Candidates worry early e-voting may favour incumbents
Some candidates running in the municipal election for the Halifax Regional Municipality say they're concerned the early start to electronic voting favours incumbents over newcomers.
Waye Mason, who is running for councillor in District 7 against incumbent Sue Uteck, said he's worried voters have not had enough time to learn about each of the candidates.
"You're always the underdog when you're trying to take out an entrenched incumbent," said Mason.
"You've got to have all your messaging in place on Oct. 6 and you've got to maintain that for the entire 14 days."
Online and telephone voting in the Halifax Regional Municipality started on Saturday — the earliest start — and runs for almost two weeks.
As of 12:00 p.m. on Tuesday, 15,000 people had cast their ballots in the region. That represents approximately five per cent of the electorate.
E-voting in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality started Tuesday, while the option will be available to several other municipalities across the province at the end of the week.
Mason said he's worried about the impact of the relatively early e-voting.
"My opposition has had 14 years to get her name out there in the public," he said Tuesday.
"You're trying to have everything peak so people believe that you're someone that's worth investing a vote in and so we had to do that for Oct. 6."
Uteck disagreed with Mason's concerns.
"In the past, where we've only had that online voting for a few days, that may have favoured an incumbent just like an advanced ballot," she said.
"But with two weeks, there's no favourites here."
E-voting days selected in September 2011
Fred Connors, a mayoral candidate who just released his platform on Tuesday, said he doesn't see early e-voting as a disadvantage.
"I think it's a wonderful tool that we have. People are really excited about being able to vote online and I think a lot of people who are voting online wish that it was not a multi-step process to be able to do so," he said.
"But I think that it is only going to enhance the election results."
David Hendsbee, an incumbent councillor running in District 2, said the early voting makes him uncomfortable.
"I think that it's difficult for any campaign strategy to go out there and try to knock on doors and people have already voted," he said.
Cathy Mellett, the returning officer for the Halifax Regional Municipality, said the e-voting days were selected last September based on the experiences of municipalities across the country.
Anyone thinking of running in this election, she said, would have known well ahead of time.
"We started our candidate workshops in April and May and we talked about that and we posted all the information online in June," she said.
"Any candidate could start campaigning at any point during this entire process. There's no restriction so it doesn't disadvantage anyone. It only advantages the voters."