Students in Social Movements and Technology Keystone Seminar worked to educate people about voting before the election. The class will continue to spread awareness for voting rights through social media.
Professor Terri Reilly watched as her Social Movements and Technology Keystone Seminar students brainstormed their ideas for their class project. Scribbling on the whiteboard, students wrote about social injustice and climate change. Then, as they got further through the list, they found themselves thinking about the election.
How would citizens of the United States find trustworthy information about their right to vote and how it could be suppressed?
What was going to happen during an election where the president is constantly raising questions about its validity?
What was going to happen after the results came in?
Out of these questions, “Webster U – Voting Matters!” was born. COVID-19 presented challenges to the usual pop-up format Reilly follows, so the class took to social media to spread the awareness of voting rights.
Reilly said her students, who range from freshmen year to seniors, have been increasingly anxious and worried about the outcome of the election.
“[The students] were rightfully concerned about the right to vote and the democracy that goes with the right to vote. And then post-election threats to the democratic process with not accepting that election and going to the courts,” Reilly said. “And that has happened before, but the current occupant of the White House [is] saying he’s not gonna leave. So those two things together, I think, were so overwhelming to this class that it overshadowed everything else.”
The students sort the information they receive into two topics: pre-election and post-election. Pre-election was focused on how and where to vote and what rights voters have. Post-election will be focused on what happens after the vote and if results are challenged.
Then, the students use a media bias chart to navigate the internet’s vast amount of information about the election. The chart dictates what media sources are left-leaning, right-leaning, extremist to one side or the other and which ones are the most moderate.
Jess Carolan, a student in Reilly’s class, mentioned voter suppression was one of the key aspects to the project.
“One of the articles that we’re using found that in Georgia, 70% of the people that had their voter registration purged were people of color,” Carolan said. “So, it is an important topic because we’re in St. Louis and we have a big people of color population and we all need to be aware of it and make sure it’s not happening in our community and make sure it doesn’t happen in these elections, especially since it was happening just in the 2018 primaries.”
Carolan is one member of the 10-person research team, finding information to push out to students and the community.
Grace Ray, an art major, is one of three members of a creative team that formats the information in an aesthetically pleasing way to be put on social media. Ray and her team members have crafted templates for the Facebook and Instagram pages, making sure the information is eye-catching to help stand out against the blur of social media.
“I think that how the country has been lately with COVID, the election and Black Lives Matter, it’s just been so chaotic and stressful on everyone. I think it’s good to have some kind of platform where people can, you know, find more information on things,” Ray said. “The most important thing is getting more information out about voting and so [the community] knows they have an option to say their vote matters, that they can make a difference and they don’t feel so hopeless with everything that’s been happening.”
Follow the group on Instagram: @websteruvotingmatters
Like their page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/websteruvotingmatters