NORTHRIDGE, Calif. — With the California Primary Election coming up on March 3, voters will nominate a presidential candidate, which judges who will sit on the bench, and Prop 13.
There is a lot at stake, so Los Angeles County is working with artist-in-residence Deborah Ascheim to help get the vote out.
“My job is to understand the mission, what the Registrar-Recorder's trying to do, which is to bring as many people into voting as possible,” said Ascheim. “In terms of my focus, that particularly means historically underrepresented groups of voters.”
Ascheim is engaged with students at Cal State Northridge by stenciling free T-shirts and canvas bags. Students are not only underrepresented, they’re intersectional. They represent communities of color, LGBTQ+, low-income, people with disabilities, and many students do experience homelessness.
But why does the county need an artist to help get out the vote?
“I can work more intimately and I can do a deeper level of engagement,” said Ascheim. “Just being able to be an outsider that can see what the goals are of the bureaucratic department, but not necessarily have been schooled in that bureaucratic mindset and can still consider things that might seem outrageous to the people that work there and then to prove that they work.”
Originally from Boston, Ascheim worked as an assistant professor of studio art, but decided to move to L.A. after visiting. She’s taught at UC Irvine, USC, and Cal State Fullerton, but now concentrates on public art projects.
To her, it’s an opportunity to engage with an audience different to the traditional art scene.
“We believe that artists are creative strategists and so we think it's really important to include them and not only the conversation, but devising solutions to some of the most pressing civic issues of our time,” said Kristin Sakoda, Director of L.A. County Department of Arts and Culture. “We have artists with Mental Health, Parks and Rec, and even the new Office of Violence Prevention.”
This year, the Registrar-Recorder is rolling out new ballot marking devices at select locations as part of the Voting Solution For All People initiative. These students will be allowed to vote on campus regardless of where they live. They bring their sample ballot and the booth will automatically enter your local races.
Ascheim wants everyone on campus to vote.
“I would say that our role as artist, we're hoping that will make really wonderful artworks for all the departments and that'll be things that we can share, but the process of being able to change the way that people think, I think that's our real value,” said Ascheim.
L.A. County wants you to get out and vote.