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