Midterms Matter Wants to Get Young People Voting

How a group of Austin creatives are trying to make a difference

As so many great things do, Midterms Matter began over tacos.

Elizabeth Chapin, Rachel Lomas, and Miguel Rangel, spurred to action following the Parkland shooting, began meeting to discuss what they, as creatively-minded people, could do to help effect positive change. After working with high schools for March For Our Lives, they decided to set their focus on young Americans. Others soon joined the cause, including Golden Dawn Arkestra band member Rose Barnett.

“We’re all just doing what we can,” Barnett said. “We have this really amazing, diverse group of people that came up with this idea, and we just wanted to figure out how we can make a difference.”

The answer: a non-partisan, grassroots campaign focused on increasing millennial voter turnout. The initiative, led by a group of civic-minded creatives, aims to use art as an inspirational tool to get people to the voting booth this midterm season.

“People don’t even know what midterm elections are,” Barnett said. “We think [voting] is an American honor that we should be practicing and not just preaching. Yet the numbers show that we’re not practicing.”

To reach young voters while incorporating art, the core project of Midterms Matter is centered at the upcoming Austin City Limits music festival. Made possible through a partnership with ACL Cares, local artist Xavier Schipani will live-paint a 32’ x 8’ mural over the first three days of the festival. Representatives from Headcount (another non-profit voter initiative) will be stationed nearby to register voters, as will teenage volunteers ready to engage festival-goers with the project. Custom merch designed by Mishka Westell (who also designed the Midterms Matter logo) will be available and distributed to festival artists.

“The first weekend is really a last call to vote,” Barnett said. “We’ll be focusing on registration. The second weekend is more about getting people to pledge to vote and just continuing the momentum into Oct. 22, which is when early voting starts.”

For the members of Midterms Matter – which also includes Chapin’s husband Nathaniel, Nak Armstrong, Walter Marcantoni, and Shanna Weisfeld – art can go beyond some of the more information-based channels, engaging people emotionally. They believe emotions work to get people past apathy.

Midterms Matter co-founder Elizabeth Chapin sells custom merch at the 2018 TransPecos Festival

“I think art literally activates people,” Chapin said. “It’s one thing to talk and talk and talk about this, it’s one thing to give the stats, but to get people to actually engage with that and do something about it is where all forms of art come in.”

This ideology extends to their social media, which is fittingly run by millennials, two daughters of board members. They create much of the content themselves, which includes memes and short video interviews asking people, “Do you feel like this is your America?”

“We tried to get it up and running and then they got involved and said, ‘Please just stop,’” Chapin said. “They felt that they were being talked to, and since they’re the group we’re trying to reach, I really wanted it to come from within.”

The message of Midterms Matter has clearly resonated with others, as seen through the fiscal support given to the organization by other groups such as Downtown for Democracy and Austin Community Foundation, as well as local businesses like Justine’s, which is organizing a backstage photo booth for Midterms Matter at ACL, and Pilgrim Building, which is providing materials for the mural.

“People fundamentally still believe in democracy no matter what age they are, but people do feel like their vote doesn’t matter,” Barnett said. “That gives us a very clear-cut mission to really educate and motivate people about why their vote matters.”


The deadline to register to vote is Tuesday, Oct. 9. Read about other Austinites finding creative ways to encourage voter turnout.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
MORE voter turnout
Cheers to Circle Brewing Co.'s Beto Beer
Cheers to Circle Brewing Co.'s Beto Beer
Doing your civic duty one pint at a time

Melanie Laporte, Sept. 28, 2018

You’re So Gonna Vote!
You’re So Gonna Vote!
Voter registration deadline is Oct. 9

Chase Hoffberger, Sept. 28, 2018

More by Shalavé Cawley
SXSW Film Keynote: Olivia Wilde
Film Keynote: Olivia Wilde
The director applies her Booksmarts to making films

March 12, 2019

Film Review: <i>The Peanut Butter Falcon</i>
Film Review: The Peanut Butter Falcon
Unlikely friendship comedy-drama soars on wobbly wings

March 10, 2019

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Midterms Matter, Elizabeth Chapin, Rose Barnett, Rachel Lomas, Miguel Rangel, Xavier Schipani, Mishka Westell, Nathaniel Chapin, Nak Armstrong, Walter Marcantoni, Shanna Weisfeld, ACL Cares

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle