News / Halifax

Speak Up. Show Up: Campaign aimed at increasing voter turnout in Dartmouth North

Area holds one-third of the votes in District 6, but its voting rates are eight to nine times lower

Tammy Shields, left, Community Action Co-ordinator, and Patsy Wallace, a Community Peer Advocate, of the Dartmouth North Community Food Centre hold some of the signs in their front window.

Jeff Harper/Metro

Tammy Shields, left, Community Action Co-ordinator, and Patsy Wallace, a Community Peer Advocate, of the Dartmouth North Community Food Centre hold some of the signs in their front window.

A community group hopes its initiative to increase “dismal” voter turnout in Dartmouth North will bear fruit.

That part of the community holds one-third of the votes in District 6, but its voting rates are eight to nine times lower than the rest of the area.

When District 6 held a by-election in January, only 161 people of 6,002 eligible voters in Dartmouth North showed up to vote. That works out to 2.67 per cent.

Last month, the Dartmouth North Community Food Centre launched its Speak Up. Show Up. campaign to help boost voter turnout.

Organizers said in an interview Wednesday the campaign seems to be working.

“We wanted to get people from Dartmouth North out to the polling stations and make them realize that they too have a voice,” explained Tammy Shields, community action co-ordinator at the food centre. 

“A lot of people in this community have told us before about barriers they have to getting out and voting… Being in poverty and having all kinds of other things going on in their lives that take more of a priority.”

Barriers can include not having proper identification, not understanding the electoral process or no access to a computer for online voting.

“I really had great hope that once we really tried to address some of those barriers…and take away the unknown for people, my hope was that people would be engaged,” said Shields said.

“So far that really seems to be happening.”

Shields said peer advocates have been regularly registering interested residents to vote.

“Tons of questions being asked and people are making sure they’re getting their PIN in the mail to get to do the electronic voting and all of those kinds of things,” she said.

“The community is definitely interested and involved and asking a lot of questions and checking to be sure they’re on the list.”

The first event was an Aug. 26 practice voting station that followed the same procedures as a municipal election. In this case, residents were asked to vote for their favourite summer fruit. Strawberries won.

Shields said 89 residents showed up for the mock vote. Since only 161 turned up for January’s official municipal by-election, they considered the number significant.

“It’s about making it accessible and addressing those barriers people have,” she said.