Elections times are exciting times. With good reason. Aside from which party will lead the majority of the votes, it’s also about the overall voter turnout. There’s a clear gap in the elections turnout in terms of age. In the build-up to the elections, the same questions gets asked over and over again: who will Millennials (18 – 24 years old) vote for this year? And even more importantly, will they meet their civic duty and responsibility?

In February of 2017, the Economist made a statement while headlining “Millennials across the rich world are failing to vote”. Their research indicates that voting behavior of millennials in rich countries have a pattern in common. In Poland and Britain, less than 50 percent of 25-years old and younger voted. Approximately 66% of Swiss millennials didn’t show up at the voting booth in 2015, as did 80% of American millennials in 2014. These numbers are troubling.

This (non) voting behavior has many causes. They watch less television, read less newspapers or listen to news on the radio. Young adults also move less and settle down at a later age than their parents. Rob Ford of Manchester University adds the biggest shift amongst attitudes: “Millennials do not see voting as a duty, and therefore do not feel morally obliged to do it”. They see parties and politics as brands they love or hate, not as movements and decisions that influences the future. What will encourage this generation to vote in the upcoming elections?  

In an attempt to get more young adults to vote, artist Lauren Lee has painted a mural named “Take Flight” and supported by #18in2018 that comes to life through your phone. It’s a flamboyant and colourful piece of art that decorates the Toole music venue in Tucson, Arizona. You can make the wings move up and down with the Shazam app on your smartphone and share it with your social media followers. Also, while recording yourself standing in front of the mural, there’s a button on the screen that says “register to vote”. A very accessible and quick way to proceed to action. This piece of art is sponsored by the Citizens Clean Elections Commission and serves as a campaign to encourage young people to activate their political power.

Will this augmented reality mural make a difference when it comes to the local turnout among young people?
Using art in combination with augmented reality to make young people aware of their voting rights is very low-threshold, because the devices that activate the mural are (almost) always within reach. Enthusiasts will share the colorful wings on their timeline and thus create more attention for the elections. It’s a fun and smart gimmick and certainly a great marketing stunt. Hopefully it boosts the general involvement of young adults, and give them a message to spread their wings and vote.

However, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance released a report in 2016 named “Voter Turnout Trends around the World”. Conducted research proves that “Voter turnout is one of the crucial indicators of how citizens participate in the governance of their country. Higher voter turnout is in most cases a sign of the vitality of democracy, while lower turnout is usually associated with voter apathy and mistrust of the political process” (Solijonov, 2016). If this turns out to be the real problem, we’re having doubts the mural will contribute to a significant higher voting turnout. 

Time will tell if the mural will affect voting behaviour. We’re hoping for the Tucson city to release the voting turnout in numbers after the elections, and also share the election outcome of previous years. Meanwhile, check out hashtag #18in2018 on Instagram and Twitter to admire those wonderful creations.

Header Photo by Kelly Presnell.
In post picture by AZ Clean Elections.