Man uses Facebook to boost voter turnout

RYAN MELANSON

TELEGRAPH-JOURNAL

A Saint John man has taken to social media as a way of encouraging his fellow residents to cast votes in the upcoming municipal election.

Josh Thomson's Facebook group Vote For Your Saint John – Vote For Your Future, has been gaining a lot of steam since its creation near the end of March.

“It grew really quickly. People are showing a lot of interest. There's been some great debate and just discussion about issues going on in the city. People are putting in lots of their own ideas, and when there are certain events around the city pertaining to the election, it kind of has been a way to communicate that,” Thomson.

The group has grown to about 350 members in a few short weeks. The online group has provided a venue where members of the public are discussing the election, and even a few council candidates taking an interest and adding comments.

Thomson, a 26-year-old Saint John native who recently moved back to his hometown after a few years of travelling around Canada and abroad, said he's been hoping to get a bit more involved in the community and saw this as an opportunity.

“I kind of came back to my hometown and found that I had a whole new appreciation for it. I thought I should do something that will help to encourage people to vote. Since this is a big election coming up, we've got a lot of people talking about the change they want to see in Saint John and work they want to see done.” If people want to enact the type of change they're hoping for, getting to the polls is the way to do it, Thomson said.

“There's no better way to do it than to actually use their voices by getting out and voting.” Saint John's voter turnout for the 2008 municipal election was 49.9 per cent of eligible voters, putting it above other major New Brunswick cities like Moncton, with 35.86 per cent, and Fredericton, with 34.05 per cent, and also above neighbouring towns Rothesay and Quispamsis. Still, Thomson said he hopes his efforts can help bring a higher turnout this time around.

“We obviously can't get everybody out to vote, but to bring it up a little, maybe to see that we get more than half this time, that would be awesome.” Thomson is also planning to take his campaign to the streets, likely during the work week before the May 14 election, when he says it's best to find young eligible voters uptown. He is still looking for a few volunteers to help him spread his message.

“We're going to go uptown, hand out some pamphlets and information from Elections NB, and basically just talk to people about how to vote, where to vote, the importance of voting, just making sure people are informed about the upcoming election. Not to encourage or support any campaigns, but just to make sure people give a hoot,” Thomson said.

His broad goal is just to change the minds of some people who might not vote otherwise, especially the youth or low-income residents who may think the process is futile.

“If everybody had that attitude and nobody voted, nothing would happen. Everyone does have a voice, and every vote matters. When you're voting, it makes no difference if you're one of the owners of Irving, or if you work at a corner store,” Thomson said.

Thomson said anyone interested in his campaign can join the Facebook group or contact him at J_Thomson_86@hotmail.com.

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