NTI election plagued with logistical problems
Eligible Inuit land claim beneficiaries were prevented from voting in NTI’s executive election last week when they found that their names were missing from voters’ lists.
IQALUIT— The Dec. 13 NTI executive election was plagued with problems, preventing some eligible beneficiaries from voting, say two of the presidential candidates.
Election organizers in Pond Inlet ran out of ballots, some beneficiaries were not able to vote in NTI election because their names did not appear on the voters list, while others found their names listed more than once.
Newly-elected NTI president Paul Quassa and unsuccessful presidential candidate Cathy Towtongie both said that some beneficiaries had been barred from voting because their names were not on the voters list, which is derived from NTI’s beneficiaries list.
“It did happen to me when I went down to the Parish Hall to vote,” said Marie Michael of Iqaluit.
Polling clerks could not find her name on either the voters list or the beneficiaries list, so she was not allowed to vote.
But at QIA polling stations Michael said she was simply asked to fill out a form, and was then allowed to vote.
Michael said she had voted in all previous NTI elections and had never had a problem before. She said she had not heard that chief returning officer John Ningark had said from the start of the election that only people on the voters list would be allowed to vote.
She also said that she had not seen any notification posted anywhere in Iqaluit asking people to check with their local enumeration committee to make sure their names are on the list.
“I wasn’t aware of that at all. It would have helped if they had had something in writing,” she said.
“It’s not about who won or who didn’t,” said Iqaluit resident Peter Ittinuar “It sounds like there were quite a number of people.”
Ittinuar says he doesn’t think the problems affected the outcome of the vote, but he says he believes that it is important that every beneficiary be allowed to exercise his or her right to vote.
Ittinuar said at least two people in his office hadn’t been allowed to vote,and that he had even heard of elders being turned away.
“That’s embarrassing to have an elder told they can’t vote because they’re not on the list. It’s like not respecting the elders as we should,” Quassa said on the night of the election.
He said NTI’s voting day had been plagued with problems, including polling stations in Pond Inlet running out of ballots. He said NTI polling stations should have been set up to allow people to swear out declarations of beneficiary status if they were not on the list.
“I know who’s an Inuk and who isn’t,” said Quassa. Some elders had not been allowed to vote because they were not on the list, he said.
It’s a problem that Quassa said he wants to do something about as NTI president. He said some Inuit are missing out on benefits such as the elders’ pension and hunters support program because they aren’t on the beneficiary list.
Quassa said he wants to reform the method of collecting beneficiaries’ names to make it more comprehensive.
“People are dying without getting benefits out of the claim,” Quassa said.
Nunavut Social Development Council chairperson Mary Wilman said she had not been included on the voters list either, but had been able to vote. However, she would not explain how she was able to vote when her name wasn’t on the list.
“I don’t want to make a big deal about it,” said Wilman.
NTI’s chief returning officer, John Ningark, could not be reached for comment before Nunatsiaq News press-time.