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Saskatoon city council changes mail-in voting rules

Saskatoon city council changes mail-in voting rules
WATCH: Saskatoon city council voted to allow online registration and to relax the requirements for who can be a witness on an application.

Saskatoon residents will be able to apply online for mail-in voting after city councillors approved changes, in a move designed to keep voters safe during the coronavirus pandemic.

The city administration is expecting a surge in mail-in ballots during the upcoming civic election, scheduled for Nov. 9, so residents can vote while maintaining social distance.

The bylaw no longer requires would-be remote voters to apply in person at city hall.

Read more: Low risk of voter fraud during Saskatoon civic election: expert

The unanimous vote took place during a special session of city council on Tuesday that barely lasted 20 minutes. Provincial law forbids changes to election procedure with fewer than 90 days before an election.

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Security concerns stalled the new law during the council meeting last week.

It initially required witnesses on the application to be eligible voters, to provide scans of their government ID and to be either a close family member or someone like a judge, police officer or pharmacist.

Now witnesses are only required to be eligible voters.

Councillors dropped the other conditions as they agreed they added undue burden and provided no extra security, despite concerns of voter fraud generating lots of discussion in a previous committee and council meeting.

Read more: Saskatoon polling stations will look like grocery stores this civic election: returning officer

They also received a report about providing more early polling stations.

In an email, Saskatoon returning officer Scott Bastian explained the provincial law does not apply to all facets of an election and it empowers the returning officer to establish advance polls.

A report submitted to council recommends adding three more early voting stations, bringing the total to 11.

It also says the city will test out its first drive-through ballot box.

“The dedicated drive-thru will be Sunday, Nov. 1 at (a) north end location and it’s being designed (so) that you would legitimately drive your vehicle through that facility,” Bastian told the councillors.

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Saskatoon civic election less than 100 days away
Saskatoon civic election less than 100 days away