Voter suppression is as prevalent as ever.
In North Dakota, laws requiring voters have a permanent residential address disproportionately affect Native Americans who live on reservations, many of whom use a P.O. box instead. In Georgia, voter ID laws requiring exact name matches have put thousands of voter registrant applications on hold, 80 percent of which are from people of color. Even the fact that voting takes place on a Tuesday, and employers are not required to give time off for voting, is a form of voter suppression.
These roadblocks, combined with a general sense that the government can’t function, can cause people to lose sight of the importance of voting in a democracy. But local design studios Alternate Histories and strawyberryluna are doing their part to change that. Both have made voting signs to encourage people to participate in this year's midterm elections.
Strawberryluna, a local design studio consisting of Allison Glancey and Craig Seder, designed a vote poster for Washington, D.C., design agency Wide Eye’s The Poster Project, a site featuring downloadable and shareable election posters. They range from specific — like a poster featuring Texas U.S. Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke — to more general, like stawberryluna's design depicting a hand sliding into a ballot box, spelling out the word "vote."
"The piece that we did for Wide Eye was a more generic just like, 'vote, just please vote, and get engaged,'" says Glancey. "It's easy to just feel like your voice or your vote doesn't matter in a sea of other people’s votes, but you look at the statistics of how few Americans vote, it's astounding and heartbreaking, so we really like to get people politically engaged."
Strawberryluna has made posters that encouraged voting in previous elections, and they usually feature both blue and red hues, signaling the importance of voting regardless of party affiliation. Others though are more explicit, like a raised fist in the space between a woman's legs that says "Grab 'Em By The Midterms." Some of strawberryluna's designs came from signs they made for protests.
Matt Buchholz, creator of Alternate Histories, adds sci-fi touches to pre-existing historical works, like maps and landscape paintings. He was having trouble figuring out how to combine his style with a political message until a friend shared an image of a women's suffrage-era poster. It read: "A woman here has registered to vote thereby assuming responsibility of citizenship." The image wasn't in great shape, so he cleaned it up and made it available for sharing and downloads.
"I wanted to be respectful to the original designers, to the original way it was intended, which was a rallying cry after the 19th amendment was passed, and I thought it's [just] as important today," says Buchholz. He feels that in the wake of Brett Kavanaugh’s sexual-assault allegations and his subsequent confirmation, women voting seems like an especially political act.
Partisan or not, the signs are meant to highlight the values of voting in a democracy, not point toward a specific candidate. "It's the single most important thing you can do as a citizen," says Buchholz.
Historically, more women show up to the polls than men, but it’s still easy for women to feel like their voices aren’t being heard.
For those who want to make their own signs to encourage voting, there are plenty of resources. Pole-2-Polls is an organization that meets periodically, providing fabric, stencils, and other materials to make pro-voting textiles. Organizations like Artists Image Resources make digital and screen-printing tools available to the public.
But Glancey’s No. 1 tip for making a sign is simply “Do it.”