Cumberland byelection could take place Oct. 5
City could offer mail-in ballots for some voters
- City council approved these steps and called the Cumberland byelection at its July 15 meeting.
Residents of Ottawa's eastern-most ward could head to the polls Oct. 5 to choose a new city councillor, despite COVID-19.
City clerk Rick O'Connor is advising council call a byelection in Cumberland, which covers the rural eastern and part of suburban Orléans. Longtime councillor Stephen Blais left last winter and was elected MPP for Orléans in February.
Council also has the choice to appoint someone to the seat at a special meeting in August, but with two years left in the council term has not yet shown a desire for that option.
It's been three and a half months since council formally declared the Cumberland seat vacant on March 25, the same day Mayor Jim Watson declared a state of emergency due to the pandemic.
Physical distancing has made the mechanics of campaigning difficult, and the state of emergency allowed council to defer a byelection.
Now, even though the state of emergency is still in effect, staff believe they can hold a traditional election, but only if the city can limit the number of electors at each polling station, require single-use voting pens and privacy screens, and procure enough personal protective equipment.
That could be combined with a mail-in ballot for voters with disabilities and others who are especially susceptible to COVID-19.
"With the relaxing of some of provincial orders and the gradual reopening of the City, it is possible to conduct a safe and democratic by-election in Ward 19," O'Connor writes in a report that will go to full council July 15.
The extra measures will come with extra costs — running the byelection is expected to cost nearly $150,000 more than the usual $375,000.
City council needs to approve the byelection and timeline at its meeting next Wednesday. If it does, candidates could file their nomination papers from July 15 to Aug. 21, with advance voting Sept. 28 and 29, and voting day on Oct. 5.