In Arviat, two ridings means double the work come election time
“As soon as the community got two ridings, the hamlet had to legally put in street addresses"
ARVIAT - Riding boundaries are usually only noticeable on maps, but on the ground in Arviat, something has changed since Nunavut’s election campaign kicked off Sept. 23.
Once Nunavut’s third legislative assembly dissolved, the territory’s new electoral map came into effect, dividing the Hudson Bay community into two: Arviat North-Whale Cove and Arviat South.
Suddenly, the community had street signs in Inuktitut and English marking 7th Avenue and 6th Street.
“As soon as the community got two ridings, the hamlet had to legally put in street addresses,” said Nancy Karetak-Lindell, returning officer for Arviat North-Whale Cove, which takes in all the community west of 6th Street — more commonly known as Airport Road.
The change occurred because voters’ lists aren’t based on people’s names, but rather on physical housing units, Karetak-Lindell said.
And that’s just one of the challenges she and her fellow returning officer for Arviat South have had to juggle since they opened their office at the Mikilaaq Centre.
The line that divides Arviat North to Arviat South — which actually divides the community west from east — looks like a clean break on paper. Most of the units along the southern boundary aren’t residential, and don’t house voters.
The next challenge was attaching the houses to new street names and numbers.
When Karetak-Lindell took a closer look Arviat North, it was lined with duplexes and fourplexes – a number of them on corner lots that could potentially be located on two different streets.
“My assistant and I spent two or three days just driving around trying to verify that,” she said. “This is the first time for everyone.”
But Karetak-Lindell isn’t alone: Igloolik is another community that’s been recently divided into two constituencies, while Iqaluit and Rankin have seen revisions to their existing ridings.
That’s why Elections Nunavut created a look-up tool on its website, where voters in those communities can find out which riding they fall into.
In Arviat, early voting has gone off without a hitch — advance polling ended there Oct. 24 with about 100 votes cast.
Now Karetak-Lindell is focused on setting up the election day poll at the community hall, where she and Arviat South returning officer Andy Illungiayok expect hundreds of voters all in the same day.
They’ve hired and trained deputy returning officers and poll clerks, and signage will point voters from each riding to the right areas.
“As simple as it sounds, it will the first time for everyone,” Karetak-Lindell said. “It could be very easy for someone to put the wrong ballot in the wrong box.”
She said polling stations are divided by voters’ family names; from A-K and from L-Z. The problem with that, she said, is that so many local family names’ begin with K, it will make for a lopsided line-up Oct. 28.
After Arviat’s returning officers have held registration drives around town, spoken at the local high school and posted information on Facebook, Karetak-Lindell likes to think people are generally aware of the community’s two ridings.
But she suspects some voters will show up on election day hoping to vote for a candidate in the other riding.
Arviat voters can cast their ballots Oct. 28 between 9:00 am and 7:00 pm at the Mark Kalluak Hall.