Woodlands County councillors passed two motions during their June 1 meeting to allow the public to request special ballots for the 2021 municipal election and to set a deadline for returning those completed ballots.
Director of corporate services Alicia Bourbeau, who also serves as the returning officer for the 2021 municipal election, previously brought the matter of special ballots before council at the March 23 meeting.
The Local Election Authorities Act states that an elector who is unable to cast their ballot at their voting station on election day may request a special ballot, provided their local elected authority has passed a resolution to do so.
This is only allowed if the voter is restricted from voting due to physical incapacity, being absent from the jurisdiction as of voting day, or if they are serving as a candidate, returning officer, deputy returning officer or other election official.
Bourbeau said that prior to the 2017 municipal election, council had previously instructed administration to make allowances for special ballots.
However, she said that council expressed a concern with the ability to control these special ballots as outlined in the RFD (request for decision), so a final decision was put off.
Bourbeau said further research had been conducted on the Local Authorities Election Act and administration opted to reduce the opportunities for people to request special ballots, as well as to set a deadline of 5:30 p.m. on election day for the special ballots to be returned.
Setting a deadline will allow the ballots to be sealed ahead of time and then counted alongside other regular ballots, she noted.
Bourbeau asked that council pass two motions, the first to allow for special ballots to be requested via the Fort Assiniboine or Whitecourt municipal offices and the second to establish the deadline of 5:30 p.m. on election day for special ballots to be returned to be counted as valid.