ELECTION EDUCATION: Your future is in your hands

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You don’t have to be interested in politics to be a voter. But you should be interested in government decisions that may impact your life or the future well-being of your children. So as an elector, some consideration of how the government will shape your future warrants your vote this fall.

Some ask about the finer points on being an elector or a voter. Anyone who has attained the age of 18, is a Canadian citizen, and has six months residency in the NWT is an eligible elector – someone who has the ability to elect. A voter is someone who has cast their ballot or voted.

In the 2015 Territorial General Election 12,702 ballots were cast. Even though this was an increase of 873 votes over the 2011 election, it only represented a voter turnout of 44 per cent. In theory it’s easy to believe the lack of voter turnout could have been frustrated by having the electoral event moved back into late November and that electors did not wish to attend the polls in the cold and dark before heading home after work. Or, that voter fatigue played a role with Yellowknife electors who may have engaged with two other types of elections the previous month.

Elections NWT has engaged in outreach with its #truantnomore campaign for younger electors at various local events this summer. Image courtesy of Elections NWT.

The Yellowknife electorate is a major factor in low voter turnout. While the outlying communities have healthy participation rates, Yellowknife, which represents approximately 50 per cent of the NWT population, had an absentee rate of 67 per cent. Compare that to 24 per cent absenteeism in the constituency of Nunakput and 29 per cent in Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh and it’s easy to note the seven electoral districts in our largest centre are indifferent to their ability to exercise their democratic right. It’s somewhat perplexing if we consider our friends to the west in Yukon recently had the highest voter turnout in its history, with nearly 80 per cent of eligible voters marking a ballot in 2016.

In addition, the 2015 statistics showed 80 per cent of people from 18 to 35 years old did not attend the polls. That’s a huge number! One has to wonder what the government would look like if they had, or what will it look like if they do this fall.
The availability of early voting opportunities has been greatly expanded for the Northern electorate. Both Alberta and British Columbia took the opportunity recently to expand their early voting opportunities and electors responded at record breaking levels. Those opportunities are now available in the NWT as well. For those that cannot attend the poll on Oct. 1, electors now have options far beyond those available in the past.

For example, voting in the office of the Returning Officer has been expanded from 10 to 21 days. You may cast your ballot beginning Sept. 7 until Sept. 28. As well, the absentee poll is now more accessible with two options. Electors may apply for the traditional mail-in ballot, or chose to participate using the online voting platform. The NWT electorate will have the privilege of being the first electors among all the provinces and territories in Canada to opt in and cast a ballot electronically.

Further modernization includes a new website called Electorhood. This website will not only provide electors with their own unique profile that will facilitate voter readiness and participation, but will report a real-time voter turnout percentage for their electoral districts for those who cast ballots using the early voting opportunities during the writ or campaign period.

So as the electoral event approaches, consider not only the young preparing to become #truantnomore, or the expanded conveniences of voting, but what is the real impact of omitting your ballot from the process? Quite simply, is it wise to leave your future to others?
Next week will feature the Electorhood website in more detail. Until then, visit electionsnwt.ca for any information you might need. And of course, go ahead create your account at electorhood.ca.

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