With the provincial election coming up on June 7, the Elections Ontario returning office for the Kenora-Rainy River riding opened its doors today.
And it's already a beehive of activity.
Returning officer Ian Simpson said staff at the returning office, located at 363 Church St. (the old public library), have been busy since moving in there on May 1.
“Up to this point, we have been working at getting things up and running,” Simpson told the Times.
“We are working on recruiting poll staff," he noted. ”We are working on revision of the list of electors, making sure everyone's voting information is correct.
“We are accepting nominations from candidates,” Simpson added.
“I think most of them are doing it online now so a lot of them have been doing it through head office,” he said.
“We're getting the computers set up and training people. They trained the revising agents today,” Simpson continued.
“And just getting the finance set up, getting leases printed up and signed for all of the voting locations, which is a big job.”
But everything has been going “very smoothly," said Simpson, adding the old library is "the perfect spot” for a returning office.
Looking ahead, voter information cards will be going out next week (starting May 17), with advance polls to be open at the local returning office on May 26-June 1.
There also will be advance polls running May 26-30 in Emo and Rainy River.
The Elections Ontario office here is open Monday-Saturday from 9 a.m.-9 p.m., and Sundays from noon-6 p.m. (Sunday hours of operation will increase in a couple of weeks).
Simpson urged the public to visit www.elections.on.ca and see if they're registered to vote.
If they're not, they can come to the local returning office and register or do it online.
The local returning office employs about 20 people but Simpson is looking to hire 10-20 more in the next couple of weeks.
The returning office also has satellite offices in Kenora and Dryden.
Come voting day, some 500-600 people will be working for Elections Ontario across the riding.
Simpson, who has been the returning officer several times in recent provincial and federal elections here, said one change this election is that the Kenora-Rainy River riding is smaller than it used to be.
Based on a recommendation last year by the Far North Electoral Boundaries Commission, the former riding was divided into two new ridings: Kenora-Rainy River, which includes Dryden, Fort Frances, Kenora, and Rainy River, and Kiiwetinong, which includes the northern portion of the former Kenora-Rainy River electoral district (such as Sioux Lookout and Red Lake) and Marten Falls.
Although there will be fewer polls (92 compared to 123), and previous difficulties associated with geography (like having to fly supplies in to remote communities) will be lessened, “the change won't be that significant because of the processes that we have in place,” Simpson said.
“We won't have our work cut in half or anything," he stressed. "But because we had our processes and our routines in place over the space of two elections, we'll be able to do it just the same as we had before or maybe even easier because we've got more practice.”
Simpson added there's a continuity with election staff who have worked past elections here.