Democracy and Drag

Poison Waters Gets Primed to Drag Out the Vote

One of Oregon’s best loved drag queens is joining a national organization to get people voting.

By Fiona McCann August 20, 2020

Poison Waters

What’s that you say? One in five LGBTQ+ adults is not registered to vote? The nation’s drag queens and kings are shaking their wigs at that, and getting primed to do something about it—serving voter realness all the while. Among them, Portland’s one and only Poison Waters has been recruited as a drag ambassador by a new national organization, Drag Out the Vote, aiming to educate, register, and turn out voters, while maximizing fun and some glorious looks in the process.

With a new campaign launched earlier this month, Drag Out the Vote is appointing at least one ambassador in every state, and Poison applied after hearing about the project through RuPaul’s Drag Race alum Brita Filter. “I thought, well, if Brita is doing it, I want to do it,” says Poison, who was chosen as Oregon's queen. She says the initiative is looking to increase turnout among all voters, but especially queer people, 18 to 25-year-olds, people of color, and queer people of color.

“This is our time, and we need to all do it together,” she says. “And if I’m saying, it, as a self-absorbed drag queen just worried about what I’m going to wear next week.…”   

Through the national organization, each ambassador is being given tools to reach out to their local networks and find out who needs help registering, and what they need to know to get engaged in the process. Poison’s job is to find unregistered voters and help them not only register and vote themselves, but also spread the message to their own networks. “They’re kind of mini ambassadors after me,” says Poison, “but they don’t have to be in drag.”

Poison likens the legwork of engaging with the system to the onerous planning for a fabulous party. “Nobody wants to do all the planning, but you know the party is going to be great,” she says. “Election Day is the big party.”

Though the organization is nonpartisan, as Poison points out, “drag is political.” She says that rural communities may look like they lean in one political direction, but in those communities there are probably many who are having trouble speaking up. “People are afraid, and I get that. And if you’re in a community where you’re definitely the minority, probably for many more reasons than just the color of your skin, registering to vote and voting is the most anonymous thing you can do,” she says. Drag ambassadors will guide people through the registration process, help with obstacles to engagement, and shower it all with a heavy dose of glitter before sashaying all the way to the polls. After all, she says, we need every vote we can get.

“Everybody knows Poison Waters doesn’t do drag for free, but for this, I will!” 

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