1968, the Public Policy Center sought to revamp its education program to reach more voters.
“We knew we had to increase our offerings in 2016 to include individual websites and videos that would pop up when voters searched for Arkansas ballot issue information,” Higgins said.
The new online materials were a success. Local agencies and organizations shared the Public Policy Center’s voter material on their websites.
“When the Secretary of State's Office links to your materials, you know you're reaching more people,” Higgins said.
The Public Policy Center’s website had more than 300,000 views just before the 2016 election.
In addition to the new websites and videos, the Public Policy Center also redesigned the factsheets, combining them into a voter guide that was easier to distribute. Demand for the guides also grew.
After each county extension office placed its order for voter guides, many ordering the same number they had in previous years, they quickly realized that they would need more to keep up with demand. The Public Policy Center received so many requests for voter guides from extension offices and other organizations, they couldn’t fulfill them all.
“The success of our videos and redesigned voter guide shows that voters want this type of nonpartisan information and seek it out,” Higgins said.
Higgins said that she views the awards and recognition she and the Public Policy Center received for their hard work as inspiration to continually improve the Arkansas Ballot Issue Education Program.
“Arkansas has 1.6 million registered voters and we know we don't reach them all,” Higgins said. “Awards like these offer some recognition for our work and at the same time, the judges provide helpful comments on how we can improve our materials for next time. Those judge comments may lead to reaching more voters.”
About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service