HUMBOLDT — Humboldt council approved a resolution to send to Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA), supporting changing the dates of the municipal election to not overlap with the provincial election.
This is following the 2020 election where Saskatchewan’s provincial and municipal votes were held two weeks apart, with the provincial election taking place on Oct. 26, and the municipal on Nov. 9.
Municipal election schedules are established by the province with a strict schedule as to when a local government election is to be held.
Humboldt council’s resolution on Sept. 27 was in support of a recommendation from Michael Boda, Saskatchewan chief electoral officer, that the municipal election date be moved to May, beginning in 2024 and then every four years after.
Michael Behiel, Humboldt’s mayor, said the local importance of changing it is that the November timeframe is “very tough.”
Behiel said that by moving it to May it would hopefully have better weather conditions, give additional time for elected officials to familiarize themselves with the position before budgeting season, and allow producers a more opportune time to cast their vote.
“As we saw in the last election, there was a massive storm that caused a massive drop in the voter turnout,” Behiel said.
“No. 2, when you’re elected, if it’s a new council or a new mayor or anything like that, budgeting tends to happen before Dec. 31. Suddenly you’re being thrown into making the most important decisions of the city and possibly without any knowledge or background behind you.”
If unchanged, the next provincial election will be held on Oct. 28, 2024, with the municipal one following on Nov. 13.
In a paper Boda published in August, he pointed to the Legislative Assembly Act of 2017, which automatically moves Saskatchewan’s provincial election to the following April should it overlap in a period with the federal election.
“I believe the same argument can be made for not having overlapping provincial and municipal campaigns, and moving forward, these two elections should be moved further apart on the calendar,” Boda wrote.
Other points raised in his paper include survey information from Elections Saskatchewan in 2020, which found 21 per cent of voters said that they were confused about which candidates were running provincially versus municipally, and a similar percentage said that they were confused as to whether issues being discussed were relevant locally or at a provincial level. Additional confusion included voter registration and where to cast the ballot.
“Because of public messaging overlaps and conflicts, voter education efforts will be compromised – less effective messaging will result in a less informed voting public,” Boda said.
“It is also possible that, if provincial and municipal elections are separated by enough time, that election administrators could more effectively collaborate, resulting in savings at both levels of government.”