Event at Union Square featured Broadway dancers, stilt walkers, building projections, and a former Dept. of Correction bus that has been converted to a civic engagement art installation
NEW YORK— On Wednesday, June 16, 2021 at Union Square, DemocracyNYC hosted “Countdown to Vote,” a free community event open to the public to promote the Primary Election and Ranked Choice Voting. The event featured performances by local artists as well as The People’s Bus—a retired NYC Department of Correction vehicle that has been transformed into a community-led, intergenerational mobile civic engagement center. Primary election is set for June 22, 2021.
The People’s Bus is designed by Yazmany Arboleda, a Colombian-American artist who creates living sculptures. The bus will be parked on the plaza at Union Square for the event and will have opportunities for New Yorkers of all ages to learn about voting and to provide feedback for the development of the bus.
Performances at the event included local performers: rapper Kosha Dillz and Friends, Tony Glausi’s jazz trio, Broadway dancers Annelise (of “Jagged Little Pill”) and Kyle (of “Beauty and the Beast”), the Street Beat Brass Drum Line, stilt performer Brianna, NYC-based all-women Brazilian Samba Reggae drum line Fogo Azul, and Harlem-based youth poet Fanta Ratty.
A large-scale illumination was executed by The Illuminator, a NYC-based artist-activist collective, and featured Ranked Choice Voting-focused artwork by diverse NYC-based artists including Ruben Dario Ramirez, Bernardo Rodriguez, Suzanne Ruzzo, and others.
As of 2021, NYC is using Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) in primary and special elections for NYC offices. Ranked Choice Voting is a new system of voting in which you can rank up to five candidates in order of preference. With so much at stake in local elections and the implementation of a new system of voting, public education is even more important than ever this year, which is why DemocracyNYC is working on educating New Yorkers through multilingual workshops, Get Out the Vote programming, community engagement, phonebanking, tech tools, and print and digital media campaigns.
DemocracyNYC is a nonpartisan mayoral initiative focused on increasing voter participation and civic engagement in NYC. For more information about the City’s $15 million Ranked Choice Voting campaign, see here.
The Civic Engagement Commission was created in 2018 through a Mayoral Charter Revision Commission and citywide vote. CEC’s Mission is to enhance civic participation in order to increase civic trust and strengthen democracy in New York City. The Commission is committed to engaging and listening to communities, while lifting up the voices of all New Yorkers, particularly the underserved and marginalized.
“As the amazing event in Union Square demonstrated, we are here to tell New Yorkers loud and clear: Ranked Choice Voting here—and it can be fun and engaging, too!” said Laura Wood, Chief Democracy Officer at DemocracyNYC. “DemocracyNYC is thrilled to work with so many wonderful artists from this great City to get out the vote in the final stretch before the June 22 Primary Election. From the pizza toppings vote to our multilingual media campaign, from our in-person and online informational events, to our street canvassing, phone-banking and texting, we believe that partnering with local artists and community leaders is the best way to build a campaign that is truly by and for New Yorkers. We hope New Yorkers feel the energy and vote by June 22.”
“On Wednesday, The Civic Engagement Commission’s “Peoples Bus” rolled up to Union Square for the last stop on our five borough voter education tour. Together with agency partners, community organizations, artists, and performers, we brought information and excitement around the election directly to New Yorkers, meeting them where they are at. It is crucial that civic engagement be accessible, intelligible, and joyful; activations like the “Countdown to Vote” do exactly that,” said Dr. Sarah Sayeed, Chair & Executive Director of the New York City Civic Engagement Commission.
“Community events like the one at Union Square bring New Yorkers together to celebrate their fundamental right to vote and help us reach New Yorkers in creative, attention-getting ways,” said Deputy Mayor J. Phillip Thompson. “Voting impacts New Yorkers’ everyday lies, so we need to bring voting into their everyday lives. What a great way to herald the future of fairer and more inclusive elections by celebrating Ranked Choice Voting.”
“Enfluence is so proud to be part of such a fun, lively, and most importantly impactful event around the upcoming election and Ranked Choice Voting education! We felt the energy of the city and the excitement of the people,” said Kendra Weldon, Enfluence Co-founder.
“DemocracyNYC has reinvigorated art as a powerful civic engagement tool to bring awareness to our new voting system,” said Jessica Toledano, Executive Director of F.Y. Eye – a nonprofit media agency that designed PSAs for City’s GOTV effort. “It has been an incredible way to celebrate New York’s comeback as a community,” said Jessica Toledano, Executive Director, F.Y. Eye.
“Yesterday’s event was quite literally illuminating. The Uptown Collective is beyond proud to partner with DemocracyNYC and F.Y Eye in the crucial work of making sure our Democracy works for all of us. Democracy is not a spectator sport. You either use it or you lose it,” said Led Black, Founder of the Uptown Collective. (Photos and press release by the NYC Mayor’s Office; Featured photo: I vote campaign with FilAm council wannabes Deirdre Levy for Dist. 35, Steven Raga for Dist. 26, and Marni Halasa for Dist. 3)