DIY Democracy Quilt!


Explaining voting systems can be difficult.  Plurality, majority, proportional, vote-splitting, false majorities, etc.  Without visual props, an audience will get confused and/or bored quite quickly.

Here a Unlock Democracy, our favorite two props are LEGO bricks and the Democracy Quilt!

We've been using our hand-made quilt for four years, leading interactive demonstrations in Toronto, Ottawa, Kingston, Guelph, London, and even on live TV!  We were also invited to demonstrate our quilt at a FairVote conference in Washington DC.

Recently, we've had a few people ask us for advice and specifications, so they can make their own Democracy Quilt!

Here's everything you need to know about how we made our first quilt:

1) Here's a video showing how you can do a fun interactive educational session.  (quilt action starts at 2:10)

2) The quilt was sewn by volunteers.  I asked for volunteer sewers through Facebook and Twitter.

3) Each piece was made by a different person.  They didn't know each other, in fact they never even met!  (Some lived outside of Ontario).  

4) I gave each volunteer a specific assignment (size, numeral, etc..).  They chose the colour, fabric and font for each piece. They each did their piece, mailed it to me  and then another volunteer assembled all the pieces together and added the velcro.  Some needed a backing, and some BECAME the backing for others (ie: 25 & 35 become the backing for 60)

5) For size, we chose 20 inches for our width, and the height was HALF of the vote percentage.  (ie: 20% vote = 10 inches high)

6) One quilt has a 60/40 split, with the 60 splitting into a 35 & 25. The other quilt has a 80/20 split with the 80 ripping apart into a 19, 18, 17, 14, 12.

7) Once all the pieces were mailed to us, a local all-star volunteer did all the edging, backing, velcro strips, etc.

8) You can get a close look at the quilt pieces in the TV clip below (bottom of page)

9) I'm pasting two e-mails (below) that I sent to our volunteers explaining the project.

If you have any questions please get in touch and if you do make your own election quilt, please send us pictures!

Good luck!  : )


From: dave meslin
Subject: Sewing Project!!
Date: 20 February, 2012
To: sewers

Hello glorious volunteers!

I'm sending this to all EIGHT people who offered to help with our secret RaBIT sewing project.  : )

Essentially, we're making some props that can be used in a performance, to explain how run-off voting works, and what happens when we see "vote splitting" in an election.

The assignment is simple:  Each of you will be assigned a number and a rectangle.  Your job is to sew the number onto the rectangle.  You can use any fabric/colour/pattern for the background, and you can use any fabric/background/colour for the number.  Just make sure they have contrast.

And you can use ANY FONT for the numbers, as long as they aren't too hard to read.

Also, make sure to leave a couple of inches around the numbers (like a border).  ie: don't let the numbers get too close to the edge.

Here are the assigned numbers, and Rectangle sizes:

NAME           NUMBER            WIDTH (inches)          HEIGHT (inches)

Elena               18                         20                                   9
Margie             17                         20                                  8.5
Farrah             14                         20                                    7
Taylor              12                         20                                   6
Manisha          10                         20                                   5
Linda               20                         20                                  10
Tracy               9                          20                                   4.5
Jennifer           25                         20                                 12.5

One last thing:  Please take photos of yourself 'in action' sewing the numbers.  

Oh, and one last last thing:  THANK YOU!!!!     : )

~ dave


From: dave meslin
Subject: UPDATE re: Sewing Project!!
Date: 20 February, 2012 12:59:15 PM EST
To: sewers

Hey team!

I've received a couple of good questions today, and I thought I'd share the answers:

1) Backing: No need to have a nice backing! There will be another piece attached to the backs later.  So they can be ugly, messy, etc.

2) Edges.  No need to have nice edges.  We'll fix the edges when all the pieces are put together (sort of like a quilt).

So your main focus is: high contrast, colourful, bold numbers, easy-to-read, etc.

(and the photos!!  Don't forget to take 'action' shots).


~ dave

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