Electoral changes supported in Red Deer
Several Red Deer city councillors back proposed changes to the Local Authorities Election Act that include mandatory identification at the polls and four-year terms.
Coun. Lynne Mulder said the extra 12 months would allow councils to see projects through to the end.
Mulder supported the motion at the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association convention in October.
“It gives you a longer time to implement plans that you put in place,” said Mulder, noting