Advance, drive-thru polls to open for Regina municipal election next week

Regina’s next mayor, city council and school trustees will be decided in the municipal election on Nov. 9 – exactly two weeks after voters cast ballots in the provincial election.

Overall voter turnout for the 2020 Saskatchewan general election on Oct. 26 was 50.73 per cent, a record low after 57.8 per cent in 2016.

“There were not many people who showed up at our provincial poll out of our list of almost 300 people,” said Carey Wessell, a Regina resident who worked at the Evraz Place poll on Oct. 26.

Read more: Elections Regina 2020 — Mayoral candidates

Wessell noted about a third of voters on the list had cast ballots in advance, but called the low turnout disheartening.

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Municipal voter turnout has historically been below provincial numbers in Regina, hitting a record low 20.4 per cent in 2016.

On Thursday, City Clerk Jim Nicol said the close proximity of this year’s elections – and the U.S presidential vote on Nov. 3 – could impact turnout again.

“The concern about voter fatigue has been a constant with us,” Nicol said, adding that city clerks across the province flagged it with the Ministry of Government Relations earlier in the year.

“Just in terms of getting workers, having sites available for polling stations, and voter fatigue – those are all very valid questions.”

In an effort to bolster turnout from the last civic vote – and during a global pandemic – Nicol said Elections Regina is holding advance polls at five locations across the city on Nov. 2, 3 and 4.

These include the drive-thru poll option on Smith Street, next to city hall, which allows voters to cast a secret ballot from their vehicle.

  • City hall and city hall drive-thru, 2476 Victoria Ave., 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Northgate Mall, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Monday and Tuesday), 489 Albert St., 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Wednesday)
  • North West Leisure Centre, 1127 Arnason St., 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • South Leisure Centre, 170 Sunset Dr., 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Victoria Square Mall, 2223 Victoria Ave. E., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Monday and Tuesday), 489 Albert St., 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Wednesday)

Eligible Regina voters are allowed to cast a ballot at any advance poll in the city, regardless of ward. All polling locations are wheelchair accessible.

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“In 2016 we saw a very significant uptake in people who came out to vote on advance polling days,” Nicol said.

“However, what that did was it just ate at the number of people who typically would have come out on the regular polling days.”

Voters are encouraged to wear masks at the polls. Additional safety measures will be put in place with cleaning protocols, hand sanitizing stations and social distancing markers.

Elections workers are mandated to wear masks.

Read more: Elections Regina 2020 — The Wards

Mail-in ballots are still an option, with the official application window being June 1 to election day Nov. 9.

However, Elections Regina encourages voters to apply before Oct. 30 to allow for enough time for ballots to be delivered.

“Don’t wait any longer,” Nicol said. “It takes a couple of days to process, then it has to get back to you – to the voter – they, in turn, then have to get it back to us.”

Unlike the provincial election, Regina’s municipal mail-in ballots must be received by the time regular polls close at 8 p.m. on Nov. 9.

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An eligible voter could also conceivably drive out to the Elections Regina office at 100 – 637 Solomon Cres. to apply and immediately receive a mail-in ballot.

That person can then cast their vote and return the envelope, in person, on the spot. The Elections Regina office is open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Read more: Regina residents with coronavirus concerns can vote in the municipal election via mail-in ballot

Eligible Regina voters who do not pass the COVID-19 screening questions at the door will be offered a curbside vote.

An election official will then bring a ballot outside for the person to conduct their vote from their vehicle or the sidewalk.

Nicol noted that in the event someone has to self-isolate, and hasn’t accessed an advance poll or mail-in ballot, they can call the Elections Regina office to arrange an accommodation.

“We are here to ensure people have the options to vote. We want to do everything we can to ensure they have that option,” Nicol said.

Regular polling stations will be open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 9, with the city providing free transit all day.

On election day, all separate schools hosting election polls will be closed to students and staff. Some public schools will remain open with safety protocols in place to accommodate the students. All schools without polling stations will remain open.

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