Every four years Halifax Regional Council gets a reset. It's a good thing. New faces bring new ideas, and new ideas make for better cities and municipalities. The 16 districts that make up this 5,490 square kilometre municipality range from Peggys Cove to Ecum Secum, up to Upper and Middle Musquodobbit.
The councillors elected to represent each district decide how much money is spent on community centres, libraries, bike lanes and police. They vote on rules about who gets to build what kind of things where, rules about things like taxis and short-term rentals, parking fees, snow clearing, recycling and sewage.
They vote to decide which non-profit organizations, community events and arts programs get grant funding, how much summer camp councillors earn, and whether or not accessibility should always be top of mind.
They'll spend the next four years voting on things that will literally change your life—for better or for worse—so it's worth taking a moment to cast your own vote in this year's election.
Here's the nitty-gritty on how to vote and what to expect when you're voting.
Who can voteThe NS elections act says anyone who is over 18 years of age and has called Halifax home for at least six months before the election can vote. If you're from Antigonish but moved to Halifax for school and call Halifax home right now, you can vote, too. If you're originally from Ontario and in your third year of university and would have been here all summer if it weren't for COVID-19, you can vote, too.
However, you can't vote if you're not a Canadian citizen, which means international students and Permanent Residents who live in and contribute to Halifax in a big way can't vote—even those who maybe would have had their citizenship by now but have seen delays due to COVID-19.
Chances are if you're reading this article, you can vote. And HRM's election coordinator Trish Smith wants you to know how much of a privilege that is. Her favourite part of her job is knowing she's helping people cast their ballot and exercising their right to vote—something she says "we take for granted in this part of the world, that we can safely go to go to the polls or vote online, we can do that comfortably, and we can feel confident in the process."
Now that you are all fired up about voting, here are the three ways (or four if you want to count voting by phone separately from online voting) you can do it.
Vote electronically, by phone or onlinePlaning an election during a pandemic is no easy feat. So since COVID-19 became our reality, Halifax's election team has been working to make sure it's as easy as possible to vote from home. Electronic voting is open from October 6 at noon to Wednesday October 14 at 7pm.
To vote electronically, either via phone or online, you need your unique PIN. If you are registered on the list of electors, your PIN would have come in the mail with your voting information package. If you didn't get that or don't know if you're registered, the best thing to do is call 902-490-8683. Someone at the election office's call centre is there waiting to speak with you and get you everything you need to vote, including your unique PIN via secure, password-protected email.
To vote via phone, once you have your PIN, you'll call 1-888-371-0341, enter your PIN and confirm your identity by entering your date of birth. Once the system has registered who you are and that you're real, it will essentially cut off your identifying information—allowing you to cast your vote anonymously. You'll hear the names of the candidates for mayor, and then press the corresponding number for who you want to vote for. Then the process will repeat for your district, and you'll enter the number corresponding with the candidate you want to vote for. The system will ask you to verify your vote so you'll have a chance to change your answer if you pressed the wrong key, and there's also a way to spoil your ballot via the phone, too.
To vote online, once your PIN is in hand, you'll visit halifax.isivote.com, and enter your PIN, followed by your birthday to verify you're a real person. Then you'll select your pick for mayor, then your pick for councillor in your district, click submit and voila! You get to complain about municipal politics guilt-free for the next four years.
Vote at an advanced pollAdvanced voting takes place on Saturday October 10 and Tuesday October 13 from noon to 8pm. COVID-19 precautions will be in place, with spaced lines and safe stations for poll workers. You don't need to be on the list of electors already to vote at a polling station—meaning if you didn't get a letter in the mail, no problem. You can show up with ID, fill out a form, say you promise you are who you say you are and cast your vote. You can still call 902-490-8683 before heading to the poll to make the process a bit quicker if you'd like, though. To figure out which advanced polling station you should head to, click here.
You'll type in your home address—in the same format The Coast's address has been typed in here.
Vote on election dayIf you love the thrill of an election-day ballot casting, or you're reading this on October 15 and this is all that's left for you, no fret. Smith says the polling stations are ready to face HRM's electors Saturday, October 17. Again, you can bring your voting information package you got in the mail with you—but if you didn't get one, you can just show up at the polling station with a piece of ID and a facemask.
Because of COVID-19, lines will be spread out so you may have to wait to vote outside—making the unpredictable October 17 weather another reason to cast your vote early. Polls are open from 7am to 8pm.
You'll fill out a paper ballot, voting for mayor and for the councillor in your district. All polling stations will be wheelchair accessible.
And just like that you've done it. Bonus points if you bring a friend with you. A zillion points if you plan a Covid-safe after-party in the name of civic engagement.
Learn about the candiates in your district with The Coast's HRM Votes app or reading one-on-one interviews with each candidate here.