Rachel Armitage will be travelling to the USA to investigate voter registration and democratic engagement activities in advance of the 2016 Presidential Election. Having worked in democratic and community engagement for over a year, Rachel is now employed as the Electoral Services Engagement Officer at Nottingham City Council with a remit to increase democratic participation in the city. She is looking to co-create new educational resources with young and marginalised communities in the city, thereby breaking down barriers that might prevent them from engaging with democracy.
With this in mind, Rachel intends to use her scholarship to the USA to learn best practice techniques for engaging individuals and communities with democracy. Voter registration activity will be high in the weeks and months leading up to the 2016 Presidential Election and Rachel is hoping to witness and take part in as many activities as possible across the country. She will be spending her first month on the East Coast, visiting the headquarters of many organisations that take a practical or academic interest in voter registration and participation. She then hopes to travel towards the West Coast, meeting with state-based groups and visiting communities and university campuses to see how they are preparing for the election. Of particular relevance to Rachel’s project is National Voter Registration Day, a national day of action to encourage voter registration which will take place on 27th September. The day is organised by a collective of non-profit organisations and Rachel is eager to experience the atmosphere and to witness as many different approaches to registration as possible on the day.
Whilst in America, Rachel is particularly looking forward to acting as an ambassador for Nottinghamshire and to fostering continued positive relationships with the scholarship’s US partners. She is also eager to see America through the eyes of its citizens, and is grateful to the exchange organisation, Servas, for granting her membership and access to the hospitality of its US contingent. Rachel has scheduled in some “down time” during her trip and is hoping to see some of America’s greatest landmarks, such as the White House and the Golden Gate Bridge, and to take part in some its best known customs, including thanksgiving dinner!
Rachel aims to come home with a greater understanding of practices that engage people with democracy in an international setting. She will use this knowledge to inform her work back in Nottingham city, most likely by trialling successful activities from the USA on a micro level. She hopes that in the long term this will allow her to create a successful and sustainable engagement programme that increases democratic participation in Nottingham city for years to come.