Politics Plug-in: How technology makes debate more inclusive Faye Roberts September 29, 2015 Columns, Featured, Politics Plug-in Faye Roberts, Scout Public Affairs Technology is changing the way we do everything. Every job, every interaction and every action can harness the power of new technology as we continue to evolve, and the upcoming federal election is no different. The topic of online voting has been central to the conversation around elections. When the City of Cambridge announced it would introduce electronic voting in the 2014 municipal election, reactions were mixed and the city was considered a case study for electronic voting. While the technology seemed to work according to plan, this new voting method did little to increase voter participation in Cambridge, which grew just one per cent. Oddly enough, the tech savvy City of Waterloo rejected online voting in the 2014 election. Federally, online voting remains a futuristic innovation that we aren’t quite ready for in Canada. Currently, voters can register online, yet they are still required to vote in person or by mail. While the future of online voting remains uncertain, other technologies are shaping our election campaigns. On Sept. 17, three party leaders were invited to Calgary to participate in the Globe and Mail’s election debate: the Conservatives, the Liberals and the NDP were all represented. The Green Party and the Bloc Québécois were not invited. As the debate got under way, conversations on social media lit up. In elections past, reporters would have captured their own impressions of the leaders and reported about their content and delivery, while the uninvited would remain unheard and in the shadows. In the world we live in, public opinion and sentiment matter, and social media gives them an amplifier. Zignal Labs, a Silicon Valley-based media analytics company (Zignal Labs) built by a former White House public affairs guru, monitored reaction to the debate through both social media and traditional media. Its findings, similar to those of Twitter, showed the debate leader with the largest share of voice was not on the stage; in fact, she wasn’t even in the room, but behind a computer. Green Party Leader Elizabeth May took to Twitter on Sept. 17 with a series of short videos to share her thoughts on the issues and her competitors’ responses, effectively inserting herself into the conversation and stealing the spotlight during the debate. We may not yet be able to log on and cast our vote, but new technologies continue to prove we can log on and share our thoughts, contributing to more robust and inclusive conversations about politics. Photo: Twitter vote button by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.