Are you registered to vote?
LA member Mandana Dayani talks launching I am a voter – a viral campaign designed to compel all US citizens to vote in the upcoming presidential election that has garnered support from the likes of Halle Berry and January Jones
By Jess Kelham-Hohler . Above image: Mandana Dayani and Halle Berry in I am a voter. leggings (all images courtesy of I am a voter.) Tuesday 6 October, 2020 . Short read
Were you politically engaged prior to launching I am a voter?
‘I am an immigrant and came to this country as a religious refugee. I have always felt incredibly grateful for the opportunities I have been afforded as a result of growing up here and living the American Dream.
‘Politics is something that has always interested me – since the age of seven, the only consistent dream I have had was running for Senate. I worked on campaigns, followed the news religiously and tried to stay as close to it as possible in my free time. Seeing the political divide in our country the past couple of years was just so heartbreaking. And when my second daughter, Miller, was born, I really struggled with how I could give back.’
‘As an immigrant, I have always felt incredibly privileged to be an American. After making the decision to learn what I could do to help, I quickly saw there was an opportunity for a modern voting brand that really spoke to our generation. One that was positive, empowering and more focused on what unites us. A brand that captured how cool it is to be an active participant and maybe made you feel a little FOMO if you weren’t. I knew that if I could get these highly talented and inspiring women together in a room, we could build a meaningful message and leverage our relationships and skills to create true impact.
‘After doing lots of research, I learnt that identity was an important predictor of voter turnout, which is where the name came from. And once we partnered with CAA, they were able to provide us with the tools, infrastructure and support we needed to really get this off the ground.’
Why do you think there has been such apathy around voting in the US in recent elections?
‘Only 25% of US students reach the “proficient” standard on the NAEP Civics Assessment. We do a pretty bad job as a nation of teaching our citizens how our government works, and an equally disappointing job encouraging and empowering eligible voters to participate. But the recent trends to give employees time off to vote, the incredible work of grass-roots organisations to protect voter rights against further voter suppression, and the enthusiasm created by communities on the importance of participation has been so instrumental in improving this. We need to show young voters that our government can work for them.’
What kind of response and engagement have you seen with I am a voter as we approach election day?
‘Since the beginning, I have always believed that the success of our campaign would be contingent on the support and participation of our communities. So, when we reached out to all of our contacts and provided them with a simple way to participate and engage their communities, many jumped on board. I don’t think any of us could have ever predicted this level of engagement. I can’t emphasise enough the magic of these women who work on the campaign. My biggest contribution was just getting them together in one room to focus on one message.’
‘Debra and I have been activists for most of our lives and we wanted to learn about the people who inspired our own journeys. Given how polarised and politicised the world feels lately, we just wanted to share positive and empowering stories to help bring communities together. Almost all of the Dissenters we interviewed had no intention of becoming a hero or building a foundation. They started because they experienced an injustice and took action. We ultimately wanted to motivate others to pursue their passion and purpose.’
It’s been a strange year and the looming election has everyone apprehensive for what’s ahead – what do you hope for?
‘That we will look back on this time as a moment of profound and lasting change; the year we collectively found our voices and learnt to be advocates and allies. That we will always view the challenges of the future through the lens of the lessons we are learning today.’
What can US members do?
‘Text VOTER to 26797 right now to make sure you are registered and to receive reminders for all local, state, and federal elections. Request your mail-in ballot and vote as soon as possible this election (and vote early in person if that is an option). Lastly, make sure your friends, family members and colleagues vote.’