Next Stop: Democracy! is plowing straight ahead, fresh off of a successful Kickstarter campaign. Its next announcement: teaming up with the Mural Arts Restorative Justice program to for five installations on this November’s election day.
Next Stop: Democracy! is a voter engagement project that’s asking one simple question: Can a celebratory, citywide public art exhibition on Election Day help increase voter turnout in Philadelphia?
“From pure voter apathy, to one of the most commonly given reason a lack of information on the candidates, to problems with voter registration, and confusion about polling locations, there are perhaps thousands of reasons why people choose not to participate in our democratic process.” said the NSD team on their blog. ”But for all the reasons, one in particular stuck out to us: the thousands of Philadelphians who fail to vote due to a misconception.”
A recent study from University of California, Riverside estimates that of the 35,000 Philadelphians released from state and county prisons each year, about 50 percent believe that their criminal records exclude them from the right to vote, which is incorrect.
“Most people assume that individuals who have been incarcerated can’t vote, which is simply not not true.” said Lansie Sylvia, who came up with the original idea for the project. “We want to debunk that myth and point out that voting can still be a powerful tool for civic change.”
According to VotesPA, in 2000 the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania ruled that the Pennsylvania law prohibiting convicted felons from registering to vote for five years after their release from prison is unconstitutional. Convicted felons who are incarcerated on the date of a primary or general election are not eligible to vote, but pre-trial detainees and those who were incarcerated for misdemeanor crimes are eligible to register to vote and/or to vote by absentee ballot if they otherwise qualify to vote under law.
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So on August 20, Next Stop: Democracy! announced a partnership with thllbe Mural Arts Restorative Justice Program. Over the next several weeks, the NSD team will be working alongside inmates of Graterford prison to create five “Vote Here” signs to be used in their Election Day art installations across the city.
The Restorative Justice program enables all parties of a crime to communicate, attempt to understand what has happened to the community then proceed to healing and restoration. They incorporate these ideas through through art instruction, mural making, and community service work within the criminal justice system. Through weekly programs and opportunities for involvement in mural projects, Mural Arts provides art instruction to over 300 inmates and 200 juveniles every year.
Images via Conrad Benner.-30-
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