IserveU celebrates Rommel Silverio's Yellowknife council win

Just one seat went to an IserveU councillor Monday night, but Paige Saunders, the group's co-founder and chief financial backer, is calling it a success. 'Yellowknife has elected a guy who really represents the future of how democracy is going to work.'

'Yellowknife has elected a guy who really represents the future of how democracy is going to work'

Just one seat went to an IserveU councillor Monday night, but Paige Saunders, the group's co-founder and chief financial backer, is calling it a success. 'Yellowknife has elected a guy who really represents the future of how democracy is going to work.' (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

Only one of three IserveU candidates won a seat on Yellowknife city council Monday night, but the online voting tool's founder and financial backer still considers the night a success.

"You have to aim high," said Paige Saunders from the floor of the Yellowknife Elks Lodge, where IserveU staff and volunteers followed the night's municipal election results with intense, beer-fueled zeal.

The group had originally hoped to run five city council candidates, instead of the three who did run.

"You have to try to aim for an ambitious target so that, when you fall short, you don't fall to something that's mediocre," said Saunders.

IserveU candidate Rommel Silverio garnered 2,465 votes Monday, enough to earn him the seventh spot on Yellowknife's eight-member city council (and the unique title of Yellowknife's first Filipino city councillor).

But his spot on council was not assured during the course of the night.

While posting stronger early numbers compared to fellow IserveU contenders Marie Soleil-Lacoursiere and Dane Mason, Silverio was, near the end of evening, fighting for the seventh or eighth spot. In the end, Silverio slipped into seventh place, slightly ahead of newcomer Julian Morse, who edged out incumbent Phil Moon Son, the only former councillor not to regain his seat. 

Saunders said he spent between $60,000 and $80,000 since January promoting IserveU. That doesn't include campaign materials for Silverio, Soleil-Lacoursiere and Mason; they paid for their own supplies, said Saunders.

His relief at Silverio's victory was palpable.

"Yellowknife has elected a guy who really represents the future of how democracy is going to work, and it's happening right here in Yellowknife," he said. "So, no, it's pretty impossible not to be happy about that."

'I have no regret'

Soleil-Larcoursiere remained upbeat despite her defeat.

Marie-Soleil Lacoursiere has no regrets about running for IserveU. (submitted)

"I have no regret whatsoever," she said of supporting the IserveU model. "If I've contributed somehow to [Silverio's] being elected to council, that was completely worth it."

As for IserveU's actual launch, Saunders said his intentions are to continue working on the program's code. An open house giving people a chance to register for the IserveU website will take place on Saturday in Yellowknife.

Soleil-Lacoursiere, for one, says she'll sign up.

"I look forward to challenging council on all of the things I've heard first-hand being a candidate myself," she said.

Saunders said just under 2,000 people have signed up to be notified when the website launches. Of those, he said, "the number of people we know for sure are Yellowknifers is something like 1,500."   

For Silverio, his victory was not merely a validation of IserveU.

"I'm feeling energized. Excited. This is history for Filipinos and for e-democracy here in Yellowknife."

Silverio said he also pushed the city's Filipino community to vote in advanced polls, which ultimately may have accounted for much of the late-evening suspense: the last poll results released — the ones that secured Silverio his seat — were from the advanced polls, in which re-elected mayor Mark Heyck estimated "probably twice as many voters" took part than in the 2012 election.  

Heyck thought IserveU, in combination with the federal election, likely resulted in a higher voter turnout for the municipal election this year.

"There was a lot of discussion not just about the [IserveU] platform itself but about the idea of engagement in a democracy and how you go about that in 2015 as opposed to 20, 50 or 100 years ago," he said.

"So I suspect we got some first-time voters out as well as some voters who might not always make the effort, because they were plugged into that particular issue."