In the spring of 2020, cities across the country were rippling with righteous anger over the murder of George Floyd. Protests and activism reached new heights. At the same time, America’s ugly history of disenfranchisement and voter suppression caused many Black Americans to feel as if their vote didn’t count leading up to the 2020 U.S. elections.
The City of Chicago, led by mayor Lori Lightfoot, wanted to communicate to Black Americans that their votes were more important than ever. In partnership with the voter rights organization When We All Vote, Chicago aimed to channel the engagement seen during the Floyd protests from the streets to the polls. More broadly, the goal was to change the culture around voting and to increase the number of registrations and voters within Chicago’s Black community.
To increase awareness, the campaign repurposed many of the buildings and stores that had been barricaded in response to Black Lives Matter protests as platforms to promote voting. Voting booth installations, which included QR codes that helped users register to vote, were placed in dozens of Black and brown neighborhoods.
The campaign was extensively covered by the media, including a feature story on NBC Nightly News and a front-page feature in the Chicago Tribune. In the 2020 election, Chicago achieved a record number of registrations. Total votes cast were up 4%, leading to an overall turnout of 73%.