Voting sign by Isaiah Zagar. Photo via Next Stop: Democracy on Instagram.
If you’re at all plugged into the news or social media–and let’s face it, most of us are inundated–you know the upcoming elections are a hot topic for just about everybody, on any end of the political spectrum. What’s concerning to any of these individuals though, is the turnout for the elections that help to shape the world we live in. Americans’ voter turnout is notoriously low, but a collaboration between Next Stop: Democracy and Philadelphia creative agency Here’s My Chance seeks to change that with their Knight Cities Challenge-funded Voting Signage Project.
The Voting Signage Project begins with the simple question: “Can public art increase voter engagement?” First implemented during elections in November 2015 when Next Stop: Democracy hired some 60 artists to create bilingual “Vote Here/Vote Aqui” signs, the goal is to place creative, eye-catching signs and site-specific pieces at polling places around Philly. Having set up 20 such signs during the November municipal elections, Here’s My Chance is now offering their signs to the community so that more voting locations can have access to this unique form of handmade signage.
During the first run of these enticing new voting placards, Here’s My Chance discovered a number of positive benefits that come along with them. The signs enhanced the voting experience, and voter feedback indicated that they also made the polling places more welcoming. Perhaps most importantly, these functional artworks proved useful in attracting the attention of younger voters, African Americans and less educated voters, encouraging turnout amongst these groups.
Voting sign by Gaia Street Art. Photo via Next Stop: Democracy on Instagram.
When Election Day seems more like a chore than a right to be celebrated, it loses its appeal and, consequently, a lot of participation. In order to offset the frustration of finding a polling place, waiting in line, and all of the unsavory bits that come along with voicing your political choice, Next Stop: Democracy and Here’s My Chance turned to the art world to begin addressing these problems.
Keep an eye out for this innovative project during Pennsylvania’s upcoming April 26 primary election, and follow the signs to your local polling station.