What the Folk?
Municipal politics may be significant to our day-to-day lives, but it is common to find that the voter turnout rate in municipal elections is well under fifty percent. Why is this the case?
Well, accessibility may be an issue for some potential voters, or perhaps many just do not feel sufficiently informed to get out to the ballots. Some may opt out of the democratic process as a form of quiet protest, which is understandable, perhaps, but not necessarily admirable. More likely, though, the problem is apathy, laziness, and an overall unwillingness to take the time to learn about the issues and listen to the candidates. Online voting is suggested now and then as a possible antidote, a way to provide people with a more convenient way to get involved, and this certainly could boost numbers. However, if apathy, laziness, and a general lack of engagement are really the core problems, even online voting may not turn the tide.
Consider this interesting approach to the problem: in Norfolk County, a group of women in the community, including Meika Matthews, Gail Bouw, Chantal Zorad, Claire Senko, Karen Matthews, and Carrie Sinkowski, have joined forces to start up Folkin’ Vote, which is described as a “non-partisan, unaffiliated group created by active and engaged community members.” Looking ahead to the municipal election in Ontario on Monday, October 22nd, the goal of the organization, as outlined via Facebook, is “to help you engage with this election, challenge your candidates and get out on October 22 and #folkinvote!”
The messaging definitely includes a subversive undercurrent, a desire for change, or at the very least a hope that increased interest may bring about better results for the community. Think about the following: the current Norfolk County Council is comprised of nine men; Norfolk County uses a ward system, which seems to perpetuate old divisions instead of promote a new sense of unity; and perhaps most significantly, there is a clear need to attract young people to live and work in Norfolk County, and some fresh voices on Council would likely be beneficial.
Over the past couple of months, the Folkin’ Vote team has attempted to engage the community through surveys and a series of videos on social media. Check out the Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/folkinvote/
On Thursday, September 6th at Burning Kiln Winery, the organization held an official launch event, which was well-attended. Meika Matthews spoke about the formation and goals of Folkin’ Vote, and played some videos featuring community members asking people to engage and participate in the election. There were many candidates in the room, including some current members of Council, who seemed generally comfortable with the tone of the event but a bit uncomfortable at the occasional call for change and new ideas.
In 2014, just under 42% of eligible voters turned out to cast a vote for one of three Mayoral candidates in Norfolk County. If this number goes up in 2018, it may be worth looking at the Folkin’ Vote effort to determine how this could be replicated in other communities.
Our team of teenage journalists at young & free press have been busy interviewing several candidates for Norfolk County Council. Find lots of videos on our Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/youngfreepress/