Getting Out The Voice During #ELXN42

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Participation Thursday, January 07, 2016 View Count = 2868

Getting Out The Voice During #ELXN42

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Last October, with the 42nd federal election looming, a woman by the name of Shelly walked into her local food bank and was greeted with an unexpected question: “What matters to you?” The staff had setup a polling station to give community members an opportunity to practice voting and have their voices heard.

“I never vote. No one has ever asked to talk to me and hear about my barriers. No politician has ever visited me here at the food bank or anywhere else. It is hard for seniors like me,” she explained.

Shelly isn’t alone. Too many Canadians face barriers to voting, whether they be physical, psychological or cultural. To help individuals overcome these obstacles, Samara launched the Vote PopUp kit in July, 2015.

But rather than simply provide reasons for voting or command people to vote, Vote PopUp fostered interest in the election by asking participants what matters to them and connecting their interests and concerns with the electoral process.
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Between July and October, the Vote PopUp kit was downloaded by 456 people in 76 towns and cities across all 10 provinces and one territory. At least 330 community groups were involved in the initiative. Thousands of Canadians, like Shelly, participated in Vote PopUps and many more shared their experiences online.

And we all know what happened. Voter turnout increased dramatically, with 3.6 million votes cast during advance polls alone.

As a result of their efforts, and the thousands of voices they amplified, Vote PopUp organizers helped reconnect citizens (and future citizens) to politics.

Nowhere was this more evident than at the polling places that groups recreated in communities across the country. In the lead-up to election day, Vote PopUps sprang up in such varied places as a homeless shelter in Calgary, a settlement agency in Toronto, a mobile library in Ottawa and a farmers’ market in Vancouver.

As Michael, a participant in Toronto, confessed, “I have never once voted in 20 years. It never occurred to me because I have a lot of worries. Maybe I will vote on Monday. It is not as hard as I thought.”

Organizers were equally enthused. A facilitator in Calgary found that “It worked very well to open up conversations around voting and show people that it could be easy and even fun.” Thanks to their overwhelming response, community groups contributed not only to a swell in voter participation but a shift toward greater political engagement and dialogue.

These accomplishments are featured in our new Vote PopUp report and brought to life by the words and photos of organizers and participants alike.
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By offering them an adaptable and easy-to-use tool, organizations like North York Harvest Food Bank and Calgary Alternative Support Services discovered the confidence and resources to undertake voter engagement activities for the very first time.

In many communities, a valuable conversation was initiated. If we fail to sustain this momentum then millions of first-time voters are at risk of disengaging and failing to contribute to the larger public conversation.

For groups looking to build on the success of their Get-Out-The-Vote efforts, Samara offers Democracy Talks, an outreach program designed to Get-Out-The-Voice. Through Democracy Talks, community organizations can give individuals a chance to discover and develop their political voice while engaging in meaningful conversations about our democracy. In this way, we can ensure that communities are engaged in the 1,459 days between federal elections.

Samara congratulates everyone who was involved in Vote PopUp for showing strong civic leadership and allowing Canadians to have their voices heard.

Learn more about the Vote PopUp initiative here.

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