If you make voting fun, will it encourage people to cast their ballots? And once people are at the polls, can you keep them there, and get them talking about what they want from their local and national politicians? Those were some of the questions that designers at the Long Beach, California-based studio City Fabrick were pondering when they came up with the idea for Placemaking the Vote—their very own “kit for creating temporary pop-up social spaces at voting polls in historically low voter turnout areas.” While the designers are still figuring out exactly what would go into the kit, they’d likely include lights, shelter, chalk and other supplies for building a gathering place and drawing attention to it. City Fabrick would set up the brightly-colored booths outside of the polling places and provide snacks and comfortable places to sit to encourage voters to stick around and talk.
“There’s a lot of emerging efforts around trying to get residents to vote through digital technologies, like Rock the Vote,” says Brian Ulaszewski, City Fabrik’s executive director. “We thought of this idea of creating place around voting stations and events as a way to draw people in and to also celebrate democracy.” The team wanted to focus on the physical aspect of voting because they were concerned that it was being slighted in the efforts to go digital.
Ulaszewski submitted the project to the Knight Cities Challenge, which awards grants to projects in 26 American cities where the Knight Foundation sees the most need. The funding program focuses on three categories for making cities successful: attracting talented people, expanding economic opportunity and creating a culture of civic engagement. This week, 158 finalists, Placemaking the Vote included, were selected from 4,500 entries. Now, the foundation will go through a second round of evaluation to decide which of the these finalists will get a slice of the $5 million of total grant money at stake this spring. The number of grants awarded annually varies; last year, there were 32 winners.