By Trevor Busch LETHBRIDGE HERALD on September 22, 2021.
In an effort to enhance voter turnout for the upcoming municipal election on Oct. 18, the City of Lethbridge is promoting some new methods to help citizens mark an ‘X’ beside their chosen candidates.
To increase accessibility and convenience, Lethbridge residents will be able to vote at any voting station across the city during the 2021 municipal election. Rather than having dedicated neighbourhood voting stations voters will be able to pick the station that works for them.
Prospective voters will be presented with two ballots at voting stations, a municipal ballot and a provincial one. Citizens can cast a vote for mayor and eight councillors, school board trustees and two non-binding ballot questions.
“We have Senate candidates on the provincial ballot, as well as two refendum questions on the provincial ballot,” said Bonnie Hilford, returning officer and City clerk, during a media event at City Hall on Tuesday. “On the municipal ballot we will have the mayor, the councillors and the school trustees, as well as two questions on the ballot from the City of Lethbridge.”
Questions on the municipal ballot will ask voters if they support a ward system in Lethbridge, and if the city needs a third bridge. Questions on the provincial ballot will be regarding equalization reform and the elimination of daylight saving time.
Advance voting starts Oct. 1. There will be eight advance vote opportunities from 10-8 p.m. at City Hall (Oct. 1-2), Exhibition Park (Oct. 8-10), and ATB Centre (Oct. 14-16).
“The voting does start in a couple of weeks on Oct. 1, the advance,” continued Hilford. “We’re having three weekends of advance voting, and we want everybody to come out that can vote to the advance, to make it less crowded or easier on the day of.”
Precautions will be taken in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic. All public health orders, as set out by the provincial government, will be followed. Check Lethbridge/ca/election for updates prior to voting.
Hilford explained that voters will need to fill out a registration form in advance or at voting stations before they can cast a ballot.
“There is a registration form that people can fill out in advance before they come to the voting stations. They can download it from the website – it will be on the website. They’ll have to print it and fill it out, they can’t bring it online, it’s not an e-form, we do require that form in paper. And also, we will have them at the voting stations if people don’t want to do that they can fill them out at the voting station. It doesn’t take very long, you’re just checking some boxes that you’re eligible to vote and you’re signing that form and handing it in. Everyone will have to fill out that form before they get their ballot.”
Dismal voter turnout numbers in the 2017 election have Hilford targeting a significant increase in 2021.
“The target for voter turnout is up. Up, up, up. We want it to go up because it’s been 27 per cent in 2017. I think we had 78,000 electors in 2017, and about 21,000 came out. I would like to see 50 per cent, maybe even 60 to double that number.”
Another new initiative and COVID-19 precaution for the 2021 municipal election will be a drive-through voting station, to be set up during the advance vote on October 8, 9 and 10 at Exhibition Park. The drive-through will allow individuals to vote without leaving their vehicle. More information and details will be announced ahead of October 8.
“We’re going to be renting their kiosks,” said Hilford. “So you will drive into the first kiosk and receive your registration form, and then the next kiosk you’ll drive up to will take that registration form, check it, we’ll give you the ballot, and the third kiosk you drive up to we’ll have you place the ballot in the tabulator or provide it to us to place in the tabulator.”
On October 18, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., eligible voters can vote at any of the 14 voting stations throughout the City. For more information on voter identification and eligibility, institutional voting (assisted living, seniors’ residences, hospitals), elector assistance at home, as well as other frequently asked questions, please visit the City’s election website at Lethbridge/ca/election.