Presented as part of
Talking Back to Power: Projects by Aram Han Sifuentes, a multi-stage exhibition at the Skirball Cultural Center
October 1–November 30, 2020
Who has, and who doesn’t have, the power to make decisions in our democracy?
From October 1 through November 30, 2020, the Skirball Cultural Center hosted The Official Unofficial Voting Station, a project by artist Aram Han Sifuentes. A radical expansion of the democratic spirit, The Official Unofficial Voting Station offers symbolic voting power to all people. It is meant to start conversations about disenfranchisement, civics, and belonging in American life.
The United States Constitution establishes the ability of ordinary people to make decisions regarding their government, but limits have applied since the very beginning. For the past 250 or so years, the laws controlling who can vote have changed to enfranchise new groups—including people who do not own property, people who were formerly enslaved, and women—but more recent trends have restricted voting rights and created new barriers for voters.
The Official Unofficial Voting Station points out that voting laws can be changed. Who do you think should be able to vote? What would our elections look like if people who cannot vote, could vote? By presenting a voting station that welcomes everyone, this project explores the possibility of a true democracy.
Voting has closed for the 2020 iteration of The Official Unofficial Voting Station. You can learn about the results below.
From the Artist
According to the US Election Project, in 2016, 28.6 percent of people in the United States, or 92 million people, were disenfranchised—ineligible to vote in the presidential election. These groups include youth under eighteen, residents of US territories, non-citizens, and, depending on state laws, incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people and those without government-issued identification. This monumental number does not even factor in voter suppression.
My online, glow-in-the-dark voting station plays off of the idea that the disenfranchised are kept in the dark when it comes to voting. This station is open to all and particularly to those who are disenfranchised. In a season when people who cannot vote are deemed to be silent and invisible, this station is not only a place for all to cast symbolic votes, but also a site for loud celebration and protest to demand for the system to Let Us Vote!
— Aram Han Sifuentes
Official Unofficial Results
What did voters at The Official Unofficial Voting Station say in 2020? Who did they vote for? In what ways did they say the right to vote should be expanded? What issues do they care most about? Keep reading to learn the results of this unofficial election.
Why you voted
Why did you vote at The Official Unofficial Voting Station? Voters shared their thoughts, opinions, and personal stories to answer the prompt, “I am voting here because...”
These 99 statements are a selection from over 800 voter responses, as originally written by the respondents.
- “I wish voting was for ALL”
- “I wasn't able to vote for 26 years as a non-citizen"
- “I love being an American and want our Democracy to live on forever”
- “세계 시민이기 때문에” (“I am a citizen of the world”)
- “I can not legally vote as I am an international student”
- “The system is broken”
- “I want my voice heard.”
- “to quote John Lewis, ‘the vote is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have in a democratic society and we all must use it.’”
- “I'll vote as much as I possibly can this year #2020”
- “I believe everyone possesses a fundamental human right to participate in all political processes in the country in which they reside, regardless of their residential status on paper.”
- “we need to change how we vote!”
- “I feel like the actual election choices don’t represent me!”
- “I am undocumented, and the State restricts my ability to voice my beliefs and have agency in what my community looks like or where resources are allocated.”
- “Because you asked me to vote and because I have never voted and this made me feel some acceptance and that my voice should be heard and counted for.”
- “I'm seriously concerned about the future of our country”
- “Tôi quan tâm” (“I care”)
- “i need practice”
- “I don't think voting actually works”
- “Al ser residente no puedo votar en las elecciones” (“Being a resident, I can't vote in the elections”)
- “voting laws can be changed”
- “我的国家不允许我投票” (“My country does not allow me to vote”)
- “we should all have the right to vote without suppression”
- “voting should be a joyous, celebratory event for everyone.”
- “Nie mogę w własnym kraju głosowa” (“I cannot vote in my own country”)
- “I love my country”
- “my great-grandmothers were not permitted to vote based on gender, so it's important for me to cast every vote available to me.”
- “I AM TOO YOUNG”
- “gotta vote baby”
- “too many politicians are making it difficult for poorer citizens to vote.”
