Folkin' Vote wants your attention

A non-partisan group has come together in Norfolk for the express purpose of boosting voter turnout in the Oct. 22 municipal election

Organizers of the local Folkin’ Vote municipal engagement team introduced themselves at an event Thursday and spoke about their non-partisan effort to boost voter turnout for the Oct. 22 municipal election. Among those taking the lead is Meika Matthews, who also serves as president of the Simcoe & District Chamber of Commerce.

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TURKEY POINT – Some were surprised and disappointed with voter turnout in Norfolk in the 2014 municipal election.
A lot was at stake. Veteran Simcoe Coun. Charlie Luke was challenging two-term incumbent Dennis Travale for the mayoralty. Even so, voter turnout was only 42 per cent in a race won by Luke.
The subject came up at a social event earlier this year attended by a group of local women. The more they talked about it, the more they felt something should be done about voter apathy.
The result is Folkin’ Vote – a non-partisan campaign to engage local voters and equip them to cast an informed ballot Oct. 22.
Organizer Meika Matthews, who also serves as president of the Simcoe and District Chamber of Commerce, spoke about the initiative at a Folkin’ Vote event at Burning Kiln Winery Thursday afternoon.
“We think Norfolk County can do better,” Matthews said. “Our goal is to help the community engage with the municipal election, get informed, ask questions, and get out and vote.
“Our hope is that our efforts will contribute to a 10 per cent increase in voter turnout overall. We’ll drive them to the polls ourselves if we have to. But first: Educate, engage, vote. That is Folkin’ Vote.”
Other organizers of the Folkin’ Vote initiative include Burning Kiln manager Karen Matthews, Carrie Sinkowski, Chantal Zorad, Gail Catherwood, Gail Bouw, Deena Denton and Claire Senko.
Local residents have participated in a series of videos in which they speak about the importance of municipal government and why every eligible voter should cast a ballot. Several of these videos were shown at Thursday’s event and will be rolled out on social media as the Oct. 22 election approaches.
“You have no right to complain ever if you’ve not made an effort to understand the issues and get off the couch and vote,” Lisa Engelhardt Robinson, of Simcoe, said in one of the clips.
Folkin’ Vote has conducted internet surveys on voter priorities in Norfolk for the upcoming election. Folkin’ Vote shared some of these results at Thursday’s event.
According to the survey, reducing bureaucratic delays and red tape is a top priority, cited as a problem by 45 per cent.
Other top issues include improved “dynamics” around the Norfolk council table in the areas of leadership, accountability and accessibility (42 per cent).
Respondents also want less ward parochialism and a more expansive outlook that takes into account the best interests of Norfolk County as a whole (38 per cent). Downtown revitalization, a recreational hub in Simcoe and repairs to Misner Dam in Port Dover are also on the radar.
Folkin’ Vote has run these concerns by the dozens of candidates standing for Norfolk council. The group will publish their responses on the internet in the weeks ahead.
Folkin’ Vote  volunteers are also taking the lead in organizing all-candidates events across the county.
“By the time we get to election day, we’ve hopefully done a good job of educating and engaging and the voters will be ready to vote,” Meika Matthews said.
“We will be holding Rock the Vote events targeting millennials in particular and doing everything we can to keep the conversation going and get Norfolk County to the polling stations. And that’s it. That is Folkin’ Vote.”
Folkin’ Vote invited the full slate of municipal and school board candidates in Norfolk to Thursday’s event. Many showed up, including mayoral candidates Charlie Luke, Kristal Chopp and Russell Colebrook.