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Metro column: No more excuses for being uninformed

By DJ Kelly August 6, 2010

Starting today, I’ll be writing a weekly column aimed at giving you more of the story-behind-the-story around the issues and the candidates.

I hope you’ll read this section each Friday as I try to break down more barriers to voter participation. Goal: Engage Calgary voters.

In 1998 voter turnout for the Calgary municipal election was 46 per cent. In 2001, the last time we had an open mayoral race in Calgary, it dropped to 38 per cent before plummeting to 19 per cent in 2004.

In 2007 we saw a rebound with a turnout of 33 per cent. Most analysts and pundits are suggesting the turnout for this October’s election will increase again to above 40 per cent.

What is causing this increase? The simple answer is: You are.

There are many excuses for not voting, many of them easy to overcome. The number 1 excuse on this list: The voter feels ill-informed — not knowing who to vote for on election day.

It’s tough in an election for any media outlet to dedicate as much time as is necessary to cover all the races in Calgary. Leading up to Oct. 18 you will see them dissect the mayoral race, but there just aren’t enough pages in a paper to cover all 14 aldermanic races in the same way. And forget about the 14 school board trustee elections.

I don’t buy the rationale put forward by some that people aren’t engaged or interested in these races, too. Maybe we just haven’t been given proper access to the information we need to feel engaged.

Some great resources are already popping up online to tell you everything you need to know about a candidate. CalgaryDemocracy.ca is a one-stop shop to find more info on who is running in your area, their platform and contact information.

For the first election in Calgary’s history, it’s fair to say that if a candidate doesn’t have a website, they won’t win a seat. In 2010 it’s become so easy to Google someone’s name that if you can’t find info about them, then they’re not getting your vote. The majority of candidates also have Facebook and Twitter accounts to make your information search much easier.

Let’s not forget about the bloggers, picking up where mainstream media leave off. A team of seven local political bloggers — of which I am one — are promising to delve deeper into the races providing more insight at CalgaryPolitics.com.

Metro is also looking to help you make your decision, too.

The excuses for not voting are starting to disappear. Break down the information barrier so you, too, are an informed voter.

Original: http://www.metronews.ca/calgary/local/article/596371–no-more-excuses-for-being-uninformed