The City of Swift Current will prepare a single General Election Bylaw for the upcoming municipal election that will include previously enacted bylaws and the necessary requirements within current legislation.
Recent amendments to the Local Government Election Act, 2015 allow for the establishment of a General Election Bylaw and the City decided to follow this option.
Councillors approved several recommendations for the 2020 municipal election during a regular council meeting that took place via video conference, June 29.
City Clerk Jackie Schlamp said during a media briefing after the meeting the General Election Bylaw needs to be approved before Aug. 10 to comply with the requirements of the provincial legislation.
The City’s new General Election Bylaw will therefore be tabled at the next council meeting on July 27 for approval. A key benefit of this new bylaw will be that all the details with regard to the process and conduct of a municipal election will be contained in a single law.
“It was a recommendation right in the legislation coming from the Local Government Elections Act, and then everything will be in one place under one form,” she said.
The 2020 municipal election date has been changed from the fourth Wednesday of October to Monday, Nov. 9. This election will be for urban municipalities and for odd-number divisions in rural municipalities. The election for resort villages will take place on Aug. 29.
The City of Swift Current will consider the inclusion of health and safety requirements in the General Election Bylaw to ensure the election will adhere to public health guidelines to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection.
City administration will monitor the pandemic situation in the run-up to the election date and changes will be made where necessary to protect the health and safety of electors and election workers.
The City is developing a communication plan to provide information to candidates, election officials and residents about the election process. Details will be provided through the City’s website.
An information guide for candidates will also be prepared and this booklet will be provided to each person who requests a nomination form. Election information will also be advertised through local media and social media.
In addition to voting on election day, there will be other options for residents to cast their votes. There will be options for special polls, homebound polls and advance polls, as well as mail-in ballots.
The mail-in ballots provide an option for electors who might not be able to vote on the day of the election or on the dates of any advance polls.
“Last election in 2016 we did make a provision for mail-in ballots and there were 34 citizens that utilized that service at that election,” she said. “Due to COVID we feel that this may be a preferred means of casting a vote and therefore we will expand on the mail-in ballot process for the 2020 election.”
The results for the special polls, homebound poll and advance polls will be reported with the mail-in ballots as one poll after 8 p.m. on election day. Preparations will be made to accommodate the expected increase in mail-in ballots and to ensure that the ballot counting process will be smooth.
The City will have four vote counting machines. It is a requirement to have a machine at each polling station and the fourth machine will be used as a backup and to count the votes from the other polls and the mail-in ballots.
Council approved the recommendation by City administration to have three polling locations on election day at Trailview Alliance Church, Innovation Credit Union iPlex, and the Chinook golf course.
This is a change from the previous municipal election, when there were four polling locations in Swift Current.
“So we eliminated the Colonel Clifton Centre and are utilizing the iPlex,” Schlamp said. “From a health safety point of view, the iPlex auditorium is bigger. There's more space there that we could utilize to spread things out, should we be still dealing with COVID.”
The pandemic situation also meant that priority was given to the use of City facilities, if at all possible, for polling locations.
“Due to the uncertainty of COVID, it's being recommended that we try and stay away from schools and churches,” she explained. “There was no other facility up in the Highland Trail area. So therefore we stuck with Trailview Alliance Church, and then we utilize the two City facilities, one in each jurisdiction.”
The occupation of candidates will be included on the nomination paper and ballot. Criminal record checks will again be a requirement for candidates.
The City decided it will not implement a requirement in this election for candidates to disclose their campaign contributions and expenses. The provincial election act gives local authorities the option to implement such a requirement by bylaw.
According to Schlamp this has not been a requirement in previous municipal elections in the city, because Swift Current is a smaller jurisdiction compared to other urban municipalities such as Saskatoon, Regina and Prince Albert.
“We don't have the big spending budgets and the big spending needs as other cities do,” she said. “So it was decided that we would continue with the same practices as in the past, that it's not something that's of a concern.”
The City will list candidates on ballots based on the results of a random draw. Their names will be drawn from a receptacle to determine the order of names on ballots.
The current council will continue in office until the newly elected members are sworn in after the election. The council meeting that was scheduled to take place just before the municipal election on Nov. 2 will be cancelled.