Indigenous

Upcoming leadership election in Elsipogtog First Nation will have drive-thru option

Elsipogtog First Nation members voting in Saturday's elections will be able to choose to cast their ballot in person or at a drive-thru polling station.

Voters in Feb. 26 election will elect 1 chief and 12 councillors

James Leigh Augustine is Mi'kmaq and likes the idea of having a drive-thru option for Saturday's election in Elsipogtog First Nation. (Oscar Baker III)

Voters in Saturday's chief and council elections in Elsipogtog First Nation will have a drive-thru option to cast their ballot.

Drive-thru polling stations will allow voters in the Mi'kmaq community about 91 km north of Moncton, N.B., to fill out their ballots in their vehicle, put them in an envelope and pass them to an election worker without having to go inside.

"It's a very appropriate safety measure," said community member James Leigh Augustine, 32. "I find it would be good for the elderly or the ones that have trouble walking." 

Elsipogtog members will be electing one chief and 12 councillors, who will serve a four-year term as per the First Nations Elections Act. 

Tristan Sock says he has concerns about drive-thru voting. 

"I don't trust anybody to place my ballot in the box for me," said Sock, 34. 

Tristan Sock says he would rather cast his ballot in person. (Oscar Baker III)

He said voting is a private matter and that he worries drive-thru voting might present opportunities for someone else to see one's ballot. 

Sock said he would have liked to have seen options such as voting by appointment or voting in cohorts, according to age bracket, for example.

Brian Dorey, the community's electoral officer, says the drive-thru option has been put in place in order to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission and keep community members safe. Additional safety precautions are being taken, he said.

"Masking and hand sanitizing will be required for drive-thru as well," said Dorey in an emailed statement. "It would be greatly appreciated if voters with symptoms notify the election staff so they can take appropriate safety and sanitization actions."

Dorey says the safety measures were discussed with staff at the Elsipogtog Health and Wellness Centre. The health centre did not respond to requests asking for COVID case numbers in the community.

How it works

Polls will be open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday at the old school. Voters will have the option to cast their ballot in person or by drive-thru. Elsipogtog Public Safety will be on hand to direct traffic and ensure capacity limits are respected at the in-person polling station. 

For the drive-thru, voters are expected to provide identification and to write their name, date of birth, band number and signature on an envelope provided by staff. Voters are being encouraged to bring a hard surface to write on and a cover that could provide extra privacy as they fill out their ballot. 

Voters will place their ballot in the envelope and give it to a staff member, who will take it inside the polling station. Before the ballot is dropped in the ballot box, the voter's name will be read aloud so staff and scrutineers can ensure they voted and cross their name off the voters list. 

Outstanding mail-in ballots can also be accepted at the drive-thru polling stations.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Oscar Baker III is a Black and Mi’kmaw reporter from Elsipogtog First Nation. He is the Atlantic region reporter for CBC Indigenous. He is a proud father and you can follow his work @oggycane4lyfe

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