COVID-19 creating complications as Saskatoon prepares for city election

Saskatoon's returning officer says COVID-19 is making his job a little more difficult this year.

Reports on advance polls, pay for election workers to be addressed by councillors

COVID-19 restrictions could mean this year's municipal election will look a bit different. (Melinda Nagy/Shutterstock)

Saskatoon returning officer says COVID-19 is making his job a little more difficult this year.

Officials have begun preparations for this year's municipal election, scheduled for Nov. 9. While it's not clear what restrictions will look like by then, they're getting as prepared as possible.

"I think it just adds a different element to how we will execute on the program," says returning officer Scott Bastian.

"We are required to hold the election. So, this is just adding another dynamic that we hadn't considered before."

Right now, Bastian is looking at how other countries are handling their elections, including most recently South Korea.

"They're going through with it just with different precautionary measures — with physical distancing and gloves and temperature checks and things like that."

"I can't say that's something we would do. We'll just have to wait for the time to pass."

Bastian said it was unlikely the city would bring in electronic voting, as it is not allowed under provincial legislation.

However, the City is looking at increasing mail-in balloting as a way to help people vote while socially distancing.

Concerns circle about recruiting election workers 

Meanwhile, the City is concerned about recruiting workers for the election, considering its proximity to the provincial election.

Since the provincial election is happening only two weeks before, Bastian is concerned that it may be more difficult to hire and train officials.

Recruitment is expected to start in early summer and an online application form has already been developed.

There will now be an extra four polls in the city, compared to the last election. The new polls will be located in newly developed neighbourhoods. An extra day of advance polling will also be added in 2020, creating seven days in total.

At city council's governance and priorities meeting on Monday, Councillor Randy Donauer noted that there weren't any advance polls in the city's growing northeast.

As well, he also noted that there was confusion around which polling location people could use to vote.

Bastien said he would look into both concerns. 

In October, the city's Municipal Wards Commission announced boundaries would be changing for several neighbourhoods in the city, including Brevoort Park, Silverspring, Wildwood and Eastview.

The municipal election will be held Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. Advanced polls will be held from October 30 to Nov. 5, 2020. 


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