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Political party rockers: DJs at the Polls put pep in voters’ step

Updated June 13, 2024 - 11:13 am

As the end of voting in the Nevada primary election neared late Tuesday afternoon, DJ JROC stood bumping a remix of “Million Dollar Baby” by Tommy Richman at the East Las Vegas Library.

The DJ was surrounded by campaign teams packing up for the day and the last voters trickling in to cast their vote. The loud, upbeat music marked a stark contrast to the quiet booths and noiseless library.

“I just like rocking parties,” he said.

DJ JROC, 50, also known as Jason Johnson, along with four other Las Vegas DJs, volunteered to play sets at various Clark County polling locations as part of an effort to increase voter turnout.

‘We saw how the impact was’

Their volunteer work is part of a larger initiative called DJs at the Polls. Founded in Philadelphia by Anton Moore in 2008, the organization sprang from an idea that voting should be more fun, he said.

DJs at the Polls is a nonprofit, nonpartisan Get Out the Vote initiative that’s part of Focus for Democracy, a project sponsored by Ground Game Fund, according to its website.

With a goal to increase voter turnout, Moore worked to place local DJs at the booths on the East Coast.

“Once we put DJs at the polling booths, we saw how the impact was, and how people were excited, so we decided to expand it,” he said.

The effort in the Las Vegas Valley marked the test run for DJs at the Polls in Nevada. Even with the DJs’ efforts, the Nevada primary election saw lower turnout than in previous primaries, the Review-Journal reported.

Johnson said he grew up listening to DJ Jazzy Jeff, who along with Will Smith made up the hip hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, and Jam Master Jay, the DJ of influential hip hop group Run DMC, who became the first rap act to appear on MTV.

It was DJ Jazzy Jeff and Jam Master Jay who inspired Johnson’s own love for DJing.

“It had become a passion for me,” Johnson said.

Johnson is part of a coalition of DJs called the Fleet DJs, which led him to Moore and DJ at the Polls. Fleet DJs is a worldwide coalition of 700 members who promote events, break new artists and get involved in community events.

“We try to keep our name out there and try to do something good for everybody all the way around,” said Johnson, who said he has been in the DJ game for 36 years.

Other Las Vegas musicians who played at the polls are involved with the coalition as well, including DJ Roulette, 54, or Eric Roulette as he’s known off the stage.

Roulette’s DJ career had an interesting start. He first began to spin tracks on the USS John F. Kennedy during Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm in 1991, when he was deployed in the U.S. Navy.

After Desert Storm, he joined a DJ and radio crew in Jacksonville, Florida, but gave it up to go back to school.

After relocating to Las Vegas in May 2019, he picked up the art again in 2020. On Tuesday, he was taking song requests and playing music at two polling locations.

‘Music is therapy, and music encourages people’

Roulette said the community is important to him and that DJs at the Polls offered a way to give back. It also provided a way to get his name out there to the Las Vegas community since he’s not originally from the city.

“Being a part of what’s going on at the polls, I feel is important to me and my business,” he said. “Music is therapy, and music encourages people.”

The overall vibe at his polling locations was positive, Roulette said. After he turned his music off at his first polling location, Desert Breeze Community Center, it was eerily quiet.

“They really didn’t want me to pack up. They wanted me to stay. It just felt awkward turning the music off,” he said. “It just went to a dead silence.”

With DJs at the Polls mission to encourage all voters to come out, Roulette said he found it easy to stay neutral.

“I respect everybody for whatever their choices are on all platforms and in all directions,” he said. “It wasn’t very hard for me to kind of stay in the middle and not pick or disclose a side.”

DJ Dizz, also known as Herbert Jones, 35, started DJing Tuesday morning at Henderson City Hall and ended the day at Galleria at Sunset, where voters were confused about poll locations because of a lack of signs.

Jones, standing under a blue tent stacked with equipment, was able to provide clarity and tunes for voters.

“They don’t have any signs out,” he said. “That’s the reason I’m right here to try to attract in these people that look like they’re lost or looking for it. … I’m going to hop on the mic and say it’s right there.”

Jones got involved with DJ at the Polls through Johnson, who had mentioned it to him as an involvement project. He said he was interested in coming to the polls because he’s invested in his community.

“The community is just my option,” said Jones, who’s originally from California but has been based in Las Vegas for 16 years. “I love to be in the community. Like I say, I like to meet new people, like to see people’s vibes and how they react to the music and how it makes them feel.”

‘People were coming up dancing’

Miss Parker, or Teri Parker, 30, was the only female DJ of the day, and her set took place at Heritage Park Senior Facility. She focused her music toward the general age group of her station. She leaned toward a lot of ‘80s music, she said.

“Plenty of people were coming up dancing,” she said. “The older folks I’ve noticed like to talk and I don’t mind listening so I actually had a lot of fun.”

Parker got into DJing after working bottle service for DJs at Drai’s Beachclub and Nightclub, and put all the money she made toward DJing. She’s been part of the DJ scene in Las Vegas for six years and went full time in 2023.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Music runs really deep since I was really little,” she said.

However, being a female DJ in Las Vegas has its challenges, she said. DJing is a male-dominated industry, and Parker said she had to work hard to desexualize her image so industry professionals would take her seriously.

She realizes now that the right people will see her for her talent, but there are still issues. Today, she sticks with a group of female DJs who look after each other, she said.

Only four DJs were playing at the various polling sites across the county Tuesday, but DJs at the Polls, which operates in 12 states, hopes to put more than 8,000 DJs at polls for the general election in November, including in Las Vegas, Moore said.

Contact Ella Thompson at ethompson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @EllaDeeThompson on X.

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