Piloting Directive & VBM Information

Piloting Directive – Assisted Telephone Voting

The Chief Electoral Officer has the authority, under section 5.1 of The Election Act, 1996, to direct the use of “an alternate procedure, equipment or technology” during the administration of a by-election. During the upcoming Athabasca by-election, which must be held by legislation no later than February 15, 2022, I have determined that Elections Saskatchewan will be piloting Assisted Telephone Voting (ATV).

While ATV will be new to Saskatchewan, it has been used in many other jurisdictions, most notably in British Columbia. ATV allows a voter, who meets a strict set of criteria, to phone Elections Saskatchewan and verbally relay their candidate of choice to a team of election workers who physically mark the ballot. By using multiple workers, we can ensure that no one knows both the voter’s identity as well as the candidate they wish to vote for. This preserves the secrecy of the ballot.

I am pursuing this pilot project for two principal reasons:

  • First, given the possible presence of COVID-19 within the jurisdiction during the upcoming by-election, to “bridge the gap” between the end of the Vote by Mail application period for voters who cannot attend an advance or by-election day voting location.
  • And second, to test this avenue of voting for possible inclusion in my set of legislative recommendations for changes in advance of our 2024 general election. Even if COVID-19 is no longer present in 2024, there are always voters who have difficulty attending their assigned voting location – ATV would provide a way for Elections Saskatchewan to serve these voters and by piloting during this by-election we can gain real world data on how the process works in our context.

ATV will not be widely available to all voters, but it will be used as an accessibility tool to help those who may be forced to quarantine due to COVID-19 or have difficulty attending a physical voting location. I have also provided an option within the Order to ensure that I have flexibility to offer ATV to a voter who has no other option to vote and also if we need to increase numbers to test the viability of this voting method. My intent is not to open this opportunity up to the general public, but I must also ensure that, in investing resources into testing this form of voting, that we learn enough to make an informed decision.

The CEO Order authorizing the use of Assisted Telephone Voting is attached. In the new year, I plan to provide you with additional details, including a step-by-step breakdown of the process we will follow for each voter and how these ballots will be secured and counted. If you have any immediate questions, however, I would be pleased to hear from you.     

Vote by Mail – Accepting Applications

In mid-November, Elections Saskatchewan opened its online portal so that it could begin accepting applications to Vote by Mail in the Athabasca by-election. Right now, throughout the constituency, advertisements are airing on local radio stations and appearing in print publications as well as on social media platforms, promoting the opportunity to Vote by Mail. 

I know that Vote by Mail may not be as popular in Athabasca as it is in larger, urban centres but given the continued presence of COVID-19 and the yet to be determined impact of the Omicron variant, I believe it is important that voters understand that this opportunity exists. I would appreciate it if you could share information on Vote by Mail with your party’s supporters, volunteers, and networks throughout the constituency.

Anyone who wishes to apply to Vote by Mail can visit our website at https://www.elections.sk.ca/ voters/voting-by-mail/ to learn more. The link provides information on how to apply online, by phone, or through the mail. Again, I firmly believe that given the unpredictable nature of COVID-19, that any voter who may have concerns about being able to vote in person, should know about this opportunity. When we receive applications in advance of the election being called, we can ensure these are processed as soon as the writ is issued and provide as much time as we are able to for voters to receive, and send back, their ballot kits. I appreciate your cooperation with this.

Wishing you all the best this holiday season and a Happy New Year. I look forward to working with you in 2022.

Dr. Michael Boda
Chief Electoral Officer
Province of Saskatchewan