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RRC Instructors Helping To Educate Voters

September 9, 2011

A pair of Red River College instructors have launched a new website aimed at helping Manitoba voters make an informed choice in the upcoming election.

Earlier this week, RRC instructors Kyle Geske and Jody Gillis — also the co-founders of Open Democracy Manitoba — launched ManitobaElection.ca, a comprehensive resource for information on the pending provincial election.

The new site features interactive constituency maps, a calendar of election-related events, and educational resources on legislative politics in Manitoba. Election candidates are listed alongside links to their web pages, email addresses, Facebook fan pages and Twitter feeds. Online news articles mentioning the candidates are also linked, providing up-to-date election coverage from a variety of media sources.

Geske and Gillis, both Business Information Technology instructors at RRC, launched a similar website called WinnipegElection.ca prior to the civic election in 2010. That site drew an estimated 45,000 visitors by election day.

“There’s a lot of talk in the media about voter apathy, and getting people engaged in the election process,” says Geske. “We’re told over and over again how important it is to vote, but we’re not often given the tools to make an informed decision. I think a lot of people back off from wanting to vote — they know it’s important, but they don’t know how to inform themselves.”

Now that a date for the provincial election has officially been set (if you haven’t already, mark Oct. 4, 2011, on your calendars), Geske and Gillis are adding historic election data to the site. They’re also preparing a candidate questionnaire, which will be sent to all candidates once nominations close on Sept. 13, 2011.

Open Democracy Manitoba is a citizen-run community organization that strives — in a non-partisan manner — to educate voters by empowering them to understand the roles, issues and vision of their representatives in order to create a more accountable and respectful democracy.

“There are four of us in the group, and of course we all have our own political views, but we don’t want those to be part of the website,” says Geske. “We try to make the website more about information than anyone’s particular slant on a candidate or issue. We leave the more partisan stuff to the candidates themselves.”

Geske says the new website — like its predecessor — could easily be used as a classroom learning tool for teachers, and notes there’s a direct link between the site and the classes he himself teaches at Red River College.

“The technology that I used to build the website, which is called Ruby on Rails, is exactly what I teach at the College in one of my courses (Electronic Commerce),” says Geske.

Click here to check out ManitobaElection.ca, and here for more information on Open Democracy Manitoba.