A group of volunteers is again undertaking an effort to try to inform voters in the region. Run by Civic Tech Waterloo Region, the website waterlooregionvotes.org contains almost every possible piece of information voters need in the need to make an informed decision.
“One of the problems that we had seen around municipal elections obviously is low voter turnout rates. And one of the reasons for that is that at least when I was talking to friends of mine and other people who are voters, they would say, ‘Well, I just don’t know enough about the candidate,’” said volunteer Christian Snyder.
“At least at a federal or provincial level, a lot of times candidates are aligned with a party, so you’re voting a lot of times along party lines as much as you are for the candidates. When it comes to municipal elections, oftentimes there’s a lot of people running or not very many, as the case may be, and no political affiliation, per se. So it’s harder to determine where these folks lie, and what their interests are,” Snyder said.
Launched during the 2018 campaign, the website helps voters find what ward they should vote in, and lists all the candidates and their websites, while also linking to news from other websites about the candidates. While the group does not make endorsements, it does link to endorsements from other groups as well as certain opinion pieces.
While it has the least amount of focus, and the lowest voter turnout, municipal politics often has the largest impact on the daily lives of voters, Snyder added.
‘I’m not sure that everybody understands that or gets that. It has the least amount of hype with it,” he said.
“The other part of it too, is that you’re voting for a number of different people. So you’re voting for councillor, you’re voting for a ward councillor, you’re voting for a mayor, you’re voting for school board, you’re voting for all of these different things. And because of the way that the different websites and levels of government are set up, there was no place that aggregated all of this data into one place,” he said.
While it would be great to see 100 per cent turnout, even 30 to 35 per cent would be considered a win, Snyder said.
“I doubt it’ll happen, and that’s also fine…. These things don’t happen overnight. It’s education.”
In 2018 the region saw a turnout of 31 per cent, while Woolwich saw 31.58 per cent voters cast a ballot. In Wellesley, 32.80 per cent of eligible voters did so. The highest turnout in the region was Wilmot at 37.82 per cent.
While he would like to see the region do more to engage voters, Snyder does recognize there are limitations to doing so. He points to the wrvotes.com website as an example.
“I understand what they’re trying to do with what they can do because of the limitations around the election process they’re not able to aggregate data. They’re able to link out, but they’re not able to actually do stuff on their own site,” he said.
“I understand that their hands are tied in terms of how elections are run at the municipal level, But what…I think our group would like to see, from a much higher level, the elections process start to catch up with maybe where we are. Is it our objective to try to run this for the next 100 years? I don’t think so. The hope would be that our democratic process would adapt to what the modern needs of the modern voter are,” he said.
The whole point of the website is to get people out to vote while making an informed decision, Snyder noted.
“If you’re voting on a more conservative line we want to make sure that you understand who those folks are, and if you’re voting on a more centrist or left, it doesn’t matter. We just want you to be able to vote with confidence and know that the people that you’re voting for represent your views.”