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These first-time voters are excited for HRM’s election (even if no one else is) 

Halifax continues to fight a valiant, apparently futile struggle against voter apathy.

click to enlarge Josh Creighton is excited to cast his first vote in HRM's municipal election. - THE COAST
  • Josh Creighton is excited to cast his first vote in HRM's municipal election.

What were you excited to do when you turned 18? For Josh Creighton, the answer is pretty obvious.

“I’m more excited to vote in [the municipal election], because I feel like this—it’s closer to home,” says Creighton. “I love the idea of a councillor, how they’re in charge of this area, and their role is to be engaged in the community.”

Creighton turned 18 in January. He’s now a first-year student at Dalhousie, taking a mixture of arts, business courses and some political science. Not only is it his first election where he can cast a vote, but he’s also volunteering for Lindell Smith’s campaign in District 8. He’s one of many residents of the municipality who will be heading to the polls for the first time on Saturday.

“I want to vote in person,” he says.

The municipality has been trying to increase HRM’s historically mediocre voter turnout in this election through social media campaigns and advertisements. So far, it doesn't appear to be working. After two weeks of internet and telephone voting, along with two days of advance polling, the numbers of votes cast so far are 10 percent lower than 2012’s advanced turnout.

Katelyn Morton, who graduated from Dalhousie law school in the spring, has spent most of her adult life leading the same itinerant existence as many other students. The lifestyle that goes along with getting an education had made it hard to learn about what it takes to vote for city council, and prior to this municipal election, Morton had never cast a ballot at the local level.

“The main reason why I didn’t vote before was just [a lack of] information,” she says. That’s changed this time around.

“I have personally found that with this municipal election there’s been a lot more on social media about voting and who’s running and how it works, where I probably wouldn’t even have known how to vote [in the last municipal election].”

Morton, 26, says a close friend’s experience running for King’s County council in this election spurred her to learn more about voting in the HRM.

“She’s trying to undermine the old boy’s club of a lot of municipal councils around Nova Scotia, and I’m really interested in that movement, to [elect] more women, people of colour, people of different sexual orientations,” she says. “I’m 100 percent behind that, so I just wanted to make my voice heard this year.”

With that much at stake, Morton says she wants to get her own message out to potential non-voters: there’s no reason to let a little bit of education stand in your way.

“All the excuses that you use, I used before—and they shouldn’t matter.”

Creighton says when it comes to the municipal election, he spends most of his time talking about it in the community where he grew up and still lives, especially at work—the Community Y on Gottingen—and the adjoining North Memorial Public Library.

“Growing up in a marginalized community—I’m used to being shut out and not having our voices heard, so to have a say in your councillor or in anything, it’s refreshing,” he says. “You get to play a part in this and I think most people should, because it affects a lot of your life.”

 The last chance to vote happens tomorrow, October 15. Polls will open Saturday at 8am and close 11 hours later at 7pm. A map of polling locations can be found here.


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