In an effort to increase voter awareness and community engagement ahead of the general election, the orgs have commissioned vote-themed murals throughout the city – along with other initiatives.
As a part of a 40 Days of Early Voting campaign to increase voter awareness, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, a coalition of Michigan partners and 1xRUN – a Detroit-based gallery and publisher – have partnered to produce eight murals throughout Michigan.
Sharon Dolente, ACLU of Michigan voting rights strategists, says, “Voting in Michigan has never been easier, but many may not know they have the right to vote in person starting Sept. 24 at their city or township clerk’s office.”
Dolente reminds that you may also vote by mail and register to vote up to and on Election Day. “Our goal is to increase the voices being heard at the ballot box – and the mural project is a powerful and fun way to do it.”
For this campaign, each of the selected artists were tasked with creating works of art for their designated communities to inspire public conversations and increase community and civic awareness that will last beyond this upcoming election, according to an ACLU press release.
Roula David, vice president of 1xRUN and founder of Murals in the Market says, “In the work we’ve been doing as organizers with artists over the years, we’ve seen the transformative power that public murals have to activate new conversations and build a sense of community, to get people invested and involved.”
Keeping David’s message in mind, the artists had to speak to the public about voting; however, their final design didn’t need to explicitly say “go vote,” the release explains. Each muralist interpreted the concept differently. “I think (this campaign) is just like hitting people over the head with a message,” says David.
“This is the year that people are not very confident in the mail system. They’re not very comfortable with going to the polls because of COVID, so they’re scared. I think constantly bombarding people with the message of going to vote is the important thing. Hopefully, people will prepare in the best way, get ready and vote in the best way from them,” David says.
Ndubisi Okoye, Phil Simpson, Sheefy McFly were some of the many artists involved in this project. “I didn’t want to really interpret it with how I felt or represent my views or off-represent the views of the ACLU,” says Okoye. “I created the artwork on the building by creating vibrant typography.”
Across the side of the ACLU’s office at 2966 Woodward Ave., onlookers see Okoye’s colorful and direct painting with the word VOTE. Okoye is a creative director and multidisciplinary from Detroit. His work is featured throughout Detroit including 2018 Murals in the Market pieces The Devil is a Liar and Cheyenne x Gold. While his current piece wasn’t made with a concept other than to inspire voting, Okoye says he still created this mural for a few specific groups.
“I made it specifically for Black and brown people,” says Okoye. “We are the most influential voters, especially in Detroit. We have the power to move culture, and we do move culture in many ways in music, art and entertainment, but we need to exercise our political rights and our political duties because we didn’t always have that right.”
Meanwhile, Simpson’s mural is featured along Livernois’ Avenue of Fashion, and Mcfly’s mural is on Flint’s west side along the side of Weaver’s Family Dentistry at 2740 Flushing Road. Along with this mural project, the ACLU plans on launching other initiatives to reach the public, including putting voting information on public transportation, says Desire Vincent-Levy, communications consultant on the ACLU’s Election Protection Program.
As expected, the murals certainly start a conversation. However, the most important part of this campaign is the education and resources that the ACLU and its partners are offering. The 40 Days of Early Voting campaign is sharing valuable voting rights, messages and information with the public that may be overlooked due to a lack of accessibility or the oversaturation in the media.
“We want to communicate (the campaign) clearly and be intentional about reaching people in all the places that they go,” says Vincent-Levy. “If they’re on the bus, walking down the street or going to the grocery store, we want to meet people where they are so that they know that they have these options.”
The ACLU and the state of Michigan have highlighted some important dates including the following:
- Now: Voters can print and submit a paper application for an absentee ballot for the Nov. 3 general election. The Secretary of State’s online application for an absentee ballot is available at mvic.sos.state.mi.us/avapplication.
- Now through Nov. 2 at 4 p.m.: Already registered voters can vote early at their city or township clerk’s office.
- Oct. 19: Last day to register to vote online or through the mail. Register to vote online at michiganvoting.org.
- Oct. 20 through 8 p.m. on Election Day: Register to vote in person at your city or township clerk’s office with proof of residency. Once registered, you can vote – all in one trip.
- Oct. 20: For mail-in absentee voters, drop your ballot in the mail by Oct. 20. After Oct 20, you can submit your completed ballot by dropping it off at your city or township clerk’s office or into the drop box provided by your clerk.
- Oct. 31 through Nov. 1: Clerks’ offices must be open for at least eight hours for in-person absentee voting. Check with your local office to find out when they will be open.
- Nov. 3 (Election Day): Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
“We’re really a resource, so if (our partners) need legal advice, then we answer those legal questions,” says Loida Tapia, a consultant on ACLU’s Election Protection Program. “If they need funding resources, then we give that. We’ve given out close to $1.2 million dollars to the community to organizations that do this work – and some organizations that have never done this work.”
In preparation for the general election, the ACLU is recruiting poll workers, training on voter rights and operating a hotline to answer any voter questions. The Election Protection hotline number is 866-OUR-VOTE or 866-687-8683. The lines are open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday. Weekend hours will be available as we near the general election.
“No other state has done something as comprehensive as creating a hub where organizations can go to get resources, information, technology, support and legal advice as Michigan has done – so it means a lot,” says Tapia “I hope other states can follow through. My goal is to get as many voters to participate in this election year.”