Bonnie Thompson Norman is a Seattle artist who is passionate about voting and civil rights. She has been a printer and book artist for over forty years, and is proprietor of The Windowpane Press. She learned printing at The Woman’s Building in Los Angeles, eventually becoming their Studio Director. In Seattle, Bonnie works as a hand book binder and letterpress printer and teaches classes in printing and book making. She produces works that offer challenging questions, provocative puns and inspiration about timeless and/or contemporary issues in the form of broadsides and artist’s books.
Ballot BOX, part of the Collins Memorial Library Special Collections is a book intended to educate and inspire viewers to recognize the power and right to vote.
In Bonnie’s own words:
It may come as a surprise to learn the right to vote is not explicitly stated nor provided for in the United States Constitution. Rather, this right has been shaped by Amendments, Congressional legislation, judicial review, and requirements and restrictions enacted by the States.
For me, voting is a fundamental and cherished expression of patriotism and democracy. By casting my vote, I am connected to the principals of Government of the People, by the People and for the People.
Collins Librarian Jane Carlin recently had a chance to check in with Bonnie and asked her a few questions about her views:
It has been six years since you published Ballot BOX. What is the significance of this book six years after publication?
For me, this is not a new issue. I have always been moved by the act of voting. When I lived in Los Angeles and my children were much younger, I made sure that I would take them with me each and every time I went to a polling place. I was often a bit emotional about the process of telling and showing my children how democracy works…talking about how we checked in and our signatures were verified, how we went into our very own private voting booth, how we placed the ballot in the box…and finally, how we got a sticker that said, “I voted!”
Initially when absentee ballots (later called mail-in ballots) were made available, I was a bit sad about missing the act of going to the polling place with my neighbors. However, I came to appreciate the convenience of being able to vote on my own time and with less worry of having to rush to the polls before they closed. With the limitations which have been imposed by individual states and jurisdictions on access to voting, cleansing of voting rolls, disenfranchisement of people who have fully served time for offenses, shortened hours, fewer polling sites…and now, the threats against the United States Post Office, the right to vote is further and seriously undermined.
What message do you want viewers to take away after seeing Ballot BOX?
I would like people to understand that the right to vote in our country, though not written into the Constitution, is a foundation of our democracy. It is important to understand our rights and why it is important that these rights be extended to each and every citizen in an equal and unrestricted manner.
There are many challenges facing voters today. What’s your take?
I hear from people with whom I have tried in the past to encourage to register to vote that they don’t know enough about either the candidate running or the issue presented, or both. Or, they don’t think their vote will make any difference in the outcome. My response first is, again, not voting is still a vote. Secondly, their paychecks already reflect how issues in the past have been determined in the way deductions are allocated and spent. So, each time they get paid, their paycheck is a reflection of past legislation like the establishment of Social Security, or Unemployment Insurance, etc. Third, and this is the biggest stretch for people, is that they could spend a few moments looking at the Voter Information Pamphlet or consulting several different sources to see what they have to say on particular issues and candidates. I emphasize several disparate sources.
Additional Resources for Students on Voting: (Compiled by Collins librarian Andrea Klyn)
- All In: Campus Democracy Challenge
- Campus Vote Project
- Fair Elections Center
- Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement
- Institute for Democracy & Higher Education
- Rock the Vote
- U.S. Vote Foundation
For additional thoughts on democracy and voting, check out these related posts: