Five days of advance voting is underway in most of Saskatchewan ahead of the Oct. 26 general election.
Exceptions include several communities within the Peter Ballantyne First Nation, where a COVID-19 outbreak has been declared.
Elections Saskatchewan said on Oct. 18 that in-person advance voting and election day polling cannot be held safely and said steps were taken to allow extraordinary voting in the affected communities.
Saskatchewan’s chief electoral officer said there has been an upward trend in people using advanced polls.
“We had a record number of advance voters in 2016 with more than 110,000 people choosing to vote early instead of on election day,” Michael Boda said Tuesday.
“It has been a consistent upward trend in advance voting turnout over the last six general elections since 1995. For many voters it’s more convenient to vote on one of the five advance days then on election day, and our election workers are once again ready for this turnout.”
Turnout may be less than in other years, though, said Boda.
“What’s different this election is the large increase of vote by mail applications this election, more than 61,000 compared to less than 5,000 in 2016,” he said.
“Many voters who may have voted at an advance poll in the past have likely chosen to vote by mail in this election.”
Saskatchewan Party Leader Scott Moe is encouraging people across the province to vote early.
“This election, there will be more advance poll locations and advance polls will be open an hour longer each day than in previous elections,” Moe said in a statement.
“This should help ensure the polling places are not crowded, so voters should consider avoiding the rush on election day by voting this week at an advance poll.”
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Moe was in Saskatoon on Tuesday morning campaigning with Saskatoon Riversdale candidate Merv Friesen.
Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili was expected to vote at an advance poll Tuesday afternoon in Saskatoon following a morning campaign stop in Prince Albert.
There are 232 advance polls in the province, with locations specified on voter information cards.
Elections Saskatchewan said pandemic protocols are in place at all locations, with workers wearing masks, physical distancing measures in place, clear dividers between voters and workers, and single-use pencils.
Voters are being encouraged to wear masks, and masks are mandatory at some poll locations. Elections Saskatchewan has a complete list of those locations.
Advance voting runs from Oct. 20 to Oct. 24, between the hours of noon and 8 p.m.