Posted June 1, 2020
“Our Election. Our Way.”
ATIKAMEKSHENG ANISHNAWBEK, Ontario (June 1, 2020) — Voting in the 2020 Atikameksheng Anishnawbek election is now underway.
This historic vote is being conducted like never before, under the First Nation’s new custom election code and via online electronic voting. This new law, Gimaakeng Naaknigewin, governs the process and conduct of the Gimaa (Chief) and Council election. The code was ratified in January 2020.
“We are so pleased to see our election moving ahead in our way. It is a significant step towards self-determination when we can select our community leadership using our own processes under our own jurisdiction,” said Gimaa Valerie Richer.
In order to raise awareness of the election and get out the vote, the community is working to inform their citizens through online communications, including a new election website: http://atikamekshenganishnawbek.ca/elections/ and using its social media channels on Facebook and Twitter.
The theme of the online campaign is “Our Election. Our Way.” – a means of raising awareness of this historic election – the first under the new custom election code.
The path to developing the Gimaakeng Naaknigewin began years ago following approval of the Atikameksheng Chi-Naaknigewin in 2015. The First Nation’s constitution was developed and approved to guide the community in how it would govern its own affairs and ultimately, how it would select their own leadership.
The 2020 election process began with a nomination meeting on April 23, 2020. Four (4) candidates are vying for the office of Gimaa, while seventeen (17) candidates have been nominated for the office of Councillor. Five (5) are to be elected to the office of Councillor.
For the first time in Atikameksheng history, the term for office has been increased from a two year term, the default under the Indian Act, to four years under the new election code.
The in-person poll will be held on June 27, 2020 from 10:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. at the Atikameksheng Anishnawbek Community Centre. Any person on the Atikameksheng Anishnawbek Band registry and is 18 years of age or older as of June 27, 2020 is eligible to vote.
Voters can also cast their vote via mail-in ballot.
There is further history in the making for Atikameksheng. Under the Gimaakeng Naaknigewin, there are provisions for conducting the vote using online electronic voting. This is certainly timely given the public health concerns arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Having our own process will allows our citizens to vote from the safety of their living rooms, as opposed to the prescribed restrictions under the Indian Act,” said Gimaa Richer. Elected in 2018, Gimaa Richer is not seeking re-election.
Electronic voting for Gimaa and Council election is open from today, June 1, 2020 at 8 a.m. until June 27, 2020 at 8 p.m. Atikameksheng citizens of voting age can access the One Feather voting site at https://onefeather.ca/nations/atikameksheng-anishnawbek. Although this is the first electronic vote for Gimaa and Council in the history of the community, the community has used electronic voting in the past, most recently in ratifying the election code in January.
Other COVID-19 precautions will be in place, including physical distancing at the polling station, Surfaces including pencils, marking stations and even the ballot box will be disinfected after each use.
The pandemic has already had some impact on the 2020 election. Ministerial approval of Gimaakeng Naaknigewin was delayed for a number of weeks this spring.
Over the next 27 days, Atikameksheng will continue to update the community with timely information and instructions on how to vote. A special community newsletter edition is planned, as is an online forum to answer questions posed by Atikameksheng citizens.