Multnomah County Elections and Multnomah County Library were among 11 local businesses, nonprofits and government agencies presented with an Age-Friendly Business Award at City Hall on Wednesday (10/31) morning.
The inaugural award ceremony — hosted by the Age-Friendly Portland and Multnomah County Advisory Council, Elders in Action, Venture Portland, Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commissioner Nick Fish — recognizes businesses, nonprofits and government agencies that are moving the dial on age-friendly environments and services for people of all ages.
“Whether it’s traveling to an older voter’s home to help them out with their ballot, using innovative assistive technologies including electronic tablets or an audio version of the voters’ pamphlet,” said Heather Hoell, executive director of Venture Portland, “elections staff remove barriers that may get in the way of someone becoming civically engaged.”
The award comes as Oregon celebrates the 20th anniversary of vote-by-mail and as Multnomah County Elections increases efforts to improve access for anyone wishing to exercise their right to vote.
In the weeks before an election, bipartisan, two-person voting assistance teams respond to requests for help that come into the Elections Office. The team helps everyone, from voters with disabilities to those in hospice care, cast a ballot.
“They help voters update their voter registration, register to vote or fill out a ballot by reading it out loud,” explained Elections Director Tim Scott. “They do this without influencing them on who or what they vote for.”
The Elections Division also provides screen readers, electronic tablets and other technology so voters with disabilities can access voters pamphlets. Voter assistance teams also provide ballots or set up electronic tablets that allow voters to access an alternative format ballot, and then view, enlarge or listen to a narrator program for those who prefer to independently and privately vote in their own surroundings.
This year, Multnomah County Elections opened its first “pop-up” voting center in Gresham to improve access for more than 165,000 Multnomah County residents who live east of Interstate 205.
At the Voting Center Express, voters can replace a lost or damaged ballot or update their voter registration information. Voters with a disability can get assistance and those who speak a language other than English can get help in their preferred language. The center, which opens 15 days before each election, adds to the County’s 10 official ballot drop sites and 19 library locations for voters to return their ballots.
“I’m proud of the innovative work our small yet mighty team has done,” Scott said. “Conducting elections is one of the most important responsibilities the county has.”
Libraries win award for effectively serving older adults
Multnomah County Library was also awarded, for the many free and easy options, materials and services they provide older adults, including 20,000 large print books, pop-up libraries in senior-living facilities and more than 350 volunteers who are 50 or older, said Joyce DeMonnin, communications director for the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).
“It’s no wonder that seniors are some of the library’s most frequent customers,” DeMonnin said. The library also provides dozens of programs and performances relevant to older adults each month and conducts significant outreach to bring experts and books right to the doors of neighbors who are homebound or have limited mobility.
Businesses, nonprofits and government agencies in Portland applied for the Age-Friendly Business and Age-Friendly Employer awards. The ceremony preceded a Portland City Council meeting where city commissioners declared October, 31 2018, as Age Friendly Business Day.
Multnomah County Commissioner Sharon Meieran, who in January 2019 will serve as the board liaison for the Age-Friendly Portland and Multnomah County Advisory Council and the county’s Aging Services Advisory Council celebrated the county’s progress.
“Older adults are an invaluable and significant portion of our population - they’re the fastest growing demographic,” said Commissioner Meieran. “It benefits us all to provide services that are healthy for everyone, every age. It is exciting to see Multnomah County Elections and the Library receive awards for their exceptional outreach and engagement with older adults.”