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Isolating NWT residents could be disenfranchised on September 20

NWT residents who are isolating on September 20 could have become disenfranchised, unless a situation is found which allows them to vote.

Leanne Tait, the NWT’s returning officer said people wouldn’t be able to go to a polling station if they were meant to be isolating, in an interview with CBC.

“We don’t have the ability, without there being changes made in Parliament, for us to be able to offer alternate ways of voting once the advanced polls have closed,” Tait said. 

Advance polls closed last Monday. The deadline for applying for mail-in ballots was September 14.

This could leave some people disenfranchised, without any means to vote.

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The Northern Territories Federation of Labour has called on Elections Canada to find a way for NWT residents who are isolating to be able to vote. 

“It is deeply disappointing to see a lack of planning and no action being taken to correct this disenfranchisement of voters in the Northwest Territories,” said Nicole Tews, President of the Northern Territories Federation of Labour.  

“Though we can appreciate the complexity of running an election during a pandemic, the responsibility to provide safe alternative voting measures on September 20th lies with Elections Canada.”

The organization said the federal government has had more than two years to come up with a plan, and leaving some people unable to vote would be unacceptable.

There are now 199 active cases among residents in the territory. 128 of those are in Yellowknife, while 30 are in Behchokǫ̀ and 23 are in Whatì.

The GNWT recently had to add two new isolation centres, at the Yellowknife Ski Club and at the community arena, to accommodate the large number of people currently isolating.

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