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The Implications and Importance of Voting in 2020

Happy Tuesday, UMMA Student Blog readers! Today is the second of ten Tuesdays leading up to the 2020 November general election. Each Tuesday until Election Day on November 3, we will be posting topics on democracy, voting, and justice in order to spark community conversations that will take center stage in the upcoming election. This week’s theme is registration, and asks the question, “Why vote?”

The Implications and Importance of Voting in 2020

Interview by Kilala Ichie-Vincent

Marchers with signs at the March on Washington, 1963
Original black and white negative by Marion S. Trikosko. Taken August 28th, 1963, Washington D.C, United States. Colorized by Jordan J. Lloyd. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA -- https://www.loc.gov/item/2013648849/

Upon hearing this question on why we should vote, I reached out to my good friend Isabel Boyer,  a pre-law student at the University of Michigan, to hear her thoughts on this question. As someone who is passionate about human rights and wants to eventually become a public defense lawyer, Isabel shared her thoughts with me on the election and why it's important to her: 

Kilala: So why do you think voting is important – just in general, but also in today’s time?

Isabel: I think that that's one of the only ways we can participate in legitimate democracy, and you really have to fight for your vote. Some people are really not out to have some people voting–we just saw that 500,000 mail-in ballots were rejected, and we don’t know what the election is gonna look like in this pandemic. Putting in the work to vote is really with it,  because within the structure that we have, we can do activism and that is very important as well. But as long as we want any part of the system that we have right now to stand, we need to participate in it because that’s what’s recognized as legitimate in this country. So it’s good to have a voice, and it’s not enough to just vote, but a lot of people have put in a lot of work to ensure you have the right to vote. And a lot of people who live here don’t have a vote, right? People who aren’t naturalized or are undocumented immigrants or people who can’t get to a voting station. And if you have the ability to vote, it’s just...it’s a duty–and you’re voting for yourself and everyone else would benefit from the choices that you’re making.

K: How do you think your major, or your status as a pre-law student, affects your opinions and the way that you vote? And the way that you make your choices?

I: Well, I think that as a pre-law major it's really important to me. Voting for a prosecutor or a district judge, or judges you are able to vote for in your community, is sort of the biggest impact you have. If you’re trying to be a lawyer, who the prosecutor and the judge are is extremely important. The people who appoint federal judges are the ones we vote for and put in power, so we have this whole waterfall of indirect influence on almost every public official. As of now it’s not the most direct democracy, and I think the electoral college is pretty outdated. But you can effect real change by your vote and through lobbying and educating other people to vote.

K: Do you think art can play a role in motivating people to vote? Give me your honest opinion!

I: Yeah, I was actually thinking about how all these little infographics on Instagram are actually really serving to educate people, like myself. Not only on why it's important to vote, but on the issues that you can affect by voting, or partially by voting. But designs for campaigns are extremely important, and that's why candidates pour millions or hundred of thousands of dollars into advertising. Apart from that though, I think individual people who can evoke emotions with their art can really motivate people to act on their beliefs and act on what's important to them.

K: Yeah, I suppose emotions are a very important factor in getting people to vote and convincing them to go out to the polls. Despite the obvious importance of policies, I suppose you could say that's why fear tactics are so effective.

I: Right, exactly. All the players are trying to use the most emotional response for their voters, but the most emotional and personal experiences can be expressed through art. And similarly, that's just as important when getting people to think about issues and how they can try and achieve what they want, and what other people want. 

K: So, how do you think you can reach people who don't think about this at all? I  don't mean to point fingers, but you know, people who are not affected by the decisions made at both a smaller level and at a larger scale because they have, whether it’s money, status, or power, they have one of those that sort of allows them to ignore the problems of the world—how do you think we can convince people like that?

I: That’s a hard question. [Laughter]  I think, somehow getting them more exposure...but actually, if they're not having interactions with their community and other communities, well, it's hard to get them to relate to working class people who they don’t see at all.

K: Right, right. Unless it's like the maid, or the cook.

I: Exactly. So, I think just getting more diverse work forces and more diverse schools–and no separation–like the school kids getting private tutoring during the pandemic since their parents can afford it, instead  of going to school. None of that–and just putting everyone on an equal plane, an equal playing field. Because that where I feel a lot of ignorance comes from–when the lack of interaction is coupled with misinformation and exaggeration and manipulation by media, and candidates like Donald Trump, then it’s like, if that's the only information you're getting and you don't have the interactions that validate that, then that's what you believe. So I guess also getting people to read newspapers from like the opposite side of the political spectrum and also getting people to have a diverse social media feed.

K: Right, right. And not just racially. Like a difference in status, and opinion. Getting out of that echo chamber.

I: Right. And Facebook could definitely help with that, if they wanted to.  

K: Right. This is just a personal question, but how do you think you can convince another student who has no interest or interaction with politics? Like, do I go up to them and go “hey look, you gotta do this”? Or is there some sort of other tactic that would work?

I: Well, I think the school requires Greek life students to be educated on certain things, like sexual assault. I think it could be taken more seriously. I think a couple people inside those situations need to set an example and ask other people to take it seriously. And I know a lot of people do that and get frustrated by the lack of support. So in that case, I  think it just needs to be dismantled–it becomes a toxic environment.

K: Yeah, yeah, I agree completely.

You can register to vote online through Wolverine Access. Stay tuned for next week’s post! The theme is absentee ballots. You can always find out about more Vote 2020 programming by signing up for UMMA’s Art & Activism email. The content in this piece represents the opinions of its author and interviewee and not necessarily those of UMMA or the University of Michigan.

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