- “Disenfranchisement is a huge problem!”
- “VOTE OR DIE”
- “my parents are immigrants, and they aren't allowed to vote.”
- “Tôi đam mê về chính trị.” (“I am passionate about politics”)
- “i am not a US citizen yet.”
- “we need to fight back against fascism”
- “I am heartbroken by the hateful words, actions, and policies of the current administration; it must come to an end”
- “I cannot legally, but I would like my voice to count.”
- “I want to stand up for those who can't and although voting is only a small act, it can have great impact.”
- “I am a permanent resident and cannot vote. As it's been said, this is the most important election of our lives.”
- “i am only 14”
- “only us citizens should vote”
- “I can't vote in the USA but also not in my country”
- “I am not an American citizen but I hope to live and contribute to my community here for many more years if not decades.”
- “我不是美国公民，没办法投票，但是我对于美国大选也有自己的意见” (“I'm not a US citizen and can't vote, but I also have my own opinions in the US election”)
- “The people of Hong Kong have had their democracy taken away”
- “I was born as an individual American Citizen whether in prison or not.”
- “I love the joyous notion of voting being a celebration for ALL!”
- “I was born a few days to late to vote”
- “It is the only way for me to contribute today”
- “Because I can't be there to vote in person due to my incarceration.”
- “everyone deserves the right to vote in America, and I hope to help uplift the unheard voices.”
- “A president's decision can either reform the U.S. Criminal Justice System or increase mass-incarceration.”
- “I believe that more people should be allowed to vote such as 17 and 18 year olds, those who were in jail or prisons, immigrants who are not citizens but have lived here 5 or more years....”
- “It was my civic duty to vote and if I was still able to officially I would still do it. President make calls for incarcerated people so I should be able to vote in order to make the right choice for ALL prisoners.”
- “WE ARE FLOWERS OF ONE GARDEN!”
- “I believe in the power of voting. I can vote, but my students can't”
- “EVERY human is valuable. Those who have been “allowed” to vote need to speak up for those who have been silenced.”
- “I'm ready to fully engage after years of absence”
- “I’m discouraged to just recently learn how legally/officially registered voters were denied their ballot or had to wait hours to vote. I had no idea how fortunate I was in this regard. I want to encourage others to register and fight suppression.”
- “I care about health care, human rights, gun regulations and climate change.”
- “I do not agree with 99% of his issues, but he is for overturning Roe v. Wade and I'm with him on that. All life should be lived until Allah calls you back.”
- “I want the Future of my sisters and brothers to be a place their voices matters, their bodies and minds respected and have choice”
- “I believe Black Lives Matter.”
- “I've lived and paid taxes in this country for 17 year but cannot determine who represents me because I am still not a citizen!”
- “Everyone should be able to vote in a democracy. Felons who have Served their time should be welcomed back into full participation in our country and our elections.”
- حقي في حياة حرة في هذه البلد خالية من التعنف الأسري (“My right to a free life in this country, free from domestic violence”)
- “I’m a citizen of the uk but this election will have real impact on what happens in the Uk”
- “WE NEED TO SAVE THE WHALES”
- “it's time to stand up and take action”
- “My niece thinks her vote won’t matter”
- “It is one small way that I can try and engage with the world around me to make change. It is not the end all be all, and I know the impact of voting for one candidate versus another is still part of obliging a broken system, but I think I would be irresponsible as a white femme to not vote. I have so much power within the system, voting is part of wielding that for me.”
- “I am 5 and I am the future.”
- “100% voting 100% is democracy by the people”
- “Everyone deserves a chance at a better future”
- “I know what it's like to be denied my rights because of my race”
- “The system was set up to protect those in power and screw the rest of us”
- “im angry”
- “even if this is only symbolic (and officially unofficial) I feel so frustrated by what is going on across the country to suppress the vote. We need to change!”
- “I have a green card and I can't legally vote”
- “it is fun and important”
- “I want to show solidarity with those who are prevented from voting.”
