Elections Saskatchewan will share its best practices and some resources on how to hold an election with COVID-19 with municipalities, but they will not get involved with running municipal elections.
Dr. Michael Boda, Saskatchewan’s chief electoral officer, said he’s been working closely with Dr. Saqib Shahab, the province’s chief medical health officer, on the best ways to adapt polling stations to meet provincial COVID-19 public health orders, and they are sharing that information with municipalities without interfering with how the election is run.
“They can have a look at what we're doing and how we've adapted based on what the chief medical health officer has said and they can run safer elections in November,” Boda said. “But I do want to be very clear that it is not the mandate of Elections Saskatchewan to conduct these elections, nor do I direct these officials.”
Over 700 municipalities, both rural and urban, are preparing for the Nov. 9 election, Boda said, and they will have access to Elections Saskatchewan’s resources, including signage, logos, mapping suggestions, and everything else from their elections toolkit. Working with the Municipalities of Saskatchewan and Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities has been key on spreading the word that these resources are available, Boda said.
Gordon Barnhart, president of the Municipalities of Saskatchewan, said he was pleased with the offer to share both digital and physical resources from Elections Saskatchewan. Anything they can do to help voters feel safe is important to the election process, he said.
“The number of people that do come out for municipal elections is low to begin with. We want to do everything possible to make them feel safe, and make sure that they do come out to vote.”
This partnership between Elections Saskatchewan and the municipalities is a time where groups can unite under a common goal, Barnhart said.
“We all share the same taxpayer and so if we can save money for that taxpayer, all the better.”
Physical distancing, additional sanitation, protective barriers between poll staff and voters, and single-use pencils are all suggested for polling stations, and for some municipal polling stations that is going to be easier than others. Already locations across the province are changing their usual polling locations because they will not work for COVID traffic flow and physical distancing measures.
While Elections Saskatchewan is providing the tools, municipalities will be in charge of making them work for their unique polling station locations, Boda said.
Running a fair election has always been the goal of Elections Saskatchewan throughout the province’s history, Boda said. This year’s election will just happen to include COVID-19 in the planning.
Elections Saskatchewan’s best practices are available to municipalities and voters through their website, elections.sk.ca/what-we-do/covid-19-and-electoral-best-practice/.