City of Saskatoon exploring voter lists
Eight months ago, Saskatoon voters cast their ballots to elect a new mayor and council. Now, the city is already thinking of the next civic election.
City staff have begun gathering feedback from Saskatoon partners and organizations on whether to move forward with voter enumeration for the 2020 municipal election. Voter enumeration hasn’t been used in Saskatoon since 1988.
“You have a better understanding of what the voter universe is in any given election and even better way to reach the voters in anticipation of the election,” Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark said. “You don’t have that at the municipal level.”
Voter lists are predominantly used on the federal and provincial level for their elections and are not required by law. The more popular method of voter enumeration is door-to-door.
“There’s something about door-to-door enumeration that people would argue is beneficial, both in terms of assuring people that they’re going to be on the voters list, and also promoting the election itself,” Joe Garcea, a political science professor at the University of Saskatchewan, said.
In the 2016 municipal election, only 40 per cent of registered voters in Saskatoon cast a ballot, but low voter turnout isn’t uncommon at the municipal level.
“The question is does a voters list solve that or not,” Clark said. “We don’t have a fundamental answer to that at this point.”
Saskatoon’s public and Catholic school boards will be consulted on voter enumeration because ballots are cast for their trustees at the same time as mayor and council.
“If the city government feels door to door enumeration may actually increase voter turnout in those elections, then the school boards may have to be ready to pick up some of the costs,” Garcea said.
According to a city report, the cost of door-to-door enumeration would be between $380,000 and $500,000.
“Given our budgetary constraints right now, I don’t think the compelling case is there that this is something we need to advocate for,” Clark said.
Saskatoon’s municipal review commission is reviewing the 2016 election and will provide feedback gathered from residents, candidates and the city; the findings are expected in a report later this year. Clark said that report will help guide the city’s decision on voter lists moving forward.
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