My Vote 2011

Election Day is now 14 days a way I believe and I’m still wavering over where my vote is going.

I’ve ruled out Bev Shipley and the Conservative party because I refuse to contribute to Harper once again being in power. Shipley though is from Middlesex and he is somewhere, a couple of generations back, a part of my extended family. According to my grandmother, who babysat him when he was little, Shipley is a good guy who has done a lot for this riding and really represents the interests of the community well. As I said though, he’s out for me as long as he is supporting the “Harper Government”.

So that narrows it down to:

Liberal Candidate Gayle Stucke

NDP Candidate  Joe Hill

Green Candidate Jim Johnston

CHP Candidate something Janssens

Well let’s start where my vote isn’t going. Sorry Janssen, but you’re not getting my vote. You’re young, you’ll have more chances, probably not more success as long as you are with the CHP, but you’ll have more chances.

Joe Hill – I’ve voted NDP in the past (when I lived in St. Catharines), but I really don’t think you have my interests at heart. You’re not present in any social media and the only real information I’ve read on you suggests that seniors are your priority. Also you have no real shot of overthrowing Shipley in my riding.

So that leaves the Liberal Candidate and the Green Candidate.

Strategically I am leaning towards the Liberal Candidate Stucke, because if anyone is going to dethrone Shipley it is going to be the Liberal Candidate. But if I voted my conscience, based on what I’ve seen and read of the local candidates and parties themselves, I would probably lean more towards the Green candidate.

But my vote is still up for grabs.

I guess for two more weeks the Liberal and Green candidates have the chance to woo me. I’ll be watching.


Turning Blue

Well it’s official, I am in danger of turning blue. I live in Strathroy-Caradoc, part of the Lambton-Kent-Middlesex riding. In the last day and a half I have driven through most of Strathroy-Caradoc and felt myself turning a little more blue, because all of the election signs are just that – Conservative blue. Conservative blue signs telling me to re-elect Bev Shipley, signs like the ones that went up across from the end of my lane way only a couple of hours ago, which join the dozen others in my municipality and more than likely county.

If I hadn’t had to take my Grandmother to her hair appointment on Front Street  yesterday morning I wouldn’t have seen any sign of other candidates in the Lambton-Kent-Middlesex riding, at least not in my community.  Luckily both NDP and Liberal candidates Joe Hill and Gayle Stucke have campaign offices on Front Street, at opposite ends of a section of buildings that happen to sandwich my grandmother’s salon.

Outside of seeing both of their offices, which looked fairly dark and uninhabited, there have been no other signs of candidates in my riding a week into this election campaign. If it wasn’t for the internet and my addictions to Facebook and Twitter and even Google I probably wouldn’t know that my candidates are Gayle Stucke (LPC), Joe Hill (NDP) and Jim Johnston (GPC) and of course the incumbent Bev Shipley (CPC).

Now I have to say I’m impressed that Gayle Stucke has taken to social media (twitter @gayle_stucke and facebook Gayle Stucke Federal Liberal for Lambton-Kent-Middlesex ) but I am likely a bit of an oddity in Middlesex. While I use the internet and social media to gain a lot of my election information I know, having worked in Middlesex County interacting with a lot of local residents and merchants, that the number of people to have jumped on the social media band-wagon is still relatively small.  So since I’m in a community of people either void of internet or on painful dial-up, where exactly are voters supposed to be looking to learn who the candidates are? There are now Shipley  all over my community (including ones visible from my house) and there has been a mail-out from him (granted it was likely mailed out or put in motion before this election began (as it still said MP on it) ) and absolutely nothing from the 3 other candidates in my riding.

I know that there are still weeks left for campaigning and there is plenty of time for the candidates to introduce themselves, but in this election alone the Liberal, NDP and Green candidates in my riding seem to have given the incumbent Shipley a weeks head start (that is not to mention the head start he already has from being the incumbent and a longstanding member of the Middlesex Community).

I really don’t want to be blue, give me another option, give my riding another visible option, please!

The Youth Vote

The Youth vote is typically the hardest to harness during any election. Often youth are disengaged and uniformed, which tends to lead to them not appearing at the polls come election day.

