Wheatland County Council voted to approve the use of special ballots in the 2021 municipal election during the regular council meeting held on Aug. 24.
Special ballots for Siksika Nation had previously been discussed and approved, due to also hosting the votes regarding the Senate and Referendum election for the nation.
“Normally in municipal elections where there would be an acclimation in a division, the county wouldn’t be responsible for holding an open voting station,” said County Reeve Amber Link.
“Because of the provincial referendum questions and Senate vote, we’ll need to set up voting stations in each division in the county and so there will be an additional cost to municipalities across Alberta to host those votes for the province.”
The province had previously agreed to provide a grant to cover the extra expenses of hosting the Senate election and Referendum vote for Siksika Nation.
“They are compensating additionally for that, recognizing that there is a larger cost to the municipalities,” added Link.
According to Section 77.1 of the Local Authorities Election Act (LAEA), special ballots are used when an elector is unable to vote due to a physical disability, absence from the jurisdiction, or for an election worker, candidate, official agent, or scrutineer located at a voting station.
This will mark the first time special ballots of this nature will be provided to electors in the county.
Those who choose to vote via the special ballot will be required to provide a photocopy of an authorized identification such as a driver’s license or Alberta Identification Card.
Also noted on the ballots, Albertans will find questions regarding their input on topics in addition to the municipal elections.
“At the same time that people will vote for councilors in the municipalities, they are going to vote on daylight saving time [and] equalization payments,” said Link.
“The province deemed it more efficient to have voters go to the polls for the referendum and the municipal elections at the same time.”
During the discussion, Division 7 Councillor Ben Armstrong asked county administration how the questions regarding equalization and daylight savings would be worded on the ballots.
This was determined to be information administration would have to return to council to present.
Those questions would be provided and worded by the province and will be consistent across Alberta.
Special ballot packages will be made available on Sept. 29 and will have to be returned to the Wheatland County Administration office prior to the end of day on Oct. 18.
John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times