Mark Goins is the Coordinator of Elections in the Tennessee Secretary of State’s Office. He’s also guy in charge of educating Tennessee voters about the state’s new voter identification requirement. While other states have hired outside public relations firms to get the word out about the regulation, he’s been doing everything in-house. That includes outreach to specific communities statistically less likely to have a form of photo identification which meets the new requirements, which was conducted by members of his staff on top of their other responsibilities. “I’ve got a younger person in the office, he’s in his 20s, so he was kind of coordinating the college voters, so that was kind of his job,” Goins told TPM. “I’ve got a minority, well I hate to use the word minority, but I’ve got a person of color within the office who was the minority outreach, if you will, if you use that term. She was the person who went to some NAACP meetings.” As several states prepare to implement voter ID laws passed by their legislatures in November, TPM’s interviews with elections officials show that education efforts are all over the map.
In Kansas, for example, Secretary of State Kris Kobach has launched GotVoterID.com — a campaign playing off the California Milk Processor Board’s famous “Got Milk?” campaign — and given a $310,000 contract to a marketing firm to create the visuals for the website and advertisement effort. In Pennsylvania, the state’s Republican administration gave a $249,660 contract to a lobbying firm run by the former head of the state GOP. States like Rhode Island, Mississippi and Tennessee, on the other hand, are mostly skipping out on ad campaigns and banking on media coverage and town hall meetings to inform their voters about new regulations.
While the state-funded efforts will be boosted by informational campaigns run by civil rights organizations and voter registration groups, voting rights advocates believe eligible voters who lack the type of photo identification required by the bills will be turned away.