“what is art?” #17 – “I Voted”

Yesterday on campus there was the normal swarm of students filling the diag traveling from class to class. However, in addition to the usual crowd was their “I Voted” stickers that traveled with them. 


As the primary elections roared through the state of Michigan so did the voices of students on campus. Many advocated for their chosen candidate and/or encouraged others to vote by giving out information on how to register. This past week, I couldn’t go into any building or even walk outside on campus without another student trying to give me a flyer or asking me if I have registered to vote yet with a clipboard in hand. 


On my way to my polling station yesterday I wondered if I was going to get a sticker. Dumb… I know. However, after seeing everyone on campus with some and watching people in past elections receive them I really wanted one too. I became curious on my walk to the polls and my walk home after why I wanted a sticker to wear and why they are so significant in our community. 


The “I Voted” stickers weren’t always in high demand as they are today. In the 1980s, the production of these stickers really picked up the pace but it wasn’t until recent elections where you can see the impact a small 2”x2” sticker has. “Why has this happened?” you may be asking…drumroll please………..social media! People post and post and post about their stickers but then I asked myself another question. Why do we want to post about a sticker? 


I began to reflect, “How do I feel when wearing a voting sticker?” I started listing off emotions I felt in my head and came to the conclusion that personally, it made me feel proud to have completed my civic duty. Additionally, I realized my sticker gives me a sense of belonging to a community because everyone around me also taking part in this action. 


I started to ask my friends how they felt when they wore the sticker and likewise, they too felt proud and a sense of community. I also found out some note that the stickers can make them feel socially accepted because they have done their civic duty. The sticker itself creates a sense of peer pressure to vote and if someone doesn’t have one it does the expected reverse effect of making an individual feel like they don’t belong. Wearing the simple sticker builds a social connection amongst one another and as a human(surprise!) I can relate to my friends in wanting to be a part of this opportunity to vote.  


I did some further research on the importance of the “I Voted” sticker and found that there are also other ways the sticker is symbolic, specifically in connection to giving women the right to vote. I discovered after the elections in New York women visit the Mount Hope Cemetery to place their stickers on Susan B. Anthony’s grave. Susan B. Anthony as most know was the first female to try and vote in the 1872 election and was arrested for doing so. She advocated for women’s suffrage and unfortunately didn’t live to see the 19th Amendment become enacted. After elections in recent years, women have been coming to her grave to show their gratitude in her fight for women’s suffrage and reflect on their privilege to be a part of a government that grants them the right to vote. 


The “I Voted” sticker can be looked upon as a silly little badge but it also is incredibly symbolic in our democratic society and shows the opportunity our country gives us. To be able to vote is an obvious civic right to us but in many other places, the right to vote can only be imagined. The stickers on election day are various in design and shape but in the end, they all have the same meaning and give us all the same sense of pride and belonging.


(image from https://ventrellaquest.com/2013/11/04/why-voting-in-off-season-elections-is-still-important/ )


sophomore studying Art & Design looking to start a conversation this semester about what art is, what it may be, what it can be, etc., in hopes to expand people's knowledge on how art consumes our lives

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