Election ABCs: Using Elegant Design to Inform People About US Democracy
We all need a strong foundation for civic engagement.
Can you explain how the electoral college works? What about gerrymandering? Do you know the rules surrounding state caucuses?
If not, you may need to brush up on your Election ABCs to learn about the fundamental aspects of democracy in the United States.
Election ABCs is a nonpartisan, interactive series of graphic designs and resources that break down democratic concepts and key electoral issues in a simple, straightforward manner. The project was developed by three friends: multimedia designer Anjali Chandrashekar, media activist Palika Makam, and writer and activist Shivani Persad.
From right to left: Palika Makam, Anjali Chandrashekar, and Shivani Persad
They want everyone to feel empowered enough to take part in democracy and make their voices are heard.
“Inclusive democracy means leading everyone toward making the best, most informed decision for themselves and their communities,” Chandrashekar told Global Citizen. “I wanted Election ABCs to be a fun and foundational place to start. In a time where we are inundated with information, the series is meant to cut through the clutter and give you a vivid educational experience.”
Chandrashekar said that Election ABCs was developed with the awareness that civic education is minimal in the US. If most citizens are never formally taught the ins and outs of democracy, how are they going to make informed and empowered decisions when they get to the ballot box?
The project tackles 26 subjects — one for each letter of the alphabet.
“A," for example, explains absentee voting. If viewers click on the letter, they’ll be brought to the ACLU’s “Let People Vote” campaign for a more in-depth explanation.
“C” explains what a caucus is and brings people to an Instagram video by Persad for more information.
“G” takes on gerrymandering and guides people to the Washington Post to learn more.
Xenophobia gets explored in the letter “X," while Gen Z gets a shoutout with the letter “Z.”
Screenshot of Election ABCs website
While these last concepts don’t relate to specific processes of democracy, they influence US politics and governance. Gen Z is poised to represent 1 in 10 voters this year, and xenophobia constantly threatens to suppress voter turnout.
Chandrashekar said she hopes the imaginative visuals will spur people to read up on issues, do a little research on their own, engage in conversations, and, ultimately, use their newfound knowledge to better engage in democracy.
Voter turnout rates in the US are much lower than other developed countries. In fact, between 40% to 90% of citizens will stay home and not cast their vote during any given election, whether local, state, or federal.
People don’t vote for a variety of reasons, including a lack of awareness of how government works, barriers to the ballot box, and a sense that voting doesn’t matter at the end of the day.
When people feel like their views aren’t reflected in the government and their voices won’t be heard, they become disengaged and less likely to participate in the future. This, in turn, creates a growing cycle of apathy and cynicism.
“Low voter turnout, misinformation via social media, and an upturn of mass protests all point to a need for productive civic engagement,” Chandrashekar said. “This begins with a strong foundation of civic education and rethinking how it’s been done.”
By going back to the ABCs, so to speak, Chandrashekar hopes that people will understand that they actually have the potential to make change in society by participating in democracy and will become more involved as a result — whether that’s by phone banking for a favorite candidate, volunteering to become a poll worker, or protesting for a cause.
Knowledge is empowering. You can’t write until you learn your ABCs — and you can’t fully participate in democracy until you learn your election ABCs.
Chandrashekar immigrated to the US from India, the biggest democracy in the world, where voter turnout rates broke records in 2019. She said it's important for people everywhere to understand the power of the vote.
“I left India when I was 17 and I can’t vote in the US,” she said. “Having never voted in my life, I feel strongly passionate about helping those who do have the ability to access the right to vote. Living here through two election cycles, I found it hard to access a 101 to get up to speed with the US political system and realized that many others might be struggling with where to start. So, I created Election ABCs.”
Global Citizen and HeadCount have teamed up to launch Just Vote, a campaign mobilizing young Americans to register to vote ahead of the 2020 election and beyond. As part of the campaign, your favorite artists and entertainers are offering exclusive experiences, performances, and memorabilia — and they can only be unlocked once eligible voters check their voter registration status. Learn more about Just Vote and how you can take action here.