Advance, drive-thru polls among expanded voting options in Saskatoon election
SASKATOON -- The civic election is one month away from the opening of advance polling on Oct. 30, and with the clock ticking, those running the election have new ground to cover to pull it off safely during a pandemic.
Part of that is to encourage voters to use alternative voting methods so regular polling stations aren’t dealing with large crowds.
Andrea Orzak just turned 18 and is looking forward to exercising her democratic right to vote in the civic election on Nov. 9. She’s not letting COVID-19 get in the way of this milestone.
“It will be a cool experience because this is my first time I’m going to vote and hopefully I am going to make a change,” Orzak told CTV News.
That experience could look different for some voters with a first for Saskatoon: a drive through voting station. The returning officer for the Saskatoon civic election Scott Bastian told CTV News, there are more options being given to accommodate pandemic protocols including the drive-thru which will be set up on a city property in the North Industrial area at 422 46th Street East.
“It will be a safe voting experience. You head right in, drive through, and then cast your ballot and continue out the other side, while seated in your vehicle,” Bastian told CTV News.
They got the idea for the drive-thru from other jurisdictions that have done it in the past including Regina.
This method will be offered only on Nov. 1. Bastian says they don’t know how many vehicles to expect, but took into account the local traffic in the industrial area will be slow on a Sunday.
Vehicles can have more than one person voting as long as they have a voter card which should be filled out beforehand, identification and a pen to eliminate unnecessary contact.
Other measures this year include the addition of four more polling stations, bringing the total to 66, compared to the last election in 2016 with the goal of spreading voters out more and reducing crowds to keep physical distancing guidelines in place.
Ten advance polls are set up this time to allow voters to choose a less-busy alternative. There were only six in the last election.
There will also be a mail-in option for the second time, but this year is being encouraged even more.
Bastian says election planning started months before the pandemic, but had to pause.
“It took a couple months to see what is going on with COVID, and then we started to adjust the plan based on all the safety protocol that started coming out,” Bastian says.
Now he says, they are leading the way with their election approach as other cities have contacted him to see how they are handling an election during a pandemic.