During the Black Lives Matter protests that followed the murder of George Floyd, many buildings and stores in Chicago barricaded their windows with plywood boards. But what started as a bleak image quickly transformed into canvases in which underrepresented communities were able to voice their frustrations, hopes and cries for change through art. One of the most striking uses of the plywood boards was repurposing them as voting booths.
The City of Chicago took the repurposing one step further. In partnership with voting rights organization When We All Vote, the city built voting booth installations in dozens of Black and brown neighborhoods, primarily in the south and west side of the city. The voting booth structures featured QR codes, which, when scanned, directed users to a voter registration page. And leading up to the 2020 election, a citywide outdoor campaign encouraged everyone to participate in democracy, even pointing voters to the nearest polling place.
The campaign, alongside a variety of initiatives promoting civic engagement, had an impact: Chicago achieved a record number of registrations and total votes cast were up 4%, leading to an overall turnout of 73%. Today, Boards of Change lives on at the DuSable Museum for African American History, as part of a historic moment for the Black community.