Benton Harbor chosen for mural promoting voter participation

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BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- Voting activists are focused on increasing the turnout in this year's election with Benton Harbor residents and a new mural downtown has put a creative spin on their message.

The American Civil Liberties Union partnered with 100 organizations statewide to commission murals encouraging voter participation – one being We The People West Michigan, which helped kick the project off in Benton Harbor and support the ACLU’s mission to increase registration in areas where voter turnout is normally lower.

“I think the project stands for getting the message out there in more underserved communities throughout the state where there is a higher portion of residents who would not vote normally,” said Jesse KAssel, the artist chosen to paint the mural in Benton Harbor. “I definitely sensed a lot of interest in what we were doing and I was happy to be in Benton Harbor specifically.”

With many people turning to mail-in or early voting this year because of the pandemic, voting activists have already seen increased participation this election, with nearly 30 percent of Benton Harbor residents already casting their vote.

“It’s very important to weigh in regardless of whether a person feels a candidate is perfect and to sit out, in my opinion, is to not allow your voice to be heard,” said Elnora Gavin, the West Michigan organizer of We the People.

But Gavin said they’re also continuing to reiterate the murals message – Your Vote Matters – and that its influence stretches far beyond Election Day.

“People can start voting right now, they can go to the city clerk’s office and vote now, so we’re not just going to be looking at November 3rd, we’re really going to be partaking in this whole process,” said Gavin. “I think when you give people, especially in my community – whose vote has been suppressed in multiple ways – give them an opportunity to vote in multiple different ways, they will show up.”

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