The Michigan Marching Band gave an electoral themed performance Saturday to support the efforts of the Big Ten Voting Challenge during University of Michigan football game against Southern Methodist University halftime show.
The challenge seeks to increase voter participation across the 14 Big Ten universities, awarding schools with the highest and best improvement ineligible voter turnout.
In one of its most politically charged presentations, the band performed several formations on the field related to U.S. history and politics, including the phrase “We the People” and the American flag. The band also used its act to highlight low voter turnout in the 2016 presidential election as well as low voter turnout among college students in the primaries this year.
Engineering junior Jack Wisbiski, a member of the Michigan Marching Band, said the formations were designed in collaboration with the University to stress the Big Ten Voting Challenge's mission of increasing voter turnout.
“Since Michigan is leading the Big Ten voting challenge and student voter turnout recently has been very low for Michigan, the MMB student show design committee wanted to work alongside the voting challenge to do our part in helping students get out to vote for midterms this fall,” Wisbiski wrote in an email. “The MMB wanted to remind the audience of the importance of exercising their right to vote for whoever they choose and that their voice can make a difference.”
In the video aired on the big screen before the performance, University President Mark Schlissel urged students to participate in their opportunity to share their voice this November.
Following Schlissel's video presentation, speeches from former Presidents Gerald Ford, Barack Obama, and Abraham Lincoln were presented on the video screen. At one point in the presentation, marching band members held up two large flags one opposite ends of the field, depicting the Republican party elephant and the Democratic party donkey. The band then brought the two flags together, urging attendees to look beyond party.
“Election day is almost here,” Schlissel said. “We urge students to get involved in civilian life, get registered and out to vote and bring home the trophy for the Maize and Blue.”
Central Student Government and the Ginsberg Center for Community Service and Learning have collaborated to help with the online voter registration process. The University has also partnered with Turbovote to collect voting data and help students with registration.
Wisbiski said he thinks the show helped spread the word about the importance of voting and will hopefully boost participation rates in the end.
“I think this show, coupled with the Big ten voting challenge, will definitely increase numbers of registered voters at Michigan and remind people to go vote when elections come,” Wisbiski wrote. “Student life can get busy quickly and sometimes the last thing on a student's mind is going out to vote when they have so many things to keep track of. The Big Ten voting challenge and this show were designed to help get information out there so students know how easy it can be to register and vote, and if this show reminded even one student to register and vote this year, then it was a success.”
Note: This article has been updated to include the comments of Michigan Marching Band member Jack Wisbiski.