A City of Yellowknife municipal mail-in ballot. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio
The City of Yellowknife is expressing increasing confidence in its municipal election arrangements as ballots begin to arrive.
On Friday, senior staff said there was no expectation that extra polling stations will be needed on October 17, as some candidates had considered requesting earlier this week.
Yellowknife is trying to operate a largely mail-in election but the arrival of ballots with only 10 days till polling day – and two to three working days before the postal deadline to mail a ballot back – has concerned some residents and candidates.
Ballots began landing in mailboxes on Friday, though plenty of residents reported there was still no sign of theirs.
In an unscientific Cabin Radio poll carried out by email on Friday, 10 people reported receiving their ballot and 19 said no ballot had so far arrived.
If your ballot arrives too late for you to feel confident mailing it, the city says you can drop it off in boxes at City Hall – at the side door facing 49 Avenue, a built-in slot to the right of the door – or the multiplex, or take it to a voter assistance location (the Tree of Peace or the multiplex) from 10am to 7pm on October 17.
If your ballot doesn’t arrive at all, head to a voter assistance location on the day.
“So far, so good,” said Kerry Thistle, the city’s director of economic development and strategy, cautiously on Friday afternoon.
“I’m super excited to see 16 candidates and the ballots are being mailed out. While it may have been preferable if people had started receiving them sooner, because that did cause some angst among the general voters, the ballots are out. They’re out in ample time for people to cast their vote.”
Thistle suggested that in a sense, the city couldn’t win. She said that in some earlier interviews, concern had been expressed that the ballots would arrive before anyone had a chance to get to know the candidates, allowing people to vote without the opportunity to first inform themselves.
“The ballots are here in time and they also provide people the opportunity to participate or listen to the debates, and still use all of the options available to them,” Thistle said, referring to an arts community forum for candidates on Thursday and a chamber of commerce forum on Friday.
“So yes, I believe it’s gone fairly smoothly to date.”
The City of Yellowknife contracted a Toronto company named DataFix to help run this election. On it website, DataFix offers support for mail-in voting among a range of different election-related services.
The contract was sole sourced, Thistle said, as it met the city’s policy for doing so, which states that a contract must be worth less than $20,000. (Sole sourcing means there was no competitive process for companies to win the contract. Other reasons that allow the city to sole-source are if only one supplier exists, or it’s an emergency, neither of which apply here.)
DataFix also ran the city’s referendum on whether or not to proceed with construction of a swimming pool last year, Thistle said, expressing no direct concern about the contractor’s performance. (DataFix declined to comment for this report, stating it was “not our practice to comment publicly on our client engagements or to comment on elections themselves.”)
“They are a Canadian company that has been widely used by municipalities and other forms of government across Canada,” the city said in an earlier statement.