Fifty-eight candidates will stand for election after the nomination deadline passed Sept. 6.
Elections NWT reports that figure includes three electoral districts settled by acclamation (Hay River North, Mackenzie Delta, and Monfwi).
In 2015, there were 60 candidates and one acclamation (Monfwi).
The nomination period began Sept. 2 at 10 a.m. and ended Sept. 6 at 2 p.m. with three hours where candidates had the opportunity to withdraw.
Nicole Latour, chief electoral officer of Elections NWT, said one of the big stories to take away from last week was the number of women that are standing for candidacy.
“Twelve of the 16 ballots (not including the three acclaimed) will have women on the ballot and Nunakput is a good example as it will have four women,” she said, noting that overall it equates to 40 per cent of those on the ballot across the NWT being women.
“So one thing that is more notable is the rise of women candidates.”
The Status of Women Council of the NWT is pleased with the number of women who have entered the election this time around.
“We are delighted with the number of women running,” said executive director Louise Elder.
“We are looking forward to the results of this election. We believe it is important that women are heard and represented at all levels of government.”
People ready to cast a vote can expect a much different experience in 2019 with the option of voting online taking place for the very first time.
People were able to cast advance ballots starting Sept. 6 after nominees were either acclaimed or finalized.
“Anyone who applied online and who been successful in the feed, they will receive an email and be able to vote from (evening of Sept. 6) until 8 p.m. on Oct. 1,” Latour said, adding those who register successfully for a ballot will be issued an URL and pin number to vote online.
Those applicants in acclaimed districts will receive notice about that, too, she said.
Other takeaways from last week’s nomination period include four districts with entirely new candidates on the ballot.
Cabinet ministers Alfred Moses, Glen Abernethy, Robert C. McLeod, and Premier Bob McLeod have chosen not to run again.
At least three sitting municipal councillors elected in their local governments last year are on the ballot as well (Niels Konge and Rommel Silverio of Yellowknife and Inuvik’s Desmond Loreen)
Latour said there are more than 29,000 NWT voters registered on the ballot but there is hope among election workers that the number voting will increase overall, including youth 18-to 35-years old who typically vote in very low numbers, she said.
Latour hopes voting results from other provincial elections held this year, such as the election in Alberta, which saw a 700,000 turnout at the advance poll – almost 30 per cent of the entire ballots cast – could herald a much healthier voter turnout in the NWT this year, where low voter participation has plagued some electoral districts in recent elections, particularly in Yellowknife.
“With the absentee ballot, we could see some bit of a game changer and significant increase,” she said.
The writ period carries out over 29 days, as opposed to the traditional 28 days as voting day will be held on a Tuesday, Oct. 1 this year, she said.
Latour hopes that with the advanced polling, an additional day for voting and a plethora of communications tools through online and traditional media, that there will be greater voter engagement in Yellowknife and elsewhere in the territory.
She said there is more information to assist candidates and more people working the election, including the 19 returning officers and 38 senior officers.
“Any election agency wants good turnout, but we are not really responsible for turnout,” Latour said. “It is a lot like your wedding where we provide the pop, chips and flowers.”
Latour said there were a number of problems in the 2015 election that may have led to the low turnout of 44 per cent overall.
In 2015, the election was held later in the year on Nov. 23, even though it had originally been slated for Oct. 5 of that year. There were also municipal and the federal elections taking place, which may have led to “voter fatigue,” she said.
Depending on if numbers are low again this time, she said there may need to be consideration to move future votes to the spring, as sometimes many NWT residents are on the land hunting in October.
The youth vote
One of the big challenges will be to get students who are studying outside of the NWT to cast a ballot, where there will be 1,400 eligible voters.
“I did hear from quite a few young people that they were bummed that they could not cast a ballot and I also heard from their parents,” Latour said.
She added Northerners are often quite mobile, so helping get information and providing tools to “remove barriers” to voting are being addressed.
“As Northerners we are travellers,” she said. “People are often away, there are people taking mining shifts, we have students out of the territory, we have a lot of military personnel or there could be all of a sudden a medical issue where people have to be away.”
Latour said there will is a greater push toward social media promotion of NWT elections and the process. Regular updates, links to media stories and links to the agency’s website are on the Facebook page or on the Twitter page at @ElectionsNWT.
“I’m really optimistic about a healthy turnout,” she said.
FACT FILE: Who’s running in 2019 NWT Territorial election
Hay River North
RJ Simpson (incumbent)
Jackson Lafferty (incumbent)
Frederick Blake Jr. (incumbent)
Michael Nadli (incumbent)
Hay River South
Wally Schumann (incumbent)
Inuvik Boot Lake
Inuvik Twin Lakes
Shane Thompson (incumbent)
Herbert Nakimayak (incumbent)
Wilfred McNeely Jr.
Daniel McNeely (incumbent)
Louis Sebert (incumbent)
Lila Fraser Erasmus
Cory Vanthuyne (incumbent)
Julie Green (incumbent)
Kevin O’Reilly (incumbent)
Kieron Testart (incumbent)
Caroline Cochrane (incumbent)