Community

Have you seen Uncle Sam in Cedar Rapids? He wants you to vote

Cedar Rapids man launches nonpartisan effort encouraging people to vote

Sean Turner of Cedar Rapids, dressed in an Uncle Sam costume complete with a face mask that says #x201c;VOTE,#x201d; sta
Sean Turner of Cedar Rapids, dressed in an Uncle Sam costume complete with a face mask that says “VOTE,” stands at the corner of Collins Road and First Avenue in Cedar Rapids on Friday, July 10, 2020, holding a sign encouraging people to vote. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
/

This Uncle Sam wants you to vote. He wants everyone to vote. He doesn’t care for whom you vote — he just wants all Americans to exercise this right.

So Sean Turner, 68, of Cedar Rapids, has launched a grassroots campaign titled “Everyone Vote,” and he’s taken his message to a billboard in the 1800 block of Blairs Ferry Road NE, sporting three rotating designs.

He also dresses up as Uncle Sam, planting himself at busy intersections during morning and afternoon rush hours. He’s stood at the corner of First Avenue and Collins Road, at Center Point Road and Blairs Ferry Road, all in Cedar Rapids, and also at Coral Ridge Mall in Coralville.

“Any place where there’s lots of cars,” he said.

He’s grabbing some attention.

“A lot of people have been taking pictures. It’s been pretty cool that way,” he said. “I’ve had three people flip me off — I was kind of surprised by that.”

He figures it might stem from his sign that says: “When everybody votes democracy wins,” but wonders why anyone would object to that.

He also started a website, everyone-vote.com, offering window signs and ball caps for sale, to help offset the “couple thousand dollars” he’s pumped into a passion project he’d like to see go nationwide. The site includes a link for voter registration information.

“With all the agitation between different political groups going on, it just put something in my craw,” he said. “I’m so tired of all this division.”

He wanted to find a unifying factor — a nonpartisan way to stress the importance of voting.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

His wheels started turning about a year ago, fueled by statistics he saw online from the United States Election Project, noting that 46.9 percent of eligible voters didn’t cast a ballot in the 2016 presidential election.

“That really struck me as just intolerable,” he said. “The problem is, people aren’t getting out and participating in the system. So I just thought to myself, ‘How can I put it out there, telling everybody that voting is one of the greatest rights in the world, because there’s a lot of places where you don’t get to vote.’

“It’s been a real process for me.”

He’s dismayed by hearing people say their votes don’t count, so why bother.

“We’re missing the point about the joy of being able to vote,” he countered.

“Given all the divisiveness in politics now, I decided that the best solution would be to have an overwhelmingly large voter turnout. Everyone vote for whomever they favored. Then when the results are clear, we could start finding a way forward.”

A fine painting and plaster contractor, he drew up several all-encompassing designs, including a star-spangled heart emblazoned with the word “vote.”

“The message (isn’t) ‘Vote for this one or that one,’ the message is ‘Everyone vote.’ I feel that when people seek perfection they only find imperfection. The ‘lesser of two evils’ theory has proved to be a discouraging artifact of partisan politics,” he said.

“The images have received an uncommonly nonpartisan acceptance from people from all points on the political compass,” he added.

“I believe the notion of voting has been ground down to an annoying obligation instead of the wonderful opportunity our system provides. So in short, I hope to encourage everyone to re-energize their interest in government as a power for good. I feel it’s your life, your voice, your vote, your choice. And I don’t believe there is any power in not using it. So vote your heart and we will see where America is at.”

He’s also started a GoFundMe campaign aiming to raise $1,500 to help pay for more billboards, and is reaching out to philanthropic groups. He’s looking into acquiring nonprofit status, as well.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

“I’d like the effort to go national,” he said. “My goal is to get it in all 50 states, where people on a regular basis are consciously thinking about, ‘I want to get out and vote.’ It’s just part of the process. If you don’t participate, I don’t think you have the right to complain, but a lot of people do.

“My underlying message is I want to put a positive slant on voting. I personally think that if we had a huge, massive turnout, a lot of the polling and the pundits people telling us what to think would be blown away by the wayside by people saying, ‘This is what we voted for, this is what we want.’

“So that’s the point of the whole thing: to encourage the whole country to vote, and then we’ll count the votes, and if Mr. Trump wins, that’s the way it is; if Mr. Biden wins, that’s the way it is; or if Mickey Mouse wins, that’s the way it is.”

Comments: (319) 368-8508; diana.nollen@thegazette.com

At a glance

• What: “Everyone Vote,” grassroots project started by Sean Turner of Cedar Rapids

• Motto: “When everyone votes democracy wins”

• Details: everyone-vote.com

• Fundraising: gofundme.com/f/lets-get-everyone-to-vote

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.