With big turnout expected at the polls today — along with the threat of right-wing, Trump-supporter “observers” — a group led by Madison-based Freedom Inc will be bringing a little joy to the election this afternoon.
“We know that this administration has been saying that they’re not going to transition smoothly, and that they are speaking directly to white supremacists on national television,” said Freedom Inc Director of Community Power Building Mahnker Dahnweih. “We wanted to make sure that we communicated to our community that we heard that and we want to take up space at the polls and make sure that it’s not only safe, but just a place that people actually want to be out on election day.”
As part of the national “Joy at the Polls” movement, voters at six Madison polling places will be entertained by DJs, fed by food trucks and inspired by artists.
Madison’s Joy at the Polls events will take place from 3:00 to 6:00 this afternoon at the following locations:
- Villager Mall
- Mendota Elementary
- Badger Rock
- Wyndham Garden Hotel
- Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
- Lakeview Lutheran Church
Dahnweih said this event is building on Freedom Inc’s longstanding Election Defenders program, which has for years provided election observers to ensure everyone is able to vote without fear of intimidation or disenfranchisement. As such, they’re well aware of all the rules and requirements for this kind of event.
“We have great relationships with the city clerk’s office. We kind of know the drill around what we can and can’t do and all that,” she said.
Dahnweih also said Freedom Inc is aware that they might encounter some of the so-called “Army for Trump” who intend to show up armed at polls, seeking to intimidate voters. But she’s not worried.
“We’re prepared for conflict, and we’re prepared to deescalate,” she said.
She also said the organization isn’t vying for one candidate or the other — just to make voting a positive experience for all.
“Regardless of who wins the election, we still have to come together to get the things that we need to have thriving communities. We can’t even leave it up to one candidate. It’s going to be on us to come together,” she said. We have some of the best DJ’s in Wisconsin performing for us. We have artists and things coming through. We got some really great food trucks and vendors and such. Even if it’s not just about voting — nothing that we do is ever just about voting — just the community aspect of it, and the coming together, relationship building is so valuable. Folks should just come out and vote. Bring your friends and family. It’s our election. We want to make sure that Black lives matter in the streets, as well as at the polls. And again, we don’t pretend that one candidate is going to fix everything, but we do know that coming together and showing our collective power is really influential and does put pressure on folks. And we need to just keep building through this election and after it as well.”