New faces, new wards, new voting tech: Winnipeg's municipal election season has sprung
Mayoral candidates will begin registering Tuesday
One hundred and seventy six days from now, Winnipeggers will choose their next mayor.
The race for mayor, however, officially starts Tuesday morning, when would-be candidates are eligible to register their campaigns as a prelude to raising and spending money on their electoral efforts.
Brian Bowman, who was elected mayor by a broad margin 2014, announced in March he plans to seek a second term.
The odds are on his side, as no incumbent Winnipeg mayor has been defeated since Stephen Juba knocked off George Sharpe in 1956.
Challengers, however, are lining up for the chance to end this streak.
Business-development consultant Jenny Motkaluk, who ran unsuccessfully for the Mynarski council seat in 2010, said she intends to register her campaign on the first day of the campaign.
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Don Woodstock, who ran unsuccessfully in the 2007 and 2016 provincial elections, the 2014 municipal election and the 2015 federal election, said he plans to challenge Bowman as well.
Self-described entrepreneur Umar Hayat said he will register his campaign Tuesday, while government-relations consultant Ajay Chopra — who Bowman accused of threatening him at a Diwali event in 2017 — also said he is mulling a mayoral run but will be the last to register if he does so.
More voting machines
Winnipeg voters go to the polls on Oct. 24 to elect not just a mayor, but city councillors and school trustees.
Senior election official Marc Lemoine said the city intends to encourage as many voters as possible to vote at advance polls in an effort to reduce lines on election day.
The city also plans to employ more voting machines for the same purpose. In 2014, a record number of voters cast a ballot, Lemoine said.
"On election day we'll be trying things like doubling up on machines within the actual locations. Because we found that was somewhat of a bottleneck, where one person would have trouble using the machine, it would tie up the voting for the rest of the folks," he said.
In addition to operating more voting machines on election day, the city plans to lease or purchase about 20 state-of-the-art machines that make it easier for people with disabilities to vote without having to ask an election official to mark a ballot on their behalf.
Lemoine said these devices will improve upon accessible voting machines employed by the city in 2014.
"We have voting machines where you can listen and press a button to select your candidate of choice. We have sip-and-puff tubes for people who don't have the use of their hands," he said.
"We'll have brand-new voting machines that facilitate some of those functions a little bit better, come October."
New ward boundaries
This election season, some Winnipeg voters may find themselves confused as to where they vote. Changes to Winnipeg's electoral map have resulted in the elimination of the old St. Charles ward, the creation of a new Waverley West ward and changes to the boundaries of nine other Winnipeg wards.
The new boundaries don't take effect until Sept. 17, when council is prorogued for the final six weeks of the election campaign.
In the mean time, the city plans to engage voters in an effort to ensure people know what ward they live in.
"We've got a communications campaign coming up around that," Lemoine promised.
Vacant council seats
New faces are guaranteed to join city council as representatives for fewer than two council wards and as many as four this year, thanks to departures and changes to ward boundaries.
Coun. Jenny Gerbasi's decision to retire from council after 20 years leaves Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry without an incumbent candidate.
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St. Norbert will also be wide open because Coun. Janice Lukes plans to run in the new Waverley West ward, to the north.
The fate of Charleswood-Tuxedo is also up in the air, as Coun. Marty Morantz is mulling a federal election run. He said in April that he'll make a decision soon.
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It's also unclear whether Transcona will have an incumbent. Coun. Russ Wyatt, who has been undergoing addictions treatment, has been absent from city hall since January.
The registration period for council candidates, with the exception of the mayor, begins June 30.
The nomination period for all council candidates takes place in September, when the ballot will be set for Oct. 24.