05/14/2012 11:10 EDT | Updated 07/14/2012 05:12 EDT

New Brunswickers voting in local elections

New Brunswickers are going to the polls today to elect new municipal councils, members to their local district education councils and members to regional health authorities.

There are 1,268 candidates running in the 105 municipal races and for spots on the seven district education councils and two regional health authorities

The polls opened at 10 a.m. across the province and they will close at 8 p.m.

Elections New Brunswick will be using vote tabulation machines in every race. When the polls close, the tabulation machines will be taken to the nearest Elections New Brunswick returning office and the results will be uploaded into a system.

This process should reduce the time that it takes to determine the winners in each of the races.

Michael Quinn, the province’s chief electoral officer, said in a letter to voters that steps have been taken to make the voting process easier and more convenient.

“We will do everything we can to make sure the voting process runs smoothly. As the organization responsible for administering the electoral process, Elections NB has introduced enhancements to make the voting process more efficient and streamlined,” Quinn said.

“Given the hectic schedules of many of today's families, we recognize the importance of enabling voters to get in and out of the polling stations in a timely fashion.”

Voters will be able to cast ballots for members of the seven redesigned district education councils.

As well, they will be able to elect members to their local regional health authorities.

Quinn said voters will be able to choose to vote for candidates in health authority A or health authority B — but not both.

"Generally, that's just the way the system is set up, you are either in one health region or you're in the other — it's set up with two health regions," said Quinn.

"There is an overlapping area around Moncton where both subregions are included in one area, so that means if you decide to vote in the region A you can pick a candidate from there or if you decide to vote in region B, then you can pick a candidate from there."

Voters don't have to vote in every race, Quinn said.

"If you are undecided about a particular race, and you don't vote in that race, it doesn't spoil your ballot," said Quinn.

"For example, with the health authority races, some people don't know the candidates and that means that if you decide not to vote for any, that means that the rest of your ballot is still fine."

There is also a plebiscite on Grand Manan, asking residents if they want the local council to ask the Department of Transportation to remove the tolls from the local ferry.

If the turnout to the advance polls is any indication, citizens in many communities are engaged in this year's race.

Elections New Brunswick says its unofficial tally of advance voters from May 5 and 7 is 38,558, which is up considerably from the nearly 26,000 people who voted early in 2008.

Quinn said he expects a higher than average turnout at the polls. He's encouraged by the high numbers of voters going to the advance polls.

"I think just generally the people are coming to realize how important these positions are. It's all across the province, it's not just in one area, and I think there's been a lot more focus on the importance of positions and, I think that's it, people want to make sure that they get their say."

The province’s largest urban centres, such as Saint John, Fredericton, Moncton, Dieppe, Riverview and Edmundston, experienced the highest levels of advance voting.

Some smaller communities, such as St. Stephen and Caraquet, have seen large numbers of candidates put their names forward for seats on council.