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Editorial: Municipal candidates registering earlier could be helpful to voters

Waiting until the last minute to register doesn't give voters as much time before the election date to examine candidates' platforms and wight the pros and cons of each.
stock hand ballot box
If more candidates don't register by Sept. 20, there won't be a need for council and school board elections in Thompson this October.

The fact that, with less than a week to go until the Sept. 20 deadline for mayoral, council and school board candidates to register, there are only enough candidates to fill nine of the 16 available spots — one mayor, eight councillors and seven school board trustees — is, while hopefully not an actual problem, at least somewhat problematic.

There are reasons that so few candidates have completed their registrations so far. For one, Thompson is often kind of a last-minute place, where people know it only takes 10 minutes to drive across town, so they only start getting ready to head out 12 minutes before they have to be somewhere. Also, the timing of the municipal election, which takes place on Oct. 26 this year, and of the deadline to register, about five weeks prior to the election date, means that candidates are likely busy doing summer stuff for the first couple of months once they can start to register at the end of June (mayoral candidates can begin the process at the start of May). Also, they are probably aware that voters are also busy enjoying the summer throughout July and August and that conventional political wisdom holds that people aren’t interested in politics during the summer, which is why you plan your campaign for then only if you're an incumbent and are possibly somewhat wary of waking a sleeping dragon. A summer campaign is a sleepy campaign and probably won’t motivate people to get in the mood to get out and cast their ballot, which can work to some candidates’ advantage

What’s more, in at least two of the past three elections in Thompson, there were very few candidates in the last few weeks before the registration deadline and plenty by the time that date rolled around. If the pattern remains the same for the 2022 edition, Thompson could be drowning in mayor, council and school board candidates less than a week from now.

So why is last-minute registration problematic, if the above points are true?

Well, though summer may be a time when people are busy relaxing, September and October are times when people are often busy just being busy. School is back in session, sports and other activities are starting up, there’s Thanksgiving and Halloween to prepare for and, of course, the inevitable arrival of snow, which sometimes happens before summer has barely had a chance to end. There are plenty of other items competing for people’s attention and it may be asking a bit much to expect them to digest the platforms of multiple candidates in city and school board elections while still having time to, you know, sleep and cook dinner and those sorts of things. In essence, candidates might be doing voters, and themselves (not to mention media providing election coverage) a favour by declaring themselves as candidates earlier and completing the registration process before the clock really starts ticking, so that they have a chance to get their message out at a time of relative peace. Who knows? Maybe getting the campaign going while the field is still relatively uncrowded might even be some kind of an advantage? 

At any rate, let’s hope that incumbent and aspiring Thompson politicians throw their names int  the hat before Sept. 20 and that their platforms have some actual measurable outcomes that voters can look back at in 2026 to judge how successful they were at achieving them. Though Thompson has had around 40 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots in the last few municipal elections, which is actually better than the national average for local contests, it’s still not a great participation rate. We certainly don’t need that lack of enthusiasm trickling down (or is it up?) to afflict potential candidates as well.

This editorial appeared in the Sept. 9 print edition of the Thompson Citizen.