Hinton’s residents can head to the polls during advanced voting days on Oct. 4, 7, 13, or election day on Oct. 18. The earliest advanced voting day was added to the upcoming municipal election in Hinton to provide residents with ample time to get their votes in.
Due to COVID-19 and the rising number of infections locally, council wanted to make sure that as many eligible voters have a chance to cast their ballot despite possible quarantine and isolation periods. They hope that having an advance polling date as early as Oct. 4, two weeks before the official election, will help.
They did note that this date will only be utilized if possible with the timelines of when ballots arrive from Elections Alberta.
“If you have to isolate for 10 days, [an earlier advanced voting date] could help mitigate. If you’re not available on Oct. 3, Oct. 18 is 15 days, it gives you more likelihood of being able to self-isolate and then vote. The 11 days is right at the threshold of isolation,” Mayor Marcel Michaels suggested.
Council confirmed the institutional voting stations at Pine Valley Lodge and the Hinton Continuing Care Centre to provide voting opportunities to electors who might not be able to vote otherwise.
Both institutions agreed to have election staff present at their facilities for the municipal, senate, and referendum balloting. Acting CAO Laura Howarth noted that the Town has never provided special ballots in the past and council did not provide direction on special ballots for this election.
Special ballots are used in situations where electors are unable to vote during advance voting or at the voting station on election day due to physical disability or absence from the local jurisdiction.
Administration recommended that the Town of Hinton forego offering Special Ballots for the 2021 Municipal Election since changes to the Local Authorities Election Act (LAEA) mean the time between nomination deadline to election day went from six weeks to four weeks.
The Senate vote and the provincial referendum and ballots will be shipped by the first week in October, which reduces the time frame for sending and receiving special ballots to less than three weeks. Administration claims organizing special ballots within this timeline is unachievable.
Howarth noted that the Town will still provide transportation for people to the polling stations.
With an isolation period of 10 days, council decided that an additional advanced voting day would allow more time for all citizens to vote.
Maguhn voiced concern about the advanced voting day occurring any earlier than Oct. 4. The nomination deadline is Sept. 20, which means late candidates have less time to campaign prior to the first voting day a week and a half later.
Administration clarified that polling stations will have masks, barriers, and all protective equipment in place.
Masha Scheele, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hinton Voice