When approaching a modern election, the average voter is faced with an overwhelming information overload made worse by factious party rhetoric and partisan politics. ManitobaElection.ca aims to correct this.
Kyle Geske, co-founder of Manitoba Election, believes that voter apathy and accessibility of electoral information are intrinsically linked.
“Our theory is that lack of information is leading to people being disengaged,” he said.
The site, co-created by Geske and friends Jody Gillis, Andrew Burton and Ken Harasym, is dedicated to educating voters about the 2011 provincial election through reorganization of both media and party material.
The site includes an interactive riding map where users can click on different locations in Manitoba to learn what has been written about candidates so far.
“It’s basically four friends who got together,” said Geske, an IT instructor at Red River College. “We would love to think it would influence voter turnout, but you can’t really gauge that.”
The four created the site after the success of their Winnipeg Election site, which saw more than 45,000 visits during last fall’s civic election.
This time around, Geske wants to double the site visits.
“We started back with the last election where we made a similar website,” said Geske. “We were bolstered by the response so we did one for the Manitoba election.”
Geske holds that many voters face several obstacles that prevent them from feeling engaged with the process.
“Voting and politics is in general getting more and more complicated and the average voter may not be equipped,” he said.
The untrustworthiness stereotypically associated with politicians can hamper voter decision-making, Geske explained. On top of that, the partisan nature of electoral information further tests a voter’s trust.
“When you look for information you find it from a candidate, but people are not apt to trust politicians,” he said. “Everyone wants to make a good choice, but if the information is not there we might be prone to backing off from the process.”
In other words, voting is a complex undertaking that requires one to wade through convoluted information. The Manitoba Election aims to build approachable, well-organized information for everyone.
“For the most part it reorganizes information, but we do have a heavily sourced voter education page,” he said. “We have explanations of what an MLA is and how elections function. I think it is the only place where you can get that information in one place.”
The four have invested an immense effort in creating and updating site on a regular basis. Geske noted that the effort that went into the site is exemplary of how approachable electoral information really is.
“If we put in 100 hours to gather this information, what does it take for the average voter to find this?” he said. “We can provide the research for people that don’t have the time.”
To learn more, visit www.manitobaelection.ca.
Published in Volume 66, Number 4 of The Uniter (September 22, 2011)