Incumbent candidates in some ridings were struggling, and CBC News has so far projected the winner in one Yellowknife area riding.
Shauna Morgan is project to win in Yellowknife North. She was leading candidate Bruce Valpy by more than 200 votes with five of 14 polls reporting.
In Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh, incumbent candidate Richard Edjericon held a substantial early lead over challenger Nadine Delorme, with 117 votes to Delorme’s 23. Seven of the riding’s 15 polls have reported.
And in Inuvik Twin Lakes, incumbent Lesa Semmler also held an early lead over challenger Lenora McLeod, 96 votes to 17, with two of eight polls reporting.
However, two other incumbent candidates trailed as the initial results came in from their ridings.
In Inuvik Boot Lake, Diane Archie — a cabinet minister and deputy premier before dissolution — trailed former Inuvik mayor Denny Rodgers by 34 votes (94 to 60) with the first two of 10 polls reported.
Paulie Chinna — another former cabinet minister — was also trailing in her Sahtu riding, with half the votes of Daniel McNeely, with five of 14 polls reporting.
And in Mackenzie Delta, incumbent Frederick Blake Jr. trailed George Nerysoo by 91 votes — 177 to 86 — with three of nine polls reporting. Blake has been MLA since 2011, and was acclaimed in the 2019 general election.
Early results from Yellowknife
Results have also started to come in from some other Yellowknife ridings, including two wide-open races with no incumbent on the ballot.
In Frame Lake, where five candidates are running, Julian Morse and Stuart Wray were tied in the lead with one of 14 polls reporting.
In Range Lake, Kieron Testart — a past MLA — had more than twice the votes of Aaron Reid with nearly half the polls reporting.
Polls opened at 9 a.m. in 16 of the territory’s 19 ridings. The other three ridings had candidates who were acclaimed: Caitlin Cleveland in Kam Lake, Caroline Wawzonek in Yellowknife South, and Jane Weyallon Armstrong in Monfwi.
Fifty-three candidates are competing for the other seats.
The election comes more than a month later than originally planned. It had been scheduled for Oct. 3, but MLAs voted in August to postpone it as the territory was then dealing with devastating wildfires and widespread community evacuations.
Some residents have already voted. As of Friday, 2,382 of the 25,856 registered voters had cast ballots.
Whatever the outcome of the election, some things are already certain: there will be at least a handful of new MLAs, and there will also be a new premier.
Five of the territory’s ridings do not have an incumbent candidate on the ballot, including Range Lake which was represented by former premier Caroline Cochrane. She decided not to run for reelection as MLA.
The N.W.T. has a consensus government, meaning there are no political parties or party leaders. That means residents won’t know who their next premier is until later this month. The 19 members of the assembly will choose someone from among their ranks by Nov. 30, to serve as premier.
Cabinet ministers will also be chosen by the assembly, and named by Dec. 7. Cabinet could consist of six or more MLAs and the premier will assign their portfolios.
Four of the people who served in cabinet before dissolution are running for reelection: R.J. Simpson, Diane Archie, Paulie Chinna, and Shane Thompson. Caroline Wawzonek was acclaimed in her riding, and Julie Green, the former health minister, is not running again.