During Monday’s council meeting, key preparations for the upcoming election season were put in motion. The council approved several significant changes aimed at enhancing voter information and accessibility, including the inclusion of nominee occupations on ballots and the continuation of mail-in voting options.

City Clerk Judy Pilloud created a list of recommendations and asked the council to vote if they were against the changes. The first item up for discussion was whether the occupation of the nominee should be included on the ballot. Councilor Kristen Walliser said she was in favour of this as it gives voters an extra piece of information when they get to the polls. She noted that it also provides voters with an additional way to gauge which candidates reflect their need for representation.

“By including the occupation, we're giving the electorate one more chance to differentiate between candidates and provide themselves with additional information while at the polls to elect a council that is reflective of their needs and desires for the community. Often, people almost freeze in the moment and can't remember the name of the councilor they were interested in, or that person who came and knocked on their door. By adding both the name and the occupation, it can trigger their memory to capture that vote.”

Criminal record checks will continue for candidates who wish to run in the election. A criminal record does not disqualify someone from running, and the results will not be posted on the ballot. The results of the criminal record check could be a determining factor in which boards that candidate could be appointed to, should they get elected.

Councilors agreed on the need for mail-in ballots, citing reasons such as people who reside in Estevan only during the warmer months, people who are homebound, or those who may have mobility issues.

“It was very helpful during the COVID situation because then people didn’t have to come in person. We probably had 250 mail-in ballots. It’s a cumbersome project, but it does allow more people to vote,” said Pilloud.

“I’m actually in favor of mail-in ballots as well because, with managing the seniors' home in Estevan here, many of our seniors will vote if they have a polling station within the facility or if they’re allowed to do the mail-in vote,” said Councilor Shelly Veroba.

There was also discussion surrounding the use of rotating ballots, which would mean each ballot is different, with the names appearing in alternate orders. Pilloud noted that Estevan has never used rotating ballots, and it is not a cost-effective option as it requires many additional prints.

“I understand the concern, particularly when there's a huge slate of candidates. The more of them there are, the more likely people may just tick the first six names, creating an unfair advantage to those with earlier alphabetic names,” said Walliser. “Historically, there have not been 45 or more candidates that would create that level of fatigue, and we're comfortable with a cost-saving measure that still allows people to have their voices heard.”

The council voted to continue the use of alphabetical ballots instead of rotating ballots.

A recommendation for the continued use of a bylaw that requires the campaign candidates to disclose the funding information by May was discussed. If the candidate fails to do so, "If you do not present all of your information by May of the following year you are discredited from council," said Pilloud.

Walliser asked for more education regarding the information that needs to be included in the disclosure, as it can be overwhelming for those who are new to council. The council agreed with the recommendation, noting that more education should be provided.

The use of a super poll and two drive-thru polls was discussed, with the councilors in favour of the recommended setup.

Councilor Rebecca Foord questioned how this would impact the nominees’ advertising.

Pilloud said that following an engineering plan, by-law enforcement would ensure that there is no signage located in the area of the polls.

“I do like the idea of one super poll place. It’s not a heavily populated area of town, so it allows candidates to advertise themselves in both places in the city,” said Foord.

The final recommendation the council voted on was the wages for the election workers. The recommendation was for each worker to be paid $50 to attend the training sessions. Polling station supervisors will be paid $350, and issuing deputy returning officers (DROs) and poll clerks will be paid $300.

The pay scale is comparable to other cities in Saskatchewan, as well as provincial election wages.

Walliser highlighted the fact that you cannot have an election without the election workers. “We actually cannot open the doors and hold an election without the correct number of election workers. So it’s important that they attend the training and are sacrificing up to 12 hours of their day to ensure that the people arriving are in fact eligible to vote in an election.”

Council voted in favour of the wage scale, underscoring their commitment to a fair and efficient election process that ensures every voter’s voice is heard and every candidate is given an equitable platform.