Participating in an election during a pandemic can be confusing and overwhelming. Jennifer Victor doesn’t believe it has to be that way.
“It’s super important for the strengthening of the country right now for people to get out there, participate in the election, and to know how to do it in ways that are positive,” Victor said. “Because of the challenges to voting during a pandemic and the fraught-ness about politics these days, I wanted to build civic education and civic activity into my classes and provide a way for all students to really get involved in ways that are constructive.”
Democracy Squad is a team hosted on “Magnify,” a digital platform dedicated to connecting people to civic, political and environmental projects.
Members of the Mason community can join through the app or website, and participate in projects to help facilitate civic engagement.
“I joined because I’ve really been wanting to get more involved with things like the elections and human rights,” said criminology, law and society sophomore Neha Sehgal. “It gave me the perfect opportunity to do so.”
There are more than 20 projects on Democracy Squad that range from registering to vote and applying for an absentee ballot to becoming a Fairfax County election officer and helping out on Election Day. Members can also submit ideas for new projects.
The app helps gamify civic engagement, as participants receive points for completing projects. There is even a leaderboard.
“It helps me understand what’s going on in my community and gives me that chance to help out,” Sehgal said. “Democracy Squad benefits not only me, but everyone in the community.”
“It’s a chance to get connected … and it broadens your perspective on how you see the world,” she added.
Sehgal said Democracy Squad helped her become more involved in this year’s election process. According to Victor, participating is particularly important in 2020.
“If all of these signs that political scientists are pointing out about democracy being under threat and backsliding through violations of various norms and institutions [are true], the one thing I know can shore up the health of a democracy is an election [and voting],” Victor said.
Ultimately, that is what Victor believes is the essence of democracy.
“It’s about community building, being with your neighbors and doing something all-together to help make the world a better place,” she said. “I want students to feel like they’re engaged in this collective group activity that everybody’s doing to pull together to make this contribution to self-governance.”