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Voting is super boring. Should we just admit that?

Women's suffragists parade in New York City in 1917, carrying placards with signatures of more than a million women.
Wikimedia Commons
Women's suffragists parade in New York City in 1917, carrying placards with signatures of more than a million women.

There was a time when voting wasn’t so boring.

History remembers those bygone voting days as a blast. Think the Suffrage movement, Civil Rights and pretty much all the 19th century (before women or people of color could vote, so not much of a party for them). But in the last decades, voting has become antiseptic and antisocial.

The politicians deliver their carefully worded message, we must try to figure out what the heck they mean, and we fill out a form and mail it in. The pro is that voting is more accessible; the con is that it’s terribly dull.

Eric Liu, a civic activist in Seattle, wants to bring the joy back to voting and is exploring that with his newJoy of Voting project. He believes in us and notes that we can be plenty joyful in large groups, as evidenced by the many tailgate parties held last weekend.

There have been some political events that have riled us up – Kshama Sawant’s campaign, for example, the $15 minimum wage, the Tea Party.

So how do you rekindle a love of democracy beyond watching the current political blood bath unfold on television?

[asset-images[{"caption": "Eric Liu, civic activist in Seattle.", "fid": "130392", "style": "card_280", "uri": "public://201610/liu.jpg", "attribution": "Credit Flickr Photo/Eric Liu CC BY 2.0"}]]Voting used to be fun (so it could be again)

It was street theater and open air debates. It was you toasting, feasting. It was competing parades. This was a public culture that was raucous, creative, playful, imaginative, often artistic – theatrical for sure.

We can bring back the joy of voting  

In Philadelphia, Miami, Akron Ohio, and Wichita, Kansas, we’re organizing and inviting artists, activists, designers, active citizens, neighbors – everyday folks – to come together and generate ideas for small- scale playful projects that really revive the spirit of the joy of voting.

And so in Philadelphia it's a really fun voting themed scavenger hunt through Colonial Old Town. In Miami, there's all night parties with really great DJs where the price of the ticket is literally you got to show that you're registered to vote.”

We're already doing it   

A couple of three examples just from the last few years of both local and national politics. Think about the Tea Party. Think about the $15 now movement. Think about Kshama Sawant’s campaign for city council.

Each of these in different ways managed to activate this spirit of joyful creative, collective ritual voice, imagery, theatricality, spectacle. Each of these cases you had people – both activists but again citizens – who got drawn in. Who were drawn in in part because there was this sense of this is this is not just some antiseptic political professional selling message at me.

This is a chance for me to belong to something that speaks to my deeper sense of identity or aspiration or yearning, or whatever it might be. And they tapped into that. 

Year started with KUOW: 2004