Image credit: CNN
News giant CNN publishes a detailed report about an “I voted” sticker that is being distributed in a medium-sized county in New York. Wait. This is newsworthy?! Really? “I voted” stickers are usually the most yawn-inducing bits of civic display imaginable. Well, not this time, and not in Ulster County, New York, where the winning entry in a county-wide contest shows a childish drawing of a brightly colored monster with insect legs and a scary human face that says “I voted.” CNN reporter Zoe Sottile filed this report in November 2022.
Read it here.
EXPLORE, REFLECT, SPEAK UP.
1. Sottile’s interviewee, Ulster County Elections Commissioner Ashley Dittus, accounts for the explosion of popularity of and interest in the Ulster County monster sticker by saying that the sticker “really captures the essence of the political zeitgeist,” but there is no elaboration or explanation. First, how would you describe the “political zeitgeist” of Fall 2022? Do you agree with Dittus’s assessment? Why or why not?
2. Although Sottile’s report is accompanied by images of the sticker, she still describes it in words. Without re-reading Sottile’s description, try your hand at describing the image briefly and succinctly. Was it easy to do? Why or why not? Does Sottile’s description capture all of the relevant details? Is there something you would add? Are any of the features of the description unnecessary? Why might Sottile have chosen the word “scrawled” to describe the “I voted” message? Was it a good word choice? Why or why not? Explain your responses.
3. LET’S TALK. “I voted” sticker design contests are catching on all across the US, and the practice is likely to keep growing. According to Commissioner Dittus, the sticker seems to have had a very positive effect on both voter turnout and voter mood. What do you think? Are such contests just gimmicks that cheapen the act of voting? Are they legitimate and useful ways to increase voter participation in an age where turnout is relatively low? Might sticker contests be a useful tool for staking out common ground for a deeply divided electorate? And the big question: Would you be more likely to vote based on the sticker design you would receive? Reflect on the possibilities and then share ideas and opinions with a few other classmates. What are some of the key points raised by your classmates? Have any of their ideas led you to modify your position?
4. AND NOW WRITE. A snazzy sticker can create buzz, which can increase voter turnout, and that’s a desirable outcome, for sure. But stickers alone can’t strengthen the democratic process significantly. What else could we do, as a nation, to improve voter turnout and stimulate interest in elections? Use freewriting, idea maps, or brainstorming with a friend or relative to generate a few ideas. Then, choose one idea that you think would be both effective and doable, and write an essay to propose and promote your idea. You may want to direct your essay to a general audience, or you may want to write to your legislators or other political leaders with the power to put your plan in motion.