After initial talks of possibly pushing the next municipal election back to 2021 to avoid just a five-day turnaround following the provincial vote, the province has settled on a solution.
A two-week gap will now be between both dates instead of just five days, with the provincial election tweaked to Oct. 26, 2020, and municipal and school board votes on Nov. 9, 2020.
A further update to the legislation will see that following 2020, on a four-year schedule, future provincial elections will be held the last Monday in October and municipal elections will occur on the second Wednesday in November, unless the date falls on Remembrance Day.
The predicament was identified in a report published in May 2017 by the provinces’ chief electoral officer. At that time, Dr. Micheal Boda recommended pushing the provincial election date to April 2021 to avoid voter confusion and administration headaches. In August, the government confirmed they were consulting with stakeholders across the province on the possibility of revising the dates, but after “consulting extensively with both rural and urban municipalities,” the province said it was clear they wanted to keep the election in the fall of 2020.
North Battleford Mayor Ryan Bater was simple in his response to the new dates. “We will have to make it work and we will,” he said.
While admitting a two-week window was better than a few days, Bater raised concerns around volunteer fatigue.
“Elections require a lot of volunteers to work polling stations and that will require some management,” he said. “I expect Elections Saskatchewan, the city and the Town of Battleford will be trying to work well in advance to secure enough individuals to work those stations.”
Battleford Mayor Ames Leslie likewise welcomed the 14-day spread. Leslie was mixed on voter fatigue, believing, at the municipal level at least, it boiled down to how many candidates throw their names into the ring for mayor and councillor seats.
“If it is a smaller turnout for people looking to get into municipal elections, sometimes there are not as many voters as there are not as many choices to be made,” Leslie said.
In 1991 and 2003, the municipal and provincial elections were held about two weeks apart. The government decided to flip the order — putting the provincial election before the municipal election — because moving the provincial election back would make it difficult, if not impossible, to hold a legislative session before Christmas.
Prior to the 2016 provincial election, the previous four elections had been held in the fall. The 2016 election was in April, due to a fall 2015 federal election, which delayed the provincial budget until June.
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