Election Readiness, Plans for AVSM
In Saskatchewan, a fixed-date election approach has been in place since 2008.[i] At the same time, legislation is not inflexible with respect to calling an election before the date specified, retaining the prerogative of the Crown to dissolve the Legislative Assembly and cause an election.[ii]
Elections Saskatchewan has been preparing for an October 26 election date since the passing of The Legislative Assembly (Election Dates) Amendment Act, 2018 on May 15, 2019.[iii] For more than a week, however, Premier Moe has stated consistently that, while the election date is set for October 26, he retains the right to call an election earlier.[iv]
Given this uncertainty, I have revised Elections Saskatchewan’s (ESK’s) planning schedule for the 29th general election to ensure that our team across the province has the capacity to conduct an election as soon as possible.
To be clear, this does not mean an election will be called early. It simply means that ESK will be ready if one is called. As Chief Electoral Officer for the province, I must be in a position to fulfill my mandate—to be ready to conduct an election upon receiving an order from the Lieutenant Governor in Council.
Earlier this week, I gathered about 150 members of our Field Leadership Team here in Regina for pre-writ training. Today, our team began looking for returning offices, reaching out to prospective office staff, and inquiring about voting locations. I will provide more updates on our plans for election readiness and how they may impact you, your political parties, and your candidates in future Communiques.
Advance Voting Services Modernization
By expediting ESK’s election readiness in the way described above, the parameters of the election we had been planning for will need to change. Registered Political Parties will be well aware of the strategy for modernization that was outlined originally in Volume IV of my report on the 28th General Election[v] and subsequently adopted in legislation—particularly the advance voting services modernization (AVSM) initiative.
After deliberation, I have determined that it will be impossible for AVSM to move forward on a compressed time schedule. I have decided, therefore, that we must suspend all plans for AVSM for this electoral cycle.
Elections Saskatchewan does not have the capacity to prepare for a traditional and modernized election in parallel. Because of this, I have given instructions to close down the AVSM initiative in a manner that will allow it to begin again immediately following the 29th General Election, whenever it is held.
From the start, the AVSM project was one step on a path towards modernizing our election system. I am confident that we will be able to rejoin that path after the administration of the province’s 29th general election.
Given the change in pace of our election preparation and planning position, I will be engaging with you through Communiques more frequently. Within the next few days, I will have information for you on legislative changes brought into force this past January and an update on our ELMS online filing tool.
Dr. Michael Boda
Chief Electoral Officer
Province of Saskatchewan
2020.03.04 Communique (v1.0) FINAL
[i] While 2011 was the first general election held under fixed-election date provisions, The Legislative Assembly and Executive Council (Fixed Election Dates) Amendment Act, 2008 was passed by the Assembly in April 2008.
[ii] References to election timing are found in section 8.1 and 8.2 of The Legislative Assembly Act, 2007.
[iii] The Legislative Assembly (Election Dates) Amendment Act, 2018 was passed in conjunction with a bill making changes to The Local Government Election Act which fixed the date of municipal elections as November 9, 2020.
[iv] See, for example, “Moe refuses to rule out early provincial election in Saskatchewan,” February 26, 2020 in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix, and “Premier Scott Moe cagey on potential for spring election,” CBC News, February 26, 2020.
[v] A Report on the Twenty-Eighth General Election – Volume IV – Chief Electoral Officer’s Recommendations for Legislative Reform was published in April 2018 and can be found on our website at https://www.elections.sk.ca/reports-data/.