Tools of the trade

in Featured/Multimedia/Through the Fog by

Have you ever wondered why your neighbourhood seems to be left alone during an election, but your friends on the other side of the riding say they are being visited by candidates and their volunteers on what they feel is a weekly basis? Or have you noticed that a particular intersection in your constituency is being plastered with signs from all of the candidates, but an equally busy intersection a kilometer down the road is barren?

It may surprise you to know that the routes the candidates take as they canvass the riding knocking on doors, and the placement of election signs throughout the constituency, is in fact not random. Often these are very calculated decisions based on data made available by Elections Canada.

Following a general election, the Chief Electoral Officer makes available to the public the results of the vote – and these results are quite comprehensive. Unbeknown to the average voter, each riding is typically divided into 100 or more subdivisions. Elections Canada’s report will outline what the results were down to each voting subdivision. Click here to view an example of the detail Elections Canada provides.

These statistics are incredibly valuable to candidates. In an election, their campaign staff work feverishly with these maps and this data to try to use their limited human and financial resources most effectively. For example, if the NDP candidate sees that the Wedgewood Park area of the St. John’s East riding (or poll #49) historically votes overwhelmingly Conservative, he or she will not likely waste their time in that area. However, if poll #32 shows fluctuation from election to election or a tight race, you can bet the candidate’s presence will be felt there.

C├ędric Sam, an IT and digital media professional born in Montreal, has created an excellent resource which uses Google Earth technology to present an interactive resource whereby one can zero in on any riding in the country and view the poll-by-poll results for the 2008 election. A portion of his map is below, and instructions on how to use it follow. Viewing the map may require a Google Map plugin.

Use the menu above to select which Newfoundland & Labrador riding you would like to view. The riding selected will be divided into subdivisions, and the colour of each subdivision correlates with the political party which won the most votes in that area. Click on any subdivision to view detailed results on the vote in that area.