This series features highlights from the ongoing exhibit The Fourth Wall: Transforming City Hall. The exhibit, on now at the Urbanspace Gallery, considers possible avenues to break down the barriers to participation in civic life that exist at Toronto’s City Hall.
Elections. They are one of the first things we associate with citizen engagement. Whether voting or running, elections represent a significant opportunity to shape your local representative body. The following three posts in this series will deal with changes that could be made to the City’s election process to improve engagement, beginning with the City’s election outreach and communication efforts.
In an era of low voter turnout, the City’s election website is an important tool for attracting potential voters and making it easier for them to execute their civic duty. Unfortunately, in its current incarnation, the election website is incomplete and awkward to navigate making it difficult for voters to access even basic information. These screenshots from September 2010 make this point clear – we have not yet achieved Web 1.0.
The City won’t hyperlink to candidates’ campaign websites and only includes information for campaigns that have completed a paper form. Consequently, many campaigns have no information listed at all.
Vancouver’s Election website offers a useful example of a possible alternative. The site immediately connects you with candidate profiles, bios, contact information and nomination papers. In Toronto’s ward system, a function to connect with your candidates by entering your postal code would be a welcome addition. The City’s website should also include a map of campaign offices and a calendar of debates.
The City’s election outreach is strongly skewed towards encouraging members of the public to vote. For ten months, the Election Office produces posters and postcards, tweets and Facebook posts about the importance of voting. Eight of those months are part of the nomination period, the window of time when citizens can declare their intention to run for office. Yet, the City does almost nothing to encourage citizens to get their name on the ballot.
Indeed, outreach efforts to encourage nominations for the Green Toronto Awards are more extensive than for Mayor, Council or School Board positions. Borrowing from the Green Toronto Awards’ approach, this mock-up of a Call for Nominations poster for City Elections would be a step in the right direction.
Where do you go for election information? Have you ever considered running for Mayor, Council or a School Board position? Would you know what steps to take to initiate the process?
Image of Vote sign from BlogTO
The Fourth Wall: Transforming City Hall is on at the Urbanspace Gallery (401 Richmond St. W.) until the end of January. The building is open weekdays, 7am to 7pm, and Saturdays, 9am to 6pm. Curated by Dave Meslin, Research by Hilary Best, Design by Adam Zinzan-Harris.