Voter turnout dropped in N.W.T. communities facing active COVID-19 outbreaks

·2 min read
From left to right, MP Michael McLeod of the Liberal party, Kelvin Kotchilea of the NDP, Roland Laufer of the Green party, Jane Groenwegen as an independent and Lea Mollison of the Conservative party put their names forward to be the N.W.T.'s MP. (Michael McLeod/Facebook, Submitted by Kelvin Kotchilea, Roland Laufer/Facebook, Submitted by Jane Groenewegen, Submitted by Matthew Lakusta - image credit)
From left to right, MP Michael McLeod of the Liberal party, Kelvin Kotchilea of the NDP, Roland Laufer of the Green party, Jane Groenwegen as an independent and Lea Mollison of the Conservative party put their names forward to be the N.W.T.'s MP. (Michael McLeod/Facebook, Submitted by Kelvin Kotchilea, Roland Laufer/Facebook, Submitted by Jane Groenewegen, Submitted by Matthew Lakusta - image credit)

The Northwest Territories had its lowest federal voter turnout since 2008.

This year, there were 4,827 fewer votes than there were in 2015, with 47 per cent of registered voters casting a ballot, according to poll-by-poll data from Elections Canada, or 14,250 out of 30,182.

It was a narrow race between Liberal MP Michael McLeod and his closest contender, NDP candidate Kelvin Kotchilea.

The N.W.T. has seen a steady drop in voter turnout in the past few elections, with 53 per cent (15, 655 out of 29,020) of registered voters casting a ballot in 2011, 63 per cent (19,077 out of 30,110) in 2015 and 53 per cent (16,416 out of 30,000) again in 2019.

Between 2015 and 2021, the number of rejected (or spoiled) ballots rose from 104 to 155.

On voting day, Sept, 20, the N.W.T. had active COVID-19 outbreaks in Yellowknife, Ndilǫ, Dettah and Behchokǫ̀, with hundreds of cases and many more contacts in isolation who were not permitted to enter a polling station.

Latest poll-by-poll data from Elections Canada shows roughly 100 fewer election-day votes in Behchokǫ̀, including Edzo.

In Yellowknife, the number of votes dropped by 1,814. In 2019, there were 6,514 votes compared to 4,701 this year.

Whatì had around 30 active cases on voting day, and the poll data suggests that affected voter turnout. In 2015, 181 people cast ballots in Whatì but this year, just 102 people voted.

Hay River, which has nine active cases around election time, saw a similar drop. The community's voter turnout was cut in half — from 1,470 in 2015 down to 832 in 2021.

How candidates performed by region

In NDP candidate Kelvin Kotchilea's hometown of Behchokǫ̀, the votes split evenly between him and McLeod, who took a lead in Whatì but trailed behind slightly in Wekweètì.

Kotchilea shot ahead of McLeod in Fort Smith, earning 258 votes to McLeod's 183.

McLeod performed best in the Deh Cho, with a landslide of votes in his hometown of Fort Providence. McLeod also outperformed Kotchilea in the Sahtu, earning three to five times as many votes as Kotchilea in communities like Deline, Fort Good Hope and Tulita.

Norman Wells is one exception, where votes split evenly between McLeod and Kotchilea, and parachute Conservative Party candidate Lea Mollison earned a quarter of votes.

McLeod had a strong lead in Aklavik, Tuktoyaktuk, Paulatuk, Tsiigehtchic and Fort McPherson, but not in Ulukhaktok, where votes were split down the middle.

Both McLeod and Kotchilea saw even support in Fort Liard, Fort Simpson, and Dettah.

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