Riverside County Taps Popular Commercials to Get You to Smile (and Vote Early)

You've probably seen one of those Geico commercials featuring a caveman of stony brow and uncommon acuity. He hears someone make a disparaging remark about cavemen or coasts by a bigoted ad at the airport, shaking his head in disappointment and maybe disbelief. Whatever the scene, you know it's a setup for the slogan, "So easy, a caveman can do it."

Riverside County is letting you know that voting is so easy a baby can do it.

On Monday the county registrar's office released its second video featuring "Jasper" the talking baby, whose digitally enhanced mouth delivers a spiel on how and where to vote early. It's part of an undisguised, if humorous, appeal to voters to help make the process of tallying votes on election night easier.

"In Riverside, we use a paper ballot voting system, and on election night it takes several hours for us to process the ballots we receive from the polling places. So our goal is to educate voters to know voting by mail is the same as going to a polling place," said Riverside Registrar of Voters Kari Verjil in a telephone interview.

A little more than 409,000 vote-by-mail ballots had been issued as of May 20, according to the registrar's office. That's nearly half of all registered voters in the county. Less than 38,000 of those ballots have been returned so far, but that still means nearly 5 percent of the total votes for Riverside are already in two weeks before the June 5 primary.

The videos aren't the only way the county is trying to make early voting easier. Voters can cast their ballots early -- and in person -- at one of three major Riverside malls from June 1 to June 3. On Wednesday, the University of California, Riverside will also provide an opportunity for early voting.

The registrar is not allowed to post any results until the polls close at 8 o'clock on election night, but the more ballots come in early, the healthier the early election results will be, Verjil said. "By voting by mail, [voters] are part of the election night action right after 8 o'clock. We thought we'd do it with short, attention-grabbing lighthearted videos."

Whether the videos are really knee-slappers is a matter of personal taste, but Verjil declares the county has received favorable responses so far. She said the idea for this particular campaign came out of a brainstorming session with county staff and readily acknowledges they drew inspiration from popular commercials.

"You'll notice voting material is often on the serious side. We thought, 'Isn't there something we can do in a short period of time to get people to maybe spend more time looking at our website?' So we played off some of those popular commercials," she said.

Final cost to produce? Somewhere in the neighborhood of $3,000. They kept it cheap in part by not hiring any talent. Jasper is a local. The county's own spokesman gave him a voice. The Press-Enterprise has more on how the videos were made.

The first Jasper video, which rolled out in March, was about voting by mail.

A month later, Abe Lincoln and George Washington got a crack at voter education, delivering an explanation of the state's new top two primary system.

Laugh or shake your head. Either way, it's good medicine. In recent decades, California has struggled to get even half its registered voters to turn out for a primary.

About the Author

Web Editor for SoCal Connected, KCET's award-winning television newsmagazine. He has worked in just about every medium, with stories appearing on TV, radio, Web, and print. He is also the editor of the Online Journalism Review at ...
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