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City under pressure to add polling stations over ballot chaos

A sign direct voters toward their polling station in Yellowknife North. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio
A sign directs voters toward a territorial polling station in Yellowknife in 2019. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio

The City of Yellowknife is facing calls for more polling stations on election day as residents wait for mail-in ballots with just days left to return them.

Polling day is October 17. Under the city’s original plan, residents would receive ballots, mark their choices and mail those ballots back to the city to arrive by 7pm that day.

But there are now only six full working days left and, in practice, only four working days in which to receive a ballot, vote, and mail it by Thursday morning next week to be sure the city receives it in time.

So far, nobody has reported a ballot turning up in their mail. In a statement on Thursday, the city said the ballots are now “anticipated to arrive in residents’ mailboxes before end of day Friday.”



City Hall is promising two drop-boxes for ballots, rather than one, will be available to help people return ballots in person. The boxes will be at City Hall and the multiplex.

But many of the 16 candidates for city council (Mayor Rebecca Alty has already been acclaimed to a second term) are increasingly fidgety about an election they sense is falling apart. They want more to be done.

A draft of a letter to the city, backed by the majority of candidates and seen by Cabin Radio, urges officials to open at least one extra polling station (or “voter assistance location,” in the city’s terminology) on October 17.

At the moment, voter assistance locations at the Tree of Peace and multiplex will let eligible residents vote on the day. But the last election, in 2018 when mail-in voting wasn’t available, had seven such stations across the city.



“The city is evaluating the necessity and feasibility of all options to ensure voters have ample opportunity to drop off their ballot or vote in person on election day,” a spokesperson stated on Thursday.

Several candidates say they expect a broader announcement from the city in the near future regarding more polling locations.

“We thank the city for the corrective action they have already taken, such as opening an additional drop-off ballot box at the multiplex. Despite this, residents will have very little time to fill out their ballot and understand how to return it to the city in time for election day,” the draft letter from some candidates states. Whether the letter had been sent or not was not clear as of 11am on Thursday.

“While the delay of the ballots is outside of the city’s control, polling and voter assistance locations are well within it. We ask you to do your utmost to ensure that everyone who wishes to vote gets that vote counted.”