By-Elxn Prep & Update on Assisted Telephone Voting

By-Election Preparations

We continue to prepare for the upcoming Athabasca by-election. Given that Mr. Buckley Belanger resigned effective August 15, 2021, the latest possible day that by-election can be held is February 15, 2022. While I do not know when I will be instructed to issue the Writ of Election, I know, based on the legislative instructions found in The Election Act, 1996 (the Act) that it can be no later than Wednesday, January 19. As soon as I receive an Order from the Lieutenant Governor in Council instructing me to issue a Writ, I will notify you via a Communique.

Given the current state of COVID-19 and the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, we are preparing to administer the by-election under challenging circumstances. It is possible that in-person voting will be disrupted in some locations. For this reason, I am encouraging voters to consider Voting by Mail (VBM). We will be running advertisements on social media and local radio stations promoting VBM. I have also written a letter encouraging everyone to consider voting by mail that will be delivered to every registered voter in the constituency. I have attached a sample of that letter to this communique.

Before the holidays, I encouraged you to have your volunteers and supporters apply to vote by mail. I hope that you will continue to promote this option to your party members as it remains a great way to participate and alleviate any concerns about voting in-person. I appreciate your cooperation in this area.

I also want you to be aware that, given the state of COVID-19, I am planning to issue a number of CEO Orders that will adapt provisions of the Act to help provide a safer voting experience. At present, these planned adaptations remain consistent with our approach taken during the general election. You will receive a copy of each Order issued through a communique. 

 Assisted Telephone Voting – Update

You are aware that we will be piloting Assisted Telephone Voting (ATV) in Athabasca. While you have seen the Order authorizing this pilot project, I want to ensure you have information on how this voting option will work and who will be eligible to use it.

The purpose of this pilot project is to test a method of “bridging the gap” between the end of the VBM application period for voters who cannot attend a physical voting location due to COVID-19. In the future, it is possible that this voting opportunity will have broader application but for now, we are purposefully setting a very narrow band of eligibility. As a reminder, ATV will be offered to registered voters who fall into one of four categories:

  • A voter who is self-isolating due to COVID-19;
  • A voter residing in a location that is under lockdown due to COVID-19;
  • A voter with a disability that would prevent them from being able to vote at a physical polling location; or
  • A voter in a circumstance that the Chief Electoral Officer determines Assisted Telephone Voting would be required as the voting opportunity of last resort or as is necessary operationally to ensure the viability of the pilot.

ATV will allow a voter, who meets a specific set of eligibility criteria and who confirms their identity and residence, to cast a vote over the phone by verbally relaying their choice of candidate to a team of election officials who mark a physical ballot. ATV will be offered on by-election day for the same hours that voting takes place – from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. ATV votes will be counted during the Final Count.

In order to maintain integrity, the following checks will be in place:

  • Voters must be registered prior to use of ATV.
  • Voters must provide name, address, and date of birth and these must match the data in our voter register.
  • Voters must also provide an SGI customer number that will be verified against the SGI database.
  • Voters’ names will be struck from the voters list as having voted by ATV and all ATV ballots cast will be counted at the Final Count to allow for a final confirmation that voters have not voted by mail, at an advance poll, or at a by-election day poll.

Candidate representatives remain an important part of the democratic process. Candidate representatives will be able to observe any aspect of the ATV process with the exception of the process where election officials mark the ballot on behalf of the voter. I will provide instructions on how candidate representatives can observe ATV closer to by-election day.

I know that you may still have questions on ATV. If so, I would encourage you to contact Jennifer Colin, Deputy CEO, at [email protected] and she will be happy to assist you.

ELMS Update

Effective Monday, January 24, functionality to complete the Registered Political Party Fiscal Period Return will be included along with Candidate & Party Election Expense Returns in a single URL at rather than being accessed via a separate URL. We have addressed several items in the application based on your feedback from the 2020 General Election and we will continue to make additional enhancements to the application as we progress towards the 2024 General Election.

We would be pleased to arrange for one-on-one training on the ELMs application for parties or business managers for the Athabasca by-election or Fiscal Period Return filing. Please contact Aaron Thompson at [email protected].ca to coordinate.

2022 Expense Limits

Every year, the expense limits for candidates and registered political parties are updated based on the consumer price index (CPI) in accordance with legislation. 

We anticipate CPI data to be available by approximately January 20 and the limits will be updated accordingly on our website shortly after. These will be the expense limits in effect during the Athabasca by-election.

Dr. Michael Boda
Chief Electoral Officer
Province of Saskatchewan