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Miners to use alternate voting options

Northern News Services
Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

Alternate voting arrangements will have to be made by the nearly 200

unionized Ekati workers who leave for their two-week shift at the diamond mine on Sept. 21.

This much is clear, but there is disagreement on just what arrangements should be made to ensure these workers' ballots are counted.

"I would think a mobile poll would be the way to go," said Barb Wyness, public relations and research officer at the Union of Northern Workers. "That would seem to me to be the most reasonable. A mobile poll is where the returning officer goes in with a ballot box and they vote there just the same as we would vote at any polling station here."

"A mobile poll is for people who are confined to their residence. Well these guys are in a sense confined to their residence. They can't leave the mine site to vote. They're not confined because of disability, but because of where they are."

Floyd Collins, regional executive vice president for the Union of Northern Workers, is working an earlier shift at the Ekati mine, going in on Aug. 14 and coming back out in time for the Oct. 3 election.

"That's how it works for me as a diamond miner," he said. "There may be a situation there where there should be a polling station at the site."

According to Elections Northwest Territories, which has been in contact with all three local mines for months, the best option for those unable to get to the polls on Oct. 3 is to submit a special ballot through the mail.

"My understanding is that the only mine of the three diamond mines where there's a shift that covers the advanced voting opportunities is at Ekati," said David Brock, chief electoral officer for the Northwest Territories. "Any of those individuals as well as anyone else can vote by special ballot."

Applications for special ballots have been available since Sept. 5 and completed ballots must be returned by the close of polls at 8pm on Oct. 3. According to Brock, turnaround time for receiving an application to mailing out the ballot to voters is about 24 hours.

"We would be able to send a ballot to (the Ekati mine workers)," said Brock. "That's part of the purpose of the special ballot, if there's someone who is travelling or living outside of the territory during the election, we'll send it anywhere in the world, essentially."

"So, it seems to me that there's still a lot of time available to apply as well as to receive and return (a ballot)."

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