The Hennepin-University Partnership's (HUP) project to connect the Hennepin County Elections Division with University of Minnesota student volunteers to process absentee ballots has been recognized with an Achievement Award from the National Association of Counties (NACo). The award honors innovative, effective county government programs that strengthen services for residents.
For this partnership in the 2016 general and 2018 midterm elections, a total of 600 students provided 3,000 hours of volunteer effort. Mark Chapin, the Director over the Elections Division, praised the partnership. “Without the hundreds of student volunteers helping to process and count absentee ballots, it would have been impossible for us to complete the absentee counting process by Election Day. […] the student volunteers were hard working, professional, and a pleasure to work with.”
This partnership is also a valuable educational opportunity for students. Echoing many of their peers, a 2018 volunteer praised the experience as an opportunity to “[see] how well-run and foolproof the system for counting absentee ballots is. [I gained] greater respect for those who run elections.” Student volunteers also complete a short training on the history of absentee voting.
Students did not participate in the 2020 election due to the pandemic. However, Hennepin County looks forward to continuing this unique partnership in 2022 and beyond.
HUP's Election Student Volunteers project was honored for an Achievement Award in the Civic Education and Public Information category. Nationally, NACo Achievement Awards are given in 18 different categories that reflect the vast, comprehensive services counties provide. The categories include children and youth, criminal justice and public safety, county administration, information technology, health, civic engagement and many more.