Frank Theodat, '13, is on a mission. With a primary just passed and a special election this summer, he wants to spread the word about voter suppression.
The Hyde Park resident and communication studies major planned and hosted an event on campus designed to share information about how people are denied the right to vote and what can be done about it. For his event, he set up a handful of voting booths and made it so that each one provided a situation that had to be addressed. There were ballots that were in Spanish only, double-listed candidates, and some of his fellow students challenging the “voters” who were trying to “cast a ballot.”
The event fulfilled a key requirement in a course taught by Professor Judith Willison and that’s part of the social justice residential learning community (RLC). RLCs are designed to give students with a particular academic focus or similar interests the opportunity to live together in a residence hall community, as well as study together and collaborate on various projects.
Mr. Theodat’s voter suppression event concluded with a talk by Sara Brady, program director for Mass Vote. She outlined the many ways that voters are discouraged from casting a ballot, or sometimes even intimated. “This stuff happens here, too,” she said.
Ms. Brady spoke of the “protection work” her organization does, and explained to the audience the problems she has seen on recent election days. She also provided some potential remedies, things students need to know in order to keep from being prohibited from exercising their franchise. “It’s up to the voters to know what their rights are,” she said.
We caught up with Mr. Theodat for a few questions during his event.
Q: How and why did you decide on an event dedicated to voter suppression?
A: When I needed a topic, the presidential election was going on. I thought it was interesting that this was the most active election, yet voter suppression was not really talked about. The information is out there but a lot of people don’t know how to access it. Once you become aware of the problems, you know what to look for.
Q: What do you hope your audience takes away from the event?
A: That the people who came got the information, tools and knowledge they need, and that they take an activist role from now on.
Q: How do you think your event went?
A: I think the overall execution was fine. We had some hiccups, but everyone left with something, whether it was knowledge or a social action plan. Putting the event together and seeing it come alive was very rewarding.
Q: What did you learn from the process?
A: Plan ahead, that’s always key.
Q: Are you going to vote in the special election?
A: Oh, yes. I’ll be going home to vote.
(Story and photos by John Winters, G '11, University Advancement)