Recommendation made to move Saskatchewan’s municipal election date

Saskatchewan’s chief electoral officer is proposing a new date for municipal elections to be held in the province.

Michael Boda is recommending municipal elections be moved to May 2024, while keeping the provincial election in October 2024.

Boda said the overlapping elections in 2020 resulted in significant voter confusion.

Read more: Michael Boda outlines vision for future voting options in Saskatchewan elections

The provincial election occurred on Oct. 26, followed by municipal elections two weeks later on Nov. 9.

“I am of the view that overlapping election periods are not good for voters or candidates for election,” Boda said in a statement Wednesday.

“They also introduce risks to administering the election that could undermine people’s confidence in our electoral processes and, ultimately, our democracy.”

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Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark agrees, saying the municipal election in November 2020 didn’t work.

“The reality is, we can’t have the election dates the way they are scheduled right now. Something has to change,” Clark told Global News.

“So, I agree that there should be a separation of election dates by season.”

However, Clark would rather see the provincial election moved.

“We’ve always said that it’s easier to move a provincial election, or more typical for the provincial election to fall on different dates than the municipal election.”

Read more: Voter turnout in Saskatchewan election broke records for mail-in ballots, but less overall turnout

Another factor cited by Boda for separating the elections is voter confusion.

He said that 21 per cent of the voters they surveyed said they were confused about which candidates were running in each election.

“A similar percentage said that they were confused as to whether issues being discussed were relevant locally or at the provincial level,” Boda said in his paper on the issue.

“Survey respondents also reported confusion on where to vote and whether they were registered to vote in advance of attending a polling station.”

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Clark said hiring election workers and polling station staff is another concern.

“When the elections are close together and you’re building out that infrastructure and getting ready and you’re competing for talent, it’s challenging,” he said.

“We heard that very clearly from our local elections officer and from our city clerk’s department.”

Boda’s recommendation is to move the municipal election from Nov. 13, 2024, to May 2024, and for those elections to be held every four years in May going forward.

The next provincial election is scheduled for Oct. 28, 2024.

“I have brought this issue forward to legislators now so that a solution can be considered well in advance,” Boda said.

“Having certainty in election timing is important for our elected officials, and also for voters and those responsible for organizing elections.”

Clark said he is open to discussing the possibilities.

“I’m certainly open to the conversation on looking at what the best arrangement is, whether May 2024 is the right date.

“I think it’s something that requires some further discussion.”

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