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Saskatoon aims to modernise municipal elections

Partnerships with Elections Saskatchewan will help reduce the cost of conducting elections.
Saskatoon City Hall.

SASKATOON — The City of Saskatoon is set to revolutionise its approach to future municipal elections, as it presented a decision report to the Governance & Priorities Committee on 17th May 2023.

Recent amendments to The Local Government Election Act 2015 have paved the way for municipalities to make greater use of various tools, including voters' lists and partnerships with other entities, particularly Elections Saskatchewan.

"With the next municipal election officially scheduled for November 2024, planning is well underway to provide a more efficient voting process for residents," said City Clerk Adam Tittemore.

"There has been a continued shift in voter behaviour, particularly the increased usage of advance polls and mail-in ballots. Drawing from the lessons learned from the 2020 election and best practices from other jurisdictions, we are committed to adopting new practices and technology to create a smoother, faster, and more secure experience starting in 2024."

A partnership with Elections Saskatchewan will be crucial for many proposed election improvements, such as data sharing, establishing a municipal voters' list, sharing election technology, and providing vote-by-mail services.

Regarding data sharing, pending Council endorsement, the city will enter into a formal information-sharing agreement, allowing it to receive voter data that Elections Saskatchewan already possesses and curates. This data will be used to create the voters' list.

Partnerships with Elections Saskatchewan will help reduce the cost of conducting elections and, in cases such as acquiring voter data, will come at no cost to the city.

"The legislative ability to enter into this agreement is included in the LGEA, along with using this information to create a voters' list rather than going through an enumeration process. The partnership is imperative in achieving our modernisation goals and results in financial savings," explained Tittemore.

The city administration has also secured election technology solution providers for an election management system. The City aims to operate the election more efficiently by utilizing cloud-based applications, enhancing candidates' and voters' service and security.

This technology is intended for use in the 2024 election to manage an electronic voters' list, mail-in ballot applications and fulfillment, candidate portal, voting location management, and more.

The EMS technology and associated hardware, including all listed modules and mail-in ballot fulfillment, are expected to cost approximately $102,000. This expense will be offset by the reduced number of required poll workers, savings on printing and supplies, and staff time and resources associated with a more efficient election administration.

The city remains committed to safeguarding the integrity of the voting process, providing a faster and more efficient voter experience at the polls, and offering a more straightforward method of verifying identity for alternative voting formats, such as mail-in ballots.

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