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At Bonnaroo, positive vibes extend to democracy not just music and arts

In World
June 15, 2024

As the 20th Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival gathered steam Thursday and Friday—both in attendance and in actual heat—one nonprofit organization took advantage of the colorful chaos to promote democracy and civic engagement.

Under a bright, disco-bedecked tent in the nonprofit portion of Centeroo sat Headcount, a national nonpartisan nonprofit group that promotes voter registration through music festivals across the country. With Bonnaroo-themed voting pins, a cool-down tent and various inflatable couches, the spot was a popular one amongst festival-goers.

This, said Chris Tallent, field director at Headcount, was exactly the goal.

“We’ve been coming to Bonnaroo for many years—it’s one of the biggest festivals we go too,” he said. “We’re so excited to be here.”

Including Bonnaroo, the organization sets up camp at over 1,000 live events each year to promote voter registration. According to the organization’s website, the group has signed up over a million voters since 2003 through festivals like Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Pride festivals and RuPaul’s DragCon, as well as touring with celebrity partners like Ariana Grande, Beyonce and Dead & Company.

Events like these are an important aspect of civic engagement, Tallent explained, because the demographic tends to be young adults—many of whom are unregistered.

“Festivals are a great location because we always try to meet people where they are, and bring joy and positive energy to democracy,” he said. “And particularly to engage young people to vote in democracy, there’s no better place to go than shows and festivals and concerts.”

Voter turnout in Tennessee is repeatedly one of the lowest in the country. According to a study done by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Election Performance Index, while 79 percent of eligible Tennesseans are registered to vote, the state ranks 43rd in the country for voter turnout, with only 31 percent of the state population voting in the 2022 election cycle.

The national average for that year was 47 percent.

Tallent said he hopes events like these can help turn the tide of poor voter participation.

“Getting people registered to vote is important because we need a democracy that includes everyone—and we want everyone to be civically engaged,” he said.

The USA Today Network – Tennessee’s coverage of First Amendment issues is funded through a collaboration between the Freedom Forum and Journalism Funding Partners.

Have a story to tell? Reach Angele Latham by email at alatham@gannett.com, by phone at 931-623-9485, or follow her on Twitter at @angele_latham

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: At Bonnaroo, positive vibes extend to democracy not just music

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