EDITORIAL: In Yk, territorial elections are a joke

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Voter turnout in Yellowknife for the 2015 territorial election was so low it can only prove the point that voters in the city don’t feel their vote is worth much of anything.

This is a city where the primary business is territorial government. Yet, look at the numbers in bold for Yellowknife seats in the accompanying fact file below.

The highest voter turnout percentage per constituency citywide belonged to Yellowknife North at 44 per cent. The average was about 32 per cent. The three lowest figures out of seven constituencies hovered around mid-20s. One of these, Frame Lake, was a wide open seat featuring four candidates – all seemingly very qualified — so it certainly wasn’t a lack of options that turned off voters.

The reality is, for quite some time now, voter turnout has been terrible in the NWT but mostly in Yellowknife, which hasn’t produced a seat with a turnout percentage above 50 per cent since the 2007 election.

Elections NWT’s chief electoral officer Nicole Latour appears to be trying to turn some of these revolting numbers around and is now betting the bank on a new engagement website called Electorhood. She is also hoping the new tool for Elections NWT will appeal to the 2,800 unregistered young electors in the territory between the ages of 18 and 25.

Young adults are a challenging demographic to get out to the voting stations. The hope is that by providing easy access to election information young voters twill be motivated to get registered and cast their votes on election day.

Latour says the underlying goal of the Electorhood site is to educate voters and prepare them ahead of the territorial election this fall. Making profiles unique to each elector and centralizing the election information to create “one-stop shopping” for voters may be just the key to enticing more participation from today’s young adults. Providing easy access to candidate profiles and increasing access to absentee ballots and seeing election night results in real-time are all very interesting features.

Time will tell if an engagement tool like Electorhood will increase voter interest in territorial elections.

The problem, however, is for more fundamental than a lack of information on elections and the candidates. It goes to the very heart of how our government is chosen. As long the decision on who becomes premier and who sits on cabinet remains in the hands of MLAs meeting behind closed doors, there is likely very little anybody, including the chief electoral officer, can do to get more people to vote.

And in Yellowknife, as long it has only seven of 19 seats but half the population, the apathy is bound to be even more persistent.

The chief electoral officer can throw in all the voter tools she wants. These rotten voter turnout numbers won’t budge if voters don’t think their vote will matter.

FACT FILE: Voter turnout for 2015 territorial election

Electoral District        Registered         Electors Turnout          %

Deh Cho                    776                   468                           60.31%

Frame Lake             1,981               546                           27.56%

Great Slave             2,379                646                           27.15%

Hay River North         1,367                 737                           53.91%

Hay River South         1,378                 788                           57.18%

Inuvik Boot Lake        978                    413                           42.23%

Inuvik Twin Lakes       1,028                 436                           42.41%

Kam Lake                 1,922               482                           25.08%

Mackenzie Delta          998                   652                            65.33%

Nahendeh                   1,661                 994                            59.84%

Nunakput                    991                    738                            74.47%

Range Lake               2,092                660                           31.55%

Sahtu                          1,592                 931                           58.48%

Thebacha                     1,844                 937                          50.81%

Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh          822                   587                          71.41%

Yellowknife Centre     2,329                891                         38.26%

Yellowknife North      2,488                1,096                       44.05%

Yellowknife South     2,091                693                           33.14%

TOTAL                         28,717              12,707                       44.33%

Source: Elections NWT

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