Drive-thru voting coming to Strathcona County for municipal election

Strathcona County plans to allow drive-thru voting for the first time in advance of the next municipal election.

Option will only be available for advance voting

Sheila Johnstone with the City of Calgary displays one of the mobile privacy folders Calgarians used to vote in the 2017 municipal election. Strathcona County plans to use a similar system for its drive-thru voting station in the 2021 municipal election. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

Voting from a vehicle will be possible for the first time in Strathcona County this fall.

The county plans to offer drive-thru voting at the Broadview Enviroservice Station in Sherwood Park in advance of the October 18 municipal election.

Jacqueline Roblin, Strathcona County's manager of legislative services and contract management, said plans for the drive-thru voting station predated the pandemic but the health crisis has heightened the need for spreading out voters.

Alberta Health Services tested tens of thousands of people for COVID-19 at a drive-thru at the same location.

"We started thinking we could do the same, just at a different angle," Roblin said in an interview with CBC Edmonton's Radio Active on Monday.

Other Canadian municipalities, including the City of Calgary, have offered drive-thru voting in the past. The City of Edmonton has yet to offer the option.

In Saskatoon this fall, a new drive-thru voting station was so popular that at one point, voters in vehicles faced a three-hour wait, said Roblin, who consulted with other municipalities while planning Strathcona County's station.

There was a steady flow of vehicles at the drive-thru advanced voting station at City Hall in Regina, Sask. on Nov. 2. (Cory Coleman/CBC)

Anticipating high interest, the county plans to run its drive-thru voting station for six days, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

Election day will not be one of those days. That's because during the advance poll period, anybody in the municipality may attend any advance voting station, but on October 18, voters must cast ballots in the area in which they reside. 

"It would be very difficult, if not impossible, for us to be running both our regular voting stations on election day and having all of the different ballot styles at the Envirostation," Roblin said.

A voter who uses the drive-thru option will place their ballot in a privacy folder before passing it off to a poll worker through their vehicle window.

Roblin said the drive-thru location could be more convenient for people with disabilities, parents with sleeping children in the car, and people who do not want to worry about parking near a polling station.

In 2017, voter turnout in Strathcona County was 39 per cent.

With files from Ken Dawson