Civic voter turnout a concern for City Clerk worried over pandemic impact, election fatigue
REGINA -- With the provincial election approaching and the public adjusting to autumn in a global pandemic, City of Regina officials are worried about voter confusion and apathy.
“I am concerned, as all my colleagues from across the province are, that there's a bit of confusion out there and it's unfortunate,” Jim Nicol, City Clerk and Returning Officer for Regina’s Municipal Election, said.
Regina’s election will be held Nov. 9. Exactly two weeks after the provincial election.
“It is a very short period of time for people to wrap their heads around the distinction between the orders of government and the candidates,” Nicol said. “And I think that's only been exacerbated this year with the pandemic.”
The City Clerk says they’re trying to make voting as easy as possible. Regular polls will be open Nov. 9 from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. Advanced polls will be open on Nov. 2 to 4, with a drive-through option available during advance polls at City Hall.
Beginning Monday, the city is sending out roughly 103,000 voter information cards with details about Election Day, polling stations, advance polls, and mail in ballots. Nicol says the city has already processed more than 2,000 mail in ballot applications this year, a major increase from the 60 to 80 they received in the 2016 election, when overall voter turnout was just 20 per cent.
Applications for mail-in ballots are still being accepted but ballots must be received before Nov. 9 at 8:00 p.m. for it to be counted. If you run out of time to mail it, you can drop it off, in person, at the elections office at 637 Solomon Cres.
“So this isn't something that three weeks later we will count them,” Nicol said.
Nicol said they can’t guarantee how long Canada Post mail delivery will take. He recommends erring on the side of caution. “If I was doing it, I wouldn't leave it much pass, say Nov. 2 or 3,” he said.
To ensure safety, given the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone voting in person will be screened before entering voting stations and be asked to wear a mask. The city will have extra people on site to periodically disinfect all surfaces.
Nicol hopes the safety measures and various voting options will help put voters at ease and entice more people to participate.
“It's transit service, it's cutting the lawns in parks, it's good roads, it's safe water,” he explained. “You can come to City Hall to attend committee and council meetings and address elected members. You can't do that in the legislature in Saskatchewan. You can't do that in Ottawa. You have to do it through someone. Our elected officials pride themselves on being closer to the people.”