- “I am a 17 year old who cannot legally vote even though I feel I would make mature and informed decisions about our country. I want my voice to be heard because I have researched and deeply followed the 2020 politcal climate”
- “I am 5 years old and I'm brown and proud”
- “92 million can't vote”
- “todos tenemos que votar para lograr un cambio en esta sociedad” (“we all need to vote to accomplish a change in this society”)
- “The electoral college is outdated”
- “to protest the duopoly”
- “I do not want to see this country slide into fascism”
- “I am underage but I still want to make a difference where I can”
- “Im only 11 but I still have a voice and I vote for trump”
- “Si Donald Trump puede ser presidente de una Nacion tan poderosa, yo lo puedo hacer tambien.” (“If Donald Trump can be the president of such a powerful Nation, I can do it too.”)
- “Our democracy has been held hostage for the last four years by a leader who doesn't put the American people first. Biden, a lifetime politician will unite us and put America first.”
- “The only problem is that other people will fail you but God will not. So fun staying with the works of Godly people.”
- “to make a new president”
- “The past four years under Trump has brought to light just how deeply divided our country is. White Supremacy and systemic racism is no longer obscure and it's time dismantle these evils.”
- “we need radical change”
- “this is an interesting art project”
- “what is the best pizza”
To see more reasons you gave for voting at The Official Unofficial Voting Station, visit http://officialunofficial.vote/view/
The Skirball Cultural Center was one of several 2020 hosts for The Official Unofficial Voting Station. Originally created by Aram Han Sifuentes in 2016, this project raises awareness about voter disenfranchisement during elections and provides a place for all people to make their voices heard. It is activated by museums, independent artists, community organizers, and educators in a variety of unconventional settings and formats across the United States and abroad. For the first time, in 2020, The Official Unofficial Voting Station was presented as an online voting experience at officialunofficial.vote.
The Official Unofficial Voting Station was created by Aram Han Sifuentes with the participation of a network of collaborators including Ishita Dharap, William Estrada, Undocumented Projects, Sadie Woods, Erin Delaney, and Jon Satrom.
2020 Official Unofficial Collaborators in Los Angeles
During the run-up to the 2020 general election, LA-based artist and Official Unofficial Voting Station collaborator Carol Zou activated the project in physical locations across the city. This collaboration was made possible through the support of the AHL Foundation.
The Official Unofficial Motorcycle Voting Station is a collaboration between Carol Zou/MOTO VOTO and Aram Han Sifuentes. It is designed to raise awareness about and critique voter disenfranchisement. Anyone can cast a symbolic vote in this polling place on wheels, in which a motorcycle top box becomes a ballot box. With COVID-19 safety precautions in mind, The Official Unofficial Motorcycle Voting Station popped up in various public spaces around Los Angeles from September 2020 through Election Day, November 3, 2020.
Aram Han Sifuentes is a multidisciplinary fiber, social practice, and performance artist who works to claim spaces for immigrant and disenfranchised communities. As an immigrant herself, Sifuentes often creates work that revolves around skill sharing to create multiethnic and intergenerational spaces for empowerment, conversation, subversion of oppressive power structures, and protest.
Her work has been presented in exhibitions, performances, and workshops at the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY), the Pulitzer Arts Foundation (St. Louis, MO), Illinois State University Galleries (Normal, IL), Asian Arts Initiative (Philadelphia, PA), Chung Young Yang Embroidery Museum (Seoul, KR), and the Design Museum (London, UK). Sifuentes is a 2016 Smithsonian Artist Research Fellow and Adjunct Associate Professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is currently Artist in Residence at Loyola University Chicago.
The Skirball Cultural Center is a place of meeting guided by the Jewish tradition of welcoming the stranger and inspired by the American democratic ideals of freedom and equality. We welcome people of all communities and generations to participate in cultural experiences that celebrate discovery and hope, foster human connections, and call upon us to help build a more just society.
As a component of Talking Back to Power: Projects by Aram Han Sifuentes, the online exhibition The Official Unofficial Voting Station: Voting for All Who Legally Can’t and its related educational programs are made possible by generous support from: