The Yukon and New Democrat parties are criticizing Elections Yukon for its incomplete riding voter lists for the upcoming territorial election.
But Elections Yukon, which abides by rules created in the legislature, is dismissing the criticism as political and caused by the election’s timing, which it has no power to change.
Thirty per cent of Watson Lake voters are not on the 2006 voting list, and 390 voters are missing from Lake Laberge’s list, Yukon Party campaign manager Craig Tuton told reporters on Tuesday.
“Some people might be missing for work, sure, but blocks of voters being missed is unheard of,” said Tuton.
His concerns were echoed by the NDP.
“We’ve been extremely disappointed by the reports of whole blocks of people not being enumerated,” said NDP organizer Ken Bolton on Wednesday.
“We’ve heard about it from Ross River, Teslin, McIntyre-Takhini,” he said. “John Edzerza (McIntyre-Takhini candidate) tells me he had something like 190 people on a couple of streets who were not enumerated.”
The Liberals, however, were less critical.
“We’ve encountered various different problems, but those are the sorts of things you encounter each election,” said Liberal campaign chair Mike Travill.
“We’re attempting to get people on the list who have been missed.”
Elections Yukon creates lists of eligible voters for the territory’s 18 ridings.
Candidates use the lists to save time during a campaign by only calling on homes with electors, rather than speaking with everyone — hence their reaction to perceived deficiencies.
Unlike federal voter lists, which are permanent, new lists are created for each election in the territory. People who are missed must go to revisions to get themselves on the voter list.
The final revision opportunity is Friday October 6th.
Politicians control election rules and the timing of elections, both of which are affecting this year’s scrolls, said Jo-Ann Waugh, assistant chief electoral officer and 30-year veteran in the job.
“Mining camps are still in business, construction camps are still operating, people are out hunting, people haven’t settled down for the fall yet,” said Waugh on Tuesday.
The difficulties this year mirror those in the 1996 Yukon election, as it was held at a similar time of year, she added.
Compared to 2002, when 16,181 voters were on the rolls, the 2006 list is currently only down 67 people, at 16,114, she said.
“It’s not a substantial difference. There’s no current shortage, revision is taking place, people are being added right as we speak.”
Two problem ridings for enumerators were Porter Creek South and Whitehorse West, where a few streets were missed, said Waugh.
Enumerators have since gathered 39 more voters before revision and solved the problem, she said.
As for the Watson Lake’s problems raised by Tuton, Waugh was blunt.
“I don’t believe that yet; that’s not been proven to me that that’s happened,” she said.
Only since Yukon Party leader Dennis Fentie called the election on September 8th has Elections Yukon been permitted to enumerate.
One month is a short time to compile new elector lists, and Waugh knows it, but there is nothing she or Elections Yukon can do about it.
“We don’t know until after everybody else in the territory has been informed that the writs are going to be issued; we don’t even have a lead time,” she said.
Enter the proposed solutions.
Fixed election dates are the best option, said Bolton.
“That would solve it,” he said. “Then you would only have revision to deal with, and it would also give parties opportunity to make meaningful contact with the voters.”
Fixed election dates are part of the NDP’s 2006 platform.
The Yukon Party favours a permanent voter’s list.
“An answer would be to share enumeration lists between federal and territorial elections,” said Tuton.
Regardless of proposed solutions, Waugh doesn’t have much patience for such talk.
Politicians create the rules, she noted.
“Elections legislation belongs to the members in the house. They have the right to bring forward amendments to elections legislation,” she said.
“It’s not this office that is going to say, ‘We’re amending the act.’
“Let’s be real about this.”