Less than five weeks before the Nov. 3 election, widespread efforts are underway by many groups to encourage a large voter turnout. In Petaluma, musicians and artists are using their creative talents to stir people to vote.
Petaluma singer-songwriter André Morrow and Portland-based collaborator David J. Michalak last weekend released a song, “People (Vote),” that they hope will go viral before the election.
With lyrics that include “If you gotta walk ... vote. If you gotta crawl ... vote,” the music video features several Petaluma residents repeating the refrain, “Vote!”
“Every vote counts, but even more than that it is our duty,” Morrow said. ”I was so disappointed by the low voter turnout for the 2016 election. Election Day should be a national holiday earmarked by parties and revelry. Even minor elections should garner high voter turnout.“
Petaluma has launched it’s own creative voter turnout effort with the help of a local icon.
Petaluma Pete, the honky tonk piano playing character personified by John Maher, has started a competition among the nine Sonoma County cities to determine which one has the biggest voter turnout.
“This could serve as inspiration to get more people to vote,” Maher said.
In a video posted to Facebook, Maher introduced the contest among Sonoma County cities.
“This is not intended to be partisan in anyway,” he said. “It’s just about the vote.”
The contest, which is sponsored by the Petaluma River Promenade, the nonprofit set up to promote riverfront activities in Petaluma, aims to pit the cities against each other in order to turn out the vote. The city with the largest per capita voter turnout will win a prize, Maher said.
“An award plaque will be presented to the mayor of the winning Sonoma County municipality giving that office the ability to proudly display it and brag on it until the next election cycle,” he said. “May the best Sonoma County municipality win.”
The friendly contest between mayors is akin to governors from states that represent Super Bowl teams betting on the outcome of the game, Maher said. He enlisted Petaluma Mayor Teresa Barrett to promote the contest.
“Please join me in voting and help Petaluma become the No. 1 highest voting average in Sonoma County,” Barrett said. “We want to win the trophy this year.”
Turning out voters is particularly challenging for advocates this year because of the coronavirus pandemic and perceived mail-in voting issues. In-person voting will be limited this year due to requirements with social distancing. President Donald Trump has repeatedly cast doubt, without providing evidence, about the security of mail-in voting, and has questioned the U.S. Postal Service’s ability to handle mailed ballots.
The Sonoma County Registrar of Voters has set up drop boxes in all cities in the county, to give people an alternative to in-person and mail-in voting. In Petaluma, drop boxes will be located at the Petaluma Community Center and the Petaluma Veteran’s Building.
Maher said that seniors specifically could see the drop boxes as an attractive way to vote this year.
“Sonoma County seniors may feel reluctant to use the post office or more importantly may feel reluctant to get out and visit a potentially crowded polling place because of being classified as one of the most vulnerable groups during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
The Petaluma Arts Center is featuring an outdoor exhibit called “Get Out And Vote,” a campaign featuring eight commissioned artworks on view through election day.
“The goal is to be a creative force in get out the vote mobilizations locally and to impact efforts nationally,” the Arts Center said in a statement.
The artworks, created by Alynn + Mags, Maxfiled Bala, Jack Haye, Lukas & Scott Hess, The Kindness Committee founders, Pocho Sanchez, Bud Snow and Kathryn St. Clair, are also available as postcards, posters and T-shirts. The campaign includes local and national voter resources at deedsgetoutandvote.art/about.
The Petaluma Arts Center also set up a work called “Talking Fence,” which is “a site specific social sculpture focused on the power of the vote” on the fence outside the Lakeville Street building.
“The Petaluma Arts Center is inviting the community to add their voice to the collective call,” according to the website. “The piece will be evolving and ongoing. Please feel free to add your 2D art and posters, 3D totems and hangable objects.”
(Contact Matt Brown at email@example.com.)