The Red Deer Public Library is again launching an online tool to boost interaction between candidates and voters in the upcoming municipal election.
The library first created www.electionforum.ca for the 2004 civic election and the site was revamped for the 2007 election.
The web page has since undergone a few more changes in an effort to provide an improved forum where candidates running this year for mayor, city council, the two city school boards can present their campaign and connect with community members. “It’s just a place for candidates and voters to interact,” said Candice Marchand, election forum promotions and training assistant.
“The candidates can figure out what people want from them and then the voters can figure out who will best serve their needs and who they should vote for.”
She further expressed hope that increasing online interaction to help citizens decide which name to mark an X by will also drive more eligible voters to polling stations.
“I guess the ultimate goal here is we want to increase voter turnout because it was so poor last time around,” Marchand said.
The City of Red Deer experienced its lowest voter turnout in the last municipal election, with only 22 per cent of eligible voters casting a ballot in 2007. The website administered by the library started in 2004 as a very basic page where candidates could post information and a few questions were asked.
By 2007, the web page evolved to welcome community groups and residents to post more questions for individuals in the running.
Striving to further foster conversation between candidates and citizens leading up to the 2010 civic election, which will be held on Oct. 18, the library has redesigned the website so it now prominently features an online forum. “Not everybody can make it out to the public forums and this is something that is always there and anybody can get to it at any time,” Marchand explained.
“You don’t have to commit to going to something at a certain time. You can do it whenever you have the time to go on the computer.”
The site is fully moderated and a team of seven volunteers are being trained to help Marchand review every post, which must be relevant to civic and school board affairs as well as free of profanity and slanderous comments before they are approved to be published online.
Community members can also post comments here, asking direct questions to a specific candidate.