DIY Markham Campaign Hailed as Model for Municipal Engagement

When it comes to using digital technology to promote elections and engage citizens with government, there are few organizations that understand the process as well as Delvinia. Since 2003, Devlinia has been involved in a partnership with the Town of Markham to help the municipality better communicate the importance of voting at the municipal level.

Delvinia’s work with the Town—including the creation of the DIY Markham social media campaign for the 2010 municipal election and the data collected as part of our continued research on the impact of Internet voting—is being outlined today on Parliament Hill in a presentation at Carleton University’s Political Science Graduate Student Conference, entitled “Democracy at a Crossroads?”

In “Candidates do it, why can’t election agencies? The Town of Markham’s use of Facebook in the 2010 Municipal Election,” PhD students Nicole Goodman and Lesley Copeland provide a scholarly review of the DIY Markham social media campaign.

Designed and created by Delvinia, the campaign used online videos, a Facebook page, a YouTube channel and a Twitter feed to engage voters and raise awareness of the election as part of the town’s larger “Your Vote Counts” campaign. Of the 17,231 Markham electors who registered to vote electronically, 10,597 used the Internet to cast their ballot.

“Since 2003, all of Delvinia’s work with Markham has been centred on our continued effort to position Markham as a leader in the area of e-democracy and public engagement using digital technologies,” said Delvinia C.E.O. Adam Froman. “Not only did we work on the public awareness campaign for the election—through initiatives like Your Vote Counts and—we also introduced DIY Markham as a social media initiative to reach out and engage voters in the social communities where they exist.”

In a search of Facebook members, more than 50,000 users over the age of 18 identified themselves as Markham residents, which indicated there was a critical mass in the community using social media, said Froman who reports that maintaining the essence of social media without compromising the integrity of the election process proved to be one of the biggest objectives for the firm.

“The Town of Markham’s integration of social media into the 2010 municipal election highlights its experience in dealing with some of the common concerns raised by government,” Goodman states in the report. “The steps that it followed to ensure all legal and political conditions were satisfied could be used as a model for the development of social media programs by governments and election agencies elsewhere.”

With Delvinia’s support and expertise, Markham became the first major Canadian municipality to introduce Internet voting in 2003. By incorporating social media as part of Markham’s voter-awareness strategy in 2010, Delvinia assisted Markham in establishing a foundation for the municipality to use social media in an election context and laid the groundwork for greater potential outreach in the future.

“Social media is now a critical element of any municipal communications campaign,” said Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti. “We know that social media users represent the highest proportion of our election demographics and expect this trend to increase dramatically. Markham now has an effective and proven platform to capitalize on this in future.”