“It is critically important in these uncertain and dangerous times that Tennesseans understand it is imperative to be involved in local, state and federal elections,” Dr. Daryl Carter, associate professor of history at East Tennessee State University, said.
The Emporium Center of Knoxville, Tennessee hosted “Tennessee: Why Aren’t You Voting? An Interactive Conversation” on Sept. 27. The event aimed to raise voter awareness and to help create more informed voters. The discussion culminated as part of the “Democracy and the Informed Citizen Symposium” hosted by the Knox County Public Library, Humanities Tennessee, Jane L. Pettway Foundation, League of Women Voters, Arts and Culture Alliance and Leadership Knoxville.
“Events like this are productive. It helps us all understand why people do and don’t vote,” Christopher S. Davis, assistant administrator of elections for Knox County, said. “It’s always good to hear different opinions. It’s very easy to be in an echo chamber of reinforcing opinions.”
Tennessee ranked 49th and 50th in voter turnout rankings in 2014 and 2016. According to Think Tennessee statistics, less than 25 percent of voters vote in local elections in the five largest cities. Turnout remains low among voters 18-24.
Tim Henderson works with Humanities Tennessee, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting lifelong learning, civil discourse and an appreciation of history, diversity and community among Tennesseans.
“It’s not about electing someone to just go to work. It’s about electing someone who starts a conversation, who talks about what matters to the voter,” Henderson said. “You can elect people who are going to talk about what you [the voter] care about. Don’t vote for someone who isn’t going to have a conversation about issues you [the voter] care about.”
The discussion included topics like media and information, fake news and misinformation, polling locations, voter database security and foreign interference in U.S. elections.
“This is the fifth forum I’ve participated in. Each community has a number of people passionate about civic engagement,” Dawn Schluckebier, project manager with Think Tennessee, said. “The number of people vary greatly though from event to event, with numbers as low as 10 and as high as 50.”
Think Tennessee maintains a vision that public policy should focus on building ladders of opportunity for Tennesseans.
Knox County continues to encourage voters to exercise their rights. The midterm elections will be held Tuesday, Nov. 6. U.S. Senate candidates Phil Bredesen (D) and Marsha Blackburn (R) will debate at the University of Tennessee Howard Baker Center Wednesday, Oct. 10.
To find out more about this series, visit the Knox Library Democracy website.
Featured Photo by Daniel Sassone
Edited by Ainsley Kelso