I would like to think that youth engagement and participation in Federal Election 41 would be different, especially given the digital era we are in. I fear though that this will not be the case. There is added challenging in rega rds to reaching the youth vote this election: timing.

The timing of this election is horrible for new voters.

Problem one: A chunk of the youth demographic is currently sitting in their dorm room or apartment at school buried beneath a stack of books studying a semesters worth of material for their final exams.  I’m not so far removed from my years as a student that I cease to remember that little else mattered at this time of year, let alone managed to find a permanent home in memory. So as it is student are encountering an overload of information; handling the overload of election information will be a challenge to say the least, and as student deal with finals, they are not likely going to go out and find the information, it is going to have to come to them.

Problem two: I encountered this when I was in University and living away from home – having to change my voters registration. A number students simply do not change their voting registration to their school address and simply forgo voting in the election because they do not feel that they are a qualified voting participant of the community that they are living in for school.

Problem three: A number of students move for school, spending 8 months living at or near their post-secondary institution and four months living at home. With the election happening May 2nd, students who fall into this category will spend at least the first half (if not more) of the campaign in one riding, familiarizing themselves with the candidates there (if they have the time) and then returning home  for the remainder of the campaign, which means they will have little time to learn about the candidates in their own riding.

Problem four: Summer Jobs – I know a number of people who immediately leave for summer jobs following the end of their school year. So in the midst of moving and training for their new summer jobs, students may lose track of the election and simply not vote.

So what can be done?

Candidates and or Parties, if wanting to reach this demographic need to reach out through the most accessible medium for youth – Social Media. Candidates to need to engage via Facebook and Twitter. Create a page or a handle and start talking. Don’t simply broadcast, interact. Find people to follow, follow people who follow you. Engage with what they are saying, what they are asking. Create a forum of open communication. Invest in the people.

Veteran Voters – taken time to engage youth. During this past municipal election, London Ontario was a great example of this with Hack the Vote. Community members pulled together to engage the youth demographic. By reaching out through social media and creating accessible events and bringing the candidate to the voters. This is something that needs to be done again for this federal election. Where ever you live, find a way to help the youth demographic get informed and get engaged with this election process. Go to them, or go to your candidates and push them to get involved with the youth demographic.

Youth Voters – Get informed! – Find your Candidates office, attend of their events or rallies, find them on Facebook or Twitter. Connect with other voters in your voting community or within the larger voting community. On Twitter you can follow election tweets by searching the hashtag #exln41 and many ridings now have their own hashtags as well. Parties also have their own hashtags Liberal – #LPC, Conversative – #CPC, New Democratic Party – #NDP, Green – #GPC. Some of the best things I’ve read about politics have come from the candidates or the parties themselves, but they come from the discussion that is generated by the people in my community who I follow on twitter, it a great place to get informed. On twitter you can follow the parties, the candidates, the media and the voters, all perspectives in one place.

Register to vote where-ever you maybe. If you’re at school, make sure you register in your new riding. To find out about voter registration visit Elections Canada.  If you want to vote in your home riding, but you aren’t going to be there, learn about voting by Special Ballot through Elections Canada.
You can also register the day of the election by showing up at the polling station, providing you have proof of identity and address with you (ie drivers license and a phone bill).

The below is an excerpt from Elections Canada regarding voter registration:

To register to vote:

  • call Elections Canada at 1-800-463-6868
  • visit your local Elections Canada office between March 30 and 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, April 26
  • go to your advance polling place on Friday, April 22, Saturday, April 23 or Monday, April 25, or
  • go to your election day polling place on Monday, May 2

Get the hours and address of your local Elections Canada office.

After April 8, the address of your advance and election day polling places will be available on this Web site or by calling Elections Canada at 1-800-463-6868.

To register, you’ll be asked to:

Most electors are already registered in the National Register of Electors (the Register), a database of Canadian electors who are qualified to vote in federal elections and referendums. Elections Canada will send a voter information card to registered electors between April 8 and April 13.

Civic Politics and Social Media

So I’ve been following civic politics recently. There are two candidates in my municipality, the current mayor, versus the current deputy mayor. I personally think it is about time for our current mayor to retire and for our municipality to bring in a new vibrant leader.

Unfortunately in my community the current Mayor is a part of the ‘Old Boys Club’ if you will and I am fearful that I will once again see him re-elected despite the overwhelming strength of the opposition.

So I have been following the campaigns (or lack there of) so far and have been  thinking and compiling a list of the things I would like to see come out of the campaigns in my local community to send to the candidate in my community that I am choosing to support.

I have always had a strong interest in social media and have been wondering if incorporating social media into a rural political campaign would attract any attention from the voting members of the community. I think it could be an interesting case study and who knows, maybe it could change communications in this rural community and maybe carve out a job for someone like me.

Anyways while I have been watching my own municipalities campaign, I have also been watching what candidates from the neighbouring London civic election are doing. I have especially been following them in terms of their online presence and I have to say I’m feeling conflicted and have begun to ask the question: Is it better to not embrace social media at all or to embrace it and not use it effectively?

Part of me wants to applaud the candidates who are at least trying to embrace social media, but I’m having trouble actually applauding them when yes they’re there, but they’re not really putting any effort into using or understanding the social media platforms they’re choosing to use.

Social Media is meant to be SOCIAL, not merely a soap box for individuals to stand on to push forth their agenda and politics. For example Twitter: If you want to be successful on Twitter you need to FOLLOW PEOPLE. If you are merely being followed you are really offering very little to the community. If you are not following people you are not engaging people; you are not hearing what they have to say; you are not seeing what issues are important to them. If you are not following people you are not building relationships or opening the lines of communication. For example, if someone is following you, but you are not following them, they are not able to send you a Direct Message. So guess what that means, if someone has a valuable insight on community politics or your campaign and they want to share it with you, but not in the public forum they are not able to, at least not through twitter. So they more than likely will have to go hunt out another method to contact you, at which point they may just say screw it and not pass on that piece of information that could have been valuable to your campaign.

In addition, if you are not following people you’re basically saying you really don’t care about them, or what they have to say. I’m sorry but how many candidates really think that their voters don’t want to be heard? Show that you care about the people in your community, even if they aren’t tweeting about something that directly relates to your campaign. If it is something of value or interest to you personally or that you think might be of value to the community you seek to be an elected representative of, Retweet (RT) it! Make the members of your community feel important and valued and like their ideas or accomplishments matter. If a local business lands a great contract, celebrate with them by RT-ing. If someone is looking for help in London help them find it (RT) or provide them with some information (reply).  It’s really simple.

If you’re concerned about being bombarded with useless irrelevant tweets, there is a great  function in Twitter known as lists. It does not get rid of the “fluff” tweets, but it helps you create smaller more manageable groups that allow you find those relevant tweets a little bit easier.  Lists can be either public or private. You can create a list of city officials, a list of city workers, a list of local businesses, a list of average joe citizens, lists of men, lists of women, a list of whatever you want. Or if you don’t want to create your own list, follow a list someone else created. A number of local businesses have lists of their employees twitter accounts.  And you can choose to read only the tweets of the individuals you have placed in those streams and you can choose a day or time of day for when you will read the tweets of each list.

One last Twitter thing, occasionally tweet about something unrelated to your campaign, show people who you are as a person, not just as a politician.

The other thing I noticed this week was when a local candidate joined LinkedIn and started “participating” in some groups. The very first post I saw by this individual was relating to their campaign. I get it, you’re running for civic office and it’s important to do some research and get you campaign rolling. But take sometime to familiarize yourself with the community you just stepped into. Read some other posts and make some comments, offer advice or insight, or even say hello. Maybe introduce yourself as a person interested in what a group has to offer, instead of merely a political figure trying to etch out his or her campaign.

Social Media is just that SOCIAL. Become a part of the virtual community, get to know the people within that virtual community. Offer something of value to that community before your start using them to further your own agenda.

As a 25 (almost 26) year old voter, I want to know that the people representing me understand what I want and care about the things that are important to me or the people I know.

I’ve never been overly involved in politics, they’ve always seemed a bit too “political” for me and by that I guess I mean kind of cold and calculated. It is time for politics to loosen up and warm up a bit. Show some passion, empathy, understanding and most importantly INTEREST for the people whose vote you hope to receive. Social Media is giving you that opportunity – USE IT!