SAN FRANCISCO — As the 2024 election season looms, San Francisco is taking a creative approach to engaging more voters.
For the first time, the SF Department of Elections held a contest to determine the next "I Voted" sticker design. They've received hundreds of submissions and soon residents will have the chance to choose the final design.
Deep in the heart of City Hall, artistry and civic pride have collided in a way San Francisco has never seen.
"It's a mix of historical landmarks and a mix of you know, Karl the Fog we see on here," said elections department division manager Karlie O'Toole. "I think it just means that they love their city. They know what represents their city and they're excited about voting."
Creatives from across the city submitted their designs for the next sticker to be handed out at the 2024 primary and general elections.
"We've gotten so many. They're fantastic," O'Toole explained. "We really think that the city is going to be excited once they see them."
She's part of the team that has analyzed over 300 sticker submissions. The idea came from other states with similar competitions, and it's already doing what they set out to do: more than just design a new sticker, but engage more voters.
"We're also reaching communities that we've had trouble reaching, like eligible but not registered voters, college kids. People who don't normally participate in the elections process are getting really excited about elections," O'Toole said.
Despite being a historically politically engaged city, San Francisco voter turnout has declined in recent election cycles.
In 2022, 62% of registered voters submitted their ballots, down from 74% in 2018. But O'Toole hopes this contest will help turn those numbers around.
"We hope that this makes people excited to get out to the polls to go to their polling places on election day to go to the voting center, and when they open their vote by mail packet that they received there, they're going to see the new sticker and I think that's going to excite them about voting," she explained.
It appears to be working. O'Toole said web traffic to the elections department website is up and they saw a spike in voter registration during the time of the contest. As of September 22, nearly 11,000 San Francisco residents either registered to vote or updated their voter registration.
"Voting is your voice; it is your opportunity to get your voice out to make a record of what you believe in, who you stand behind, what issues are important to you," said O'Toole. "What candidates are important to you, and not just what you're doing for yourself, what you're doing for your community. And we think that voting you know is just so important."
Each design must follow strict parameters including the circular shape. It must also say 'I Voted' in four languages; English, Spanish, Chinese, and Tagalog.
"It can't have any political affiliation or candidates or pro or against any issue or party can't have any profanity can't have any trademarks or copyright or borrowed images," O'Toole explained.
A panel of judges including art professors, graphic designers, members of the arts commission and local artists will review the designs and choose a final nine. The public will then get a chance to vote for their favorite sticker design that will be used for two elections. The top three winners will receive cash prizes.
"I think it says that they love their city. I think it says that they're eager to participate in the elections process that they think voting is important, and that they know what represents San Francisco," said O'Toole.
The window for submitting designs ends on Friday, September 22. Public voting on the final sticker design will begin October 10. More information on the sticker design contest is available online.
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