MELFORT — Melfort council passed a motion to recommend to the province that the 2024 municipal election date be moved to May of 2024 and May of every four years thereafter.
This is to further separate it from the provincial election date, which left unchanged will fall on Oct. 28, 2024, weeks before the municipal election on Nov. 13, 2024.
Other Saskatchewan cities and municipalities, including Humboldt, have made this a topic of conversation in recent weeks, after an Elections Saskatchewan survey in 2020 indicated the closeness of the date to the provincial election caused confusion among 21 per cent of voters.
This confusion included identifying which candidates were running provincially versus municipally, with a similar percentage saying that they were confused as to whether issues being discussed were relevant locally or at a provincial level. Additional confusion included voter registration and where to cast the ballot.
Municipal election schedules are established by the province with a strict schedule as to when a local government election is to be held. Changing the date to May would mean lessening the term for municipal elected officials to about three-and-a-half years instead of four.
As a result, Melfort administration in consultation with other Saskatchewan cities and the previous election officer, Michael Boda, recommended that the election dates be moved to the spring of 2024.
Among the administration's reasons, administration noted that with having the provincial and municipal election times so close together there are the lack of administrative resources such as sharing voting locations and election workers. Fall municipal elections also tend to interfere with the budget process for cities and other local governments which can have a large impact on city operations in the years to come.
The decision to recommend the change in date was passed in a split vote in Melfort, with four councillors voting in favour including Coun. Trent Mitchell, Coun. April Phillips and Coun. Brian Enge. The three who voted against the motion included Mayor Glenn George, Coun. Tara Muntain, and Coun. Tim Hoenmans.
In a paper Boda published in August, the former chief electoral officer pointed to the Legislative Assembly Act of 2017, which automatically moves Saskatchewan’s provincial election to the following April should it overlap in a period with the federal election.
“I believe the same argument can be made for not having overlapping provincial and municipal campaigns, and moving forward, these two elections should be moved further apart on the calendar,” Boda wrote.
Jessica R. Durling, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Humboldt Journal