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What you need to know about the 2020 elections across the greater Tampa Bay region.

Smithsonian Exhibit On American Democracy Comes To Sarasota; Events Include Talk On Voting Rights

Photo of museum display on American democracy
Sarasota County Libraries
Participants can listen to a series of NPR podcasts relating to voter obstacles and join a virtual discussion on the various topics on Wednesday.

A traveling Smithsonian exhibit is now on view in Sarasota. A related event includes a collaboration with the NPR program, 1A.

Throughout its series, "Blocked from the Ballot," 1A spoke with people who are excluded from voting but remain affected by policy. That includes those with felony convictions, people living in U.S territories and, in some states, disabled people.

Lisa Riley of the Sarasota County Library system said she was surprised to learn just how many people were affected by voter enfranchisement.

“I think that's something that's very important to talk about and to possibly try and resolve,” she said. “Because if they're lawful residents, why wouldn't they have a say in how the country is run?”

On Wednesday at 2 p.m., the library system will host a virtual town hall based on the voting obstacles featured in the 1A series.

Erin Clay, library manager for Sarasota County, says participants can find a link to the stories on its website.

"You don't have to listen to all of the podcasts to participate,” she said. “We would encourage you to at least listen to one or two and then just come with your thoughts and questions and what were your surprised by, what you learned and if it make you want to get more involved to help."

Clay said one of the objectives of the town hall is to promote healthy civil discourse.

“We’re getting people together who may not agree on everything, she said. “But they will be able to share their thoughts and perspectives, and realize that our differences are something that actually strengthens our community and our democracy.

Town hall moderator Bonnie Silvestri says the virtual discussion will also include related election issues. A panel will feature Ron Turner, supervisor of elections for Sarasota County, and Dr. Scott Perry, a professor of history at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee.

"We thought it was important to really examine the issue of enfranchisement and to have some experts to be able to talk about it,” Silvestri said. “And we also are hoping to get a lot of involvement from the community to help us flesh out these important issues."

Florida is one of only four states in the country to host the traveling Smithsonian exhibit. “Voices and Votes: Democracy in America” is based on a major exhibition currently on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

The traveling adaptation includes many of the same features including historical and contemporary photos; educational and archival video; and historical objects like campaign souvenirs, voter memorabilia, and protest material.

It is on view through Oct. 10. After the North Sarasota Library, the show will travel to the Polk County History Center in Bartow.

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