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RFD- 4280 Bylaws   Item #   10. c.    
Regular Council Meeting Agenda   
Meeting Date: 04/12/2021  
Title:    C-1145-21 - Elections Bylaw - Third Reading - Grey
Department: Corporate Services  
Strategic Vision Element: This topic relates to all three of the City’s strategic vision elements contained in Council’s Strategic Plan Related Goal: n/a

Information
Request for Decision Summary
Third reading of proposed C-1145-21 - Elections Bylaw is being brought forward for Council's consideration. This proposed bylaw is a result of a review of the current C-1073-19 - Elections Bylaw, and includes both minor clarifying and technical amendments to clean-up the bylaw and more substantive amendments to ensure compliance with both mandatory and discretionary provisions of the Local Authorities Election Act (LAEA) pertaining to Nomination Day, methods of payment for submission of nomination papers, elector assistance at home and special ballots. 

Proposed Motion
That third reading be given to Bylaw C-1145-21 - Elections Bylaw.
Background/Analysis
The LAEA is the legislation that prescribes the conduct of local elections across Alberta, with the next municipal election occurring on October 18, 2021. Since the 2017 municipal election, the Government of Alberta has brought forward a number of amendments to the LAEA requiring municipalities to begin election planning earlier than in previous election cycles. The LAEA includes mandatory provisions that all municipalities must comply with, as well as a number of discretionary provisions that municipal councils may enact either by bylaw or resolution. Proposed C-1145-21 – Elections Bylaw is a repeal and replace of the version of the Elections Bylaw passed in 2019.

Proposed C-1145-21 – Elections Bylaw has been amended to address a few key mandatory and discretionary provisions outlined in the LAEA:
 
Nomination Day
 
Section 25 of the LAEA was recently amended to reduce the time period between Nomination Day and Election Day from 6 weeks to 4 weeks. Section 1.17 of the Bylaw has been updated to align with this change. 
 
Nomination Papers Deposit
 
The Government of Alberta issued a ministerial order on December 14, 2020 amending the LAEA to expand the payment options for the deposit that must accompany nomination papers to include credit card and debit card.  Section 5.4 of the bylaw has been amended to include credit card and debit card as payment options to align with the LAEA.
 
Special Ballots
 
Section 77.1 of the LAEA states an elector who is unable to vote at an advance vote or at the voting station on election day because of physical disability, absence from the local jurisdiction or, being a returning officer, deputy returning officer, substitute returning officer, constable, candidate, official agent or scrutineer who may be located on election day at a voting station other than that for the elector’s place of residence, may apply to vote by special ballot.

An elected authority may, by resolution passed prior to nomination day, provide for special ballots and provide that the application for special ballots may be made by any one of the following methods: in writing; by telephone; by fax; in person; by email; or by secure website. The proposed bylaw allows for in writing; by telephone; by email; or in person.  It also sets out that applications must be submitted between August 1st  and 4:00 p.m. the Friday preceding the election. For 2021, this is October 15th.

Council may also set a time earlier than the closing of the voting stations on election day for when special ballots must be received by the Returning Officer. It is proposed that special ballots be received by 4:00 p.m. on Election Day. The 4:00 p.m. cutoff is within City Hall business hours, and ideally provides the Election Office time to open special ballots envelopes and insert the ballots into the vote tabulator prior to the close of the voting stations. A tally will not be produced by the vote tabulator until after 8:00 p.m. on Election Day.

Public awareness campaigns will be developed to ensure electors are made aware of the option to vote by special ballot as well as highlighting the deadline to submit. The Returning Officer will work with electors to ensure those who request special ballot packages are aware of the dates to return the marked ballots.

Elector Assistance at Home
 
Section 79 of the LAEA allows Council to provide for the attendance of a deputy at the residence of an elector during the hours an advance voting station is open or other times as may be fixed by resolution in order to take the vote of an elector who, because of physical disability or the inability to vote in the usual manner, is unable to attend a voting station or an advance voting station to vote. This provision is intended to accommodate electors who are housebound. While the City has offered this service in the past, participation in this service has been minimal. This service poses a safety issue for election workers, and it is therefore recommended that this service be discontinued for the 2021 Municipal Election. Electors who are housebound will have the opportunity to request a special ballot to vote.  
 
In accordance with the LAEA, election material from the 2017 Municipal General Election has since been destroyed. A public awareness campaign will be developed to help electors to become aware the use of the special ballots can be utilized as an option if they are unable to attend a voting station during the advance vote or on election day.

Clarifying/Technical Amendments
 
A number of minor clarifying and technical amendments were also made to increase clarity and ease of reference.

Based on feedback provided at the March 22, 2021 Council Meeting, further research was conducted on Section 10.4 regarding the close of voting stations on election day. If, when the voting station is declared closed on election day, there is an elector who is waiting to vote, the elector shall be permitted to do so as per legislation by ushering them in to the voting station. Election officials will monitor the number of electors at 8 p.m. to ensure those who may be waiting to vote are within the voting station. The Returning Officer is provided the authority to designate the location of the voting station and could include the entire building and surrounding land area such as the parking lot if necessary. This designation would help to meet the health measures which may be in place to ensure the safety of all in attendance. It is recommended that the wording of the bylaw remain the same, as it aligns with the wording in the LAEA. 
Options/Alternatives
Council may choose to refer the bylaw back to Administration to incorporate further amendments.
Consultation/Engagement
Election bylaws and related provisions of a number of other regional and comparable municipalities were reviewed. Proposed C-1145-21 – Elections Bylaw aligns most closely with the Town of Stony Plain, and this should help maintain a more consistent approach regionally, which will be less confusing for our municipalities’ respective electors.
Implementation/Communication
There will be a public awareness campaign regarding provisions with respect to special ballots.
Impacts
The amendments included in proposed C-1145-21 - Elections Bylaw will help ensure alignment with the LAEA and will include similar approaches to those in place in Stony Plain, helping mitigate any confusion for our municipalities’ respective electors. The amendments will also ensure safe and accessible voting.
Attachments
Proposed C-1145-21 - Elections Bylaw
Elections Bylaw Amendments - Redline

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