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Social Explorer Used to Support Successful Early Voting Sites in Florida County

THURSDAY, OCT 15, 2020

Election officials in Escambia County, Fla., have agreed to add an extra early-voting and drop-box site to encourage greater turnout in Black neighborhoods, influenced by arguments based on Social Explorer’s online demographic maps and reports.

Concerned about the lack of early voting places in predominantly minority neighborhoods in the Florida Panhandle county, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, All Voting is Local Florida, Common Cause Florida and a handful of other government watchdog organizations asked officials last month to add extra sites and boxes in a Sept. 25 email.

“The COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately affected Black communities, has made in-person voting on Election Day an untenable option for many voters,” the organizations wrote. “And, in light of the widely reported issues with the United States Postal Service, many voters are not comfortable returning their vote-by-mail ballots by mail. Therefore, for many voters, the only acceptable options are to vote at an early voting location or to personally bring their vote-by-mail ballot to a secure drop box.”

Without the additional dropbox and voting site, the organizations said thousands of Black residents would have had to travel more than an hour to the nearest drop box. One Escambia County town, Century, has 1,600 Black residents and no public transportation but its closest early voting site and drop box location would involve a 20-mile walk.


Black Population Across the U.S., 2019. Click here to explore further.

The voting rights organizations used Social Explorer’s customizable mapping capabilities to show the distance between early voting sites and predominantly Black neighborhoods, using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2014-18 American Community Survey.

“I think the Social Explorer maps were a necessary part of getting that result,” said Michael Pernick, voting rights attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “A nice win for the right to vote.”

Andrew Beveridge, co-founder and president of Social Explorer, said the organizations’ use of the Census data is a logical extension of the company’s mission to democratize complex data by making it more accessible to a general population.

“The ability to cast a ballot is one of the cornerstones of our democracy,” Beveridge said. “Social Explorer is committed to ensuring that our tools can be used to benefit the broadest audience possible, whether they’re interested in simple neighborhood demographics, complex economic statistics, or a fundamental part of our democracy.”

Author: Frank Bass

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