WINDSOR, ONT. -- A by-election in East Windsor’s Ward 7 is fast approaching with 12 candidates vying to fill the city council seat.

And while it will be up to candidates to get their platforms out — many residents express they aren’t engaged in the process.

“I know there’s 12 or 13 people running, but I don’t feel like I know any of them, really,” says Ward 7 resident, Don Leslie.

“I’m not that aware of the candidates, either and what they’re up to,” says his neighbour, Tom Ferri.

Aside from some literature drops and the odd knock on the door from a candidate over the past two months, residents say it’s been mostly crickets for anything related to the by-election.

It’s been nearly a year since former Ward 7 Coun. Irek Kusmierczyk won a seat in the House of Commons for the Liberals in Windsor-Tecumseh.

The by-election was originally postponed before the New Year to allow Snowbird residents a chance to be in town for the by-election and avoid nasty weather, which often leads to low voter turnout.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“We know this by-election has been a long time coming for residents of this ward,” admits the city’s new manager of records and elections, Terri Knight Lepain. “Nobody could have foresaw a global pandemic pushing an election back. If we had known that we would have planned differently, obviously.”

But that will all change Oct. 5.

Voters will have a chance to cast their ballot during advance polls on Tuesday Sept. 29, Wednesday, Sept. 30, Thursday, Oct. 1 and Saturday, Oct. 3 — or at a single polling station at the WFCU centre on Monday, Oct. 5 between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m.

“We’re confident we will be able to offer voters, candidates and residents a safe voting experience on October 5 so this ward can get the representation it needs,” says Knight Lepain.

The city is also suggesting proxy voting for those who don’t feel comfortable attending in person — but electronic, phone and mail-in voting is off the table to avoid further election delays.

Information pamphlets and voter ID cards are in the mail to all Ward 7 residents to advise them of health and safety measures at the polling station as well as important information related to the by-election.

“This is going to be the first test of our ability to do democracy during shutdown,” says political scientist Lydia Miljan, who says voter turnout for by-elections is already quite low. The University of Windsor professor expects it to be even lower this time around.

“It’s just going to be slow and inconvenient. The real question is will that deter people from coming out?” asks Miljan, who ponders if electors will stay home to avoid “standing in line for somebody (they) barely know.”

During this non-traditional campaign, Miljan tells CTV Windsor candidates will have to work hard to earn name recognition in what she expects will be a close election.

“It’s going to be exceptionally difficult for people to get their name out. If they're not already a known quantity then the challenge is that much more difficult,” she says.

A virtual debate is scheduled for Wednesday night, hosted by the Canadian Federation of University Women.

Eleven of the 12 candidates have signed on to take part between 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.

You can register online to watch the debate here.

Running in the election are Igor Dzaic, Farrah El-Hajj, Michelle Gajewski, Jeewen Gill, Barb Holland, Ernie Lamont, Greg Lehman, Michael Malott, Angelo Marignani, Thérèse Papineau, Albert Saba and Howard Weeks.