Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Arts and Voter Registration Drives

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on..................."

It's hard to watch the news on television.  Senseless tragedies mingled with continuing political insanity as background noise to the ongoing polarization of America and the threats to a free press, democracy and truth itself.   That seems true no matter what side you're on.

And the threats aren't confined to America. The world faces increased authoritarianism, over population, climate change, wealth concentration, unbridled technology seemingly regulated only by greed - and the potential of war gotten out of hand, pandemics and God knows what else.  Add to that the reality that almost every human being on the planet has their own serious issues - be they health, financial, emotional or whatever.

It can be depressing and discouraging.

And hard to remind oneself that the world survived the Inquisition, the Crusades, the Plague, World Wars I and II, Hitler, Stalin, Mao and more.  And the odds are that we will survive the threats of today as well -- as nations, as individuals.  The problem is that History, Earth and Mother Nature exist on an almost infinite timeline.  We, unfortunately, don't.  Things are more urgent to us because time is so precious.

So, what can we possibly do in the face of all that is going on that concerns us?  We're not in control, we have limited power, lots on our plates,  and action is difficult to realize.

The Arts, of course, can and do, as they always have, call attention to what is going on, and increase awareness and generate momentum to action.  The Arts can play a role in aggregating individual responses to whatever threatens.   Those responses can take a hundred different forms.

One relatively simple thing we can do, is we can encourage people to vote.  To become aware of the issues and what is at stake, and then vote for candidates they believe will address those issues.   This November's election may be the most important election of our lifetimes.  It may well determine the future of the country and of our democracy for decades or longer.  We are in camps - at odds with each other as perhaps at no other time since the Civil War.  The upcoming election will tell us how we intend to grapple with the threat to who we are as a people.

But you can't vote, unless your registered.

And it seems to me that's where the Arts can most readily play some role.  We can use our venues, our performances and exhibitions, and our events to set up voter registration tables to encourage those not registered to do so, and to encourage everyone to vote in November.  It is very likely that most of the people who interact with us as audiences will already be registered.  But not all of them.  This may be particularly important targeting cohorts that may have a lower percentage of voter registration - including some multicultural groups and younger people.  We talk about being engaged with our communities.  What could  be more engaging?

Most states apparently have no, or very few, regulations or restrictions on registering new voters.  You would need to contact your state's Secretary of State, or Election Commissioner, or even your County Registrar of Voters about what you need to do to set up a voter registration table at your venue, event, performance or exhibition, and what the rules and regulations of such an effort might entail, but it would seem that this isn't a difficult process.  You need the voter registration forms and an action plan as to how to go about your drive.  There is support via the internet - just Google voter registration drives / booths - and you can also easily google your state's / county's voter registration offices to find out what rules govern action in your area.  I suspect that a couple of hours of a staff person't time could answer all the questions regarding such an effort, and then you can recruit one or two volunteers from your base - and they can't recruit others - to bring the plan to fruition.

We need to encourage people to vote in November.  Of course, we hope that those that come to our arts performances, events, etc. will vote for candidates who support the arts.  But there are, as everyone knows, bigger issues and much at stake.

This may be a very small effort, but over a few months, multiplied by hundreds, or even thousands of organizations around the country it can have a positive effect.   And it's something.  It may help to give us a sense that we have, at least, some control over the events that dominate the news.  And remember, we aren't the only ones out there who understand the importance of voting in November.  Everyone can appreciate this election's importance.

Have a good week.

Don't Quit