People and programs 09/19/2016

Fewer than 3% of eligible Dartmouth North voters cast ballots in the last municipal election. Now, an engaged group of Dartmouth North residents, calling themselves Noise from the North, are looking to change that number. They're leading an eight-week campaign called Speak Up. Show Up. that's aimed at increasing community awareness and participation in the upcoming municipal election in the fall. 

“There are a lot of reasons people don’t vote,” says Tammy Shields, Community Action Coordinator at the Dartmouth North Community Food Centre. “We hope to address some of those issues by making voting easier and more accessible and creating opportunities to talk about why everyone’s voice matters.” Shield talked to CBC News about barriers to voting for residents, which include not having proper ID, difficulties getting registered, and not having access to a computer for online voting — all issues that will be addressed through the campaign.

Speak Up. Show Up. campaign organizers are graduates of the Dartmouth North Community Food Centre’s Peer Advocate Program, an eleven-week training program that empowers people with a lived experience of poverty and marginalization to support fellow community members and connect them with services and opportunities to local issues. A number of events have been planned around the campaign, starting with a Voter Pop-Up booth at the end of August. In this case, the candidates were fruits, and the winner was a strawberry – a sweet way to get community members of all ages accustomed to casting ballots.  

From making campaign signs to voting parties to parades, the Speak up. Show Up. is sparking conversations on issues, and inspiring community members to get involved and think more deeply about what voting means to them. 

"If voting didn't change anything, we'd have no voice!"

"Every election is determined by the people who show up."

The Election Day parade on Saturday, October 15 will take residents from the Community Food Centre to the polling station a few blocks away. In an interview in the Dartmouth Tribune, Shields said that "the people in Dartmouth North can too have a voice; even though they feel they don’t have a voice. That’s the biggest message we’re trying to send with this campaign. They have the opportunity to effect the types of changes they’d like to see within all levels of their government."

Learn more about the campaign and donate to support Dartmouth North Community Centre.