Boosting civic engagement: Calgary Public Library helps voters plan their election day

Plan My Vote tool makes taking first steps for first time voters easy

The Plan My Vote website photographed on a cell phone on Wednesday, September 29, 2021. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

The Calgary Public Library made first-time voting easier this week with the launch of a new voter information website.

Calgarians using the library’s Plan My Vote tool are directed through a series of easy questions. Those questions will help guide them to where and when they can vote. The website is located at planmyvote.ca.

This year’s municipal election will have two ballots – one for municipal candidates and questions, the other for provincial senator votes and questions on equalization and daylight saving time. It’s going to be busy.

“The exciting thing about a tool like this is that it helps to remove a little bit of that complexity and maybe reduces the barriers that people face in coming to the election,” said Myke Atkinson, service design lead for the Calgary Public Library.

The website was developed by the library in conjunction with Elections Calgary.

Users are directed to enter their address first, followed by whether they wish to vote in the advance election or on election day. The plan my vote tool will then show users where their voting station is located for the day they selected.

Voters can then enter the type of travel they intend to use to travel to their voting station and what time they intend to vote. The website will tell voters what type of identification they will have to bring to the polls. 

Once this has been selected, voters will be given a complete itinerary of where, when, and how to vote.

All of this information is being gathered on demand from Elections Calgary. This ensures that Plan My Vote users will have the most accurate and up-to-date information.

“We wanted to make sure that the information that we’re providing to voters is correct and we are actually tapping into the tools that Elections Calgary has built with the polling information,” said Atkinson.

Plan My Vote based on solid research

The development of the Plan My Vote website came out of research that library staff were doing on how to get first time voters to vote.

So while rocking the vote would have been fun, using concerts to get the youth vote to the polls wasn’t effective enough.

“There’s been some studies done on those kinds of things that show that they don’t actually lead to an increase of voters showing up at the polls,” said Atkinson.

“The area I’m in is really trying to put those to the side, put your biases to the side, and instead base it on what’s going to get that end-user result that you’re really trying to achieve.”

The Plan My Vote found that not knowing how to go to the polls hindered first-time voters.  

Atkinson said that the research showed first-time voters are interested in voting and are engaged politically.

“It may seem like a bit of a black box, right? When do I have to show up at the polls? What do I need to bring to the polls with me?”

Commitment to civic engagement

The Plan My Vote website is part of the Calgary Public Library’s larger commitment to civic engagement. 

The library has made information available on what municipal governments are responsible for. They have also created ward changes maps and provided information on Calgary’s fluoridation question.

Signs indicating the differing responsibilities for federal, provincial, and municipal governments have been placed in all of the libraries across the city. Virtual events have also been held with experts from the University of Calgary on election topics.

“All libraries have a responsibility to support civic engagement and it’s really important, especially during times of lots of questions and issues being discussed, that libraries provide access to information and reduce barriers where possible,” said Mary Kapusta, director of communications for the Calgary Public Library.

All of the election information provided by the library is non-partisan. Patrons are directed to the City of Calgary’s election website for information and links on candidates.

Patrons wanting to learn more about the upcoming vote can sign up for the library’s virtual event. It is taking place tonight with University of Calgary researcher and instructor Paul Fairie.

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  1. Calgary election: How to cast your ballot early this week - LiveWire Calgary
  2. Calgary Election: What you need to know to cast your ballot - LiveWire Calgary

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