Ready, set, run: Hundreds of elected positions up for grabs in Nunavut
Nunavut’s municipal election period kicks off Monday, 1st day for would-be candidates to make it official
The race is on to fill 498 elected seats across Nunavut.
Starting Monday, people who want to run for mayor, council, district education authority or a position on one of the 12 alcohol education committees across Nunavut can officially throw their hats in the ring for the elections that will be held in every community Oct. 23.
“We have about 500 vacancies that we’re filling between the four contests, whereas for an MLA election we’re only filling 22,” said Dustin Fredlund, Nunavut’s chief electoral officer.
“There’s quite a number of contests that are going on during this election.”
Nunavut’s last municipal election was in 2019. There were 43 acclamations, which means a candidate wins a seat because nobody ran against them.
There’s a five-day window for candidates to get into the race. They have until Sept. 22 at 2 p.m. local time to declare their candidacy by contacting their community’s local returning officer.
Elections Nunavut is going to update its website “at least daily” to list candidates as they declare, Fredlund said in a phone interview from his Rankin Inlet office.
“It will be a busy week,” he said.
Each municipality is responsible for running its own elections. Elections Nunavut — Fredlund’s organization — provides support, advice and legal counsel to help the municipalities follow the Nunavut Elections Act.
Most municipalities are holding votes for all of the positions at the same time, on the same day — Oct. 23.
“It will be a one-stop shop for the voter,” Fredlund said.
Qikiqtarjuaq, Taloyoak and Rankin Inlet are holding their district education authority elections separately from their municipal elections.
Elections Nunavut maintains a permanent voters list, meaning anyone who has ever voted in a municipal or territorial election should already be on the list.
As it stands, there are about 18,000 names on the voters list, which represents about three-quarters of Nunavut’s adult population.
It’s easy for people to get added to the list, Fredlund said. An unregistered voter can ask the local returning officer to be added to the list. They can also show up to a polling station on election day and be added.
In the 2019 municipal elections, voter turnout was 47 per cent, which mirrored the federal election that was held on the same date.
Some changes are in effect for the Oct. 23 election compared to the one in 2019. Elections Nunavut has removed proxy voting, meaning voters can no longer pick someone to cast a ballot on their behalf.
To make up for it, it has expanded what Fredlund calls the “emergency vote,” which is available for people who won’t be in their community on election day.
That means someone working on a fishing vessel or who unexpectedly has to travel for medical treatment will be able to register their vote by phone.
There’s also a mail-in ballot that’s convenient for students studying out of territory, medical travellers and prisoners. They’re able to apply, starting Monday, to have a ballot sent to them that they can fill out and return to have it counted.
The deadline to apply for a mail-in ballot is Oct. 16, a week before the election, Fredlund said, because election workers need time to send it out and get it back.
In 2019, 150 people voted by mail-in ballot.
“It’s not a huge portion, but we’re able to capture the students, the medical travellers and the prisoners who want to vote,” Fredlund said.