SASKATOON -- City of Saskatoon administration is recommending changes to procedures for mail-in ballots for the fall civic election. A report from administration says it’s expected more people will decide to vote by mail because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Due to COVID-19 and to facilitate greater utilization of the mail-in ballot voting opportunity, the application for mail-in ballot and voter registration process is being enhanced to allow for non-in-person application and verification of identity,” the report reads.

The mail-in ballot procedure for past elections included having the voter attend the election office at City Hall in person in order to register and apply for a mail-in ballot package. Administration wants to change the process to applications for mail-in vote packages so they can be made online.

There would be a requirement for a designated witness to sign a voter-and-witness declaration, much like the process for vouching for the identity of a voter at a polling station. The witness and voter would have to provide copies of identification bearing a signature, unless the witness is in one of a number of approved professions.    

“For the 2016 election, 196 mail-in ballot packages were issued to voters. The election team is planning for higher demand in 2020. An in-person application process will be available at the election office (226 Cardinal Crescent,) with appropriate measures implemented to ensure staff and citizen safety; however online application is encouraged.”

City council approval is needed to change the mail-in ballot process where a voter needs to attend the election office in person. In-person application and registration would still remain an option. 

The report is on the agenda for the next Governance and Priorities meeting at city hall.