Whitespace, a local nonprofit web development firm with no political affiliations, has launched yxevotes.ca. The site clearly shows its viewers the ward they live in and who their candidates are. It also includes the biographies and platforms of each candidate running and a Twitter feed that picks up the hashtag #YXEVotes and compiles tweets from the candidates.
“It allows you to get connected to the civic election,” Arts and Science Students’ Union Vice-President Internal Affairs Peter Bruce said, referring to the social media component on the site.
“If you reply to one of the candidate’s tweets or use the hashtag on twitter, they are going to see it and other people are going to see it,” he said.
The Twitter feed on the homepage includes messages of 140 characters or less from local activists, journalists and citizens, all chiming in with their two-cents using the hashtag.
As Bruce sat at his desk in the ASSU office navigating the site, he said the simple user interface is what students with no spare time need as the city hurtles toward the election.
“I think students should know who is running in their wards, they should know the candidates for mayor and, ideally, they should be voting,” Bruce said. “This is a really easy way to get students to actually figure out what’s going on.”
Flavio Ishii is a computer science graduate student at the University of Saskatchewan and a co-founder of Whitespace. He says Whitespace focuses on solving local problems through web-based technology.
“We design so whatever we develop can be reused globally by open-sourcing the technology afterwards,” Ishii said.
This summer, Ishii and his team at Whitespace met with Saskatoon city councillors and a handful of candidates and mulled over the challenges facing potential voters, including a lack of fundamental information about the election.
“People either don’t have much time on their hands or they are not interested in digging through the city’s website to find out information,” Ishii said.
“We just wanted to get all of the basic information — listing all the candidates for the wards and the mayor and to be able to find out where to vote.”
The biggest concern was to make the site accessible to anyone, so they also designed it to run on all web and mobile devices, Ishii said.
Whitespace works out of The Two Twenty coworking space on 20th Street West with fellow web designers deezine.ca. Together, to accompany #YXEVotes, they launched yxevoices.ca. The web application is now asking the Saskatoon community to post and discuss important election issues leading up to the Oct. 24 vote.
Dozens of local citizens have posted to the site in recent days.
The top comment with 18-upvotes at the time of print said “managing the rapid growth of Saskatoon” is the most important issue for the city.
Other popular election issues posted include “infrastructure maintenance in the core neighbourhoods” and “making the [city] less noisy” and better accommodating to people with disabilities.
After the launch of YXEVotes, the city released its own similar website that includes the 2012 Saskatoon Voters’ Guide.
Illustration: Samantha Braun/The Sheaf