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SparkVotes Initiative Clarifies and Celebrates the Voting Process

In this year of uncertainty, at least one thing remains sure: students will need to navigate how to vote in November’s election.

Stamps Associate Professors Stephanie Rowden and Hannah Smotrich are taking action; together they created SparkVotes, a non-partisan, peer-to-peer creative campaign to energize student voters and untangle the confusion and barriers that can make voting a challenge.

“SparkVotes” evolved from their 2018 campaign and related course “Voting is Sexy”. As a student from the original “Voting is Sexy” class, I’ve experienced the transformation that takes place when students truly feel welcome to participate. The excitement was palpable as we worked to empower our peers to vote. 

SparkVotes is part of Rowden’s and Smotrich’s ongoing creative research, collectively referred to as the Creative Campus Voting Project. This fall, the project will expand student engagement through two studio courses: Creative Campaign for Voting: Game On(taught by Rowden) and Visual Communication Design for Voting(taught by Smotrich). Students will explore information design, social media campaigning, and the power of peer-to-peer connection. Recent alums and non-Stamps students are also engaged through research assistantships.

SparkVotes understands that artists and designers can play a key role in supporting young voters: we increase the visibility of voting and motivate action. We have the visual communication skills to present information in an accessible manner and the creative vision to bring vibrancy to the civic process. 

Students will help the SparkVotes team develop their “SparkVotes Party in a Box” — a festive party package that allows students to gather virtually to celebrate voting and vote-by-mail. The SparkVotes Party includes games and activities that allow students to stay connected and help them feel confident about the voting process. 

“10 Tuesdays”, our first SparkVotes initiative, launches on September 1st. This short, weekly email helps students stay on track through November 3. Each Tuesday morning, we’ll say a quick hello with a clear action step, a tip to clarify something, or maybe a gentle nudge to share with friends. 

Ready to participate?

Sign up to receive the Ten Tuesdays emails. Stay tuned for more information about the SparkVotes Party in a Box; we’ll be looking for hosts soon! If you’re already interested in hosting, email sparkvotes@umich.edu. You can follow SparkVotes on instagram at @sparkvotes.

Story by Stephanie Sim (BFA ‘19), poet, designer, and current research assistant for the Creative Campus Voting Project.

Note: the photos featured here are from 2018. We're fully masked on campus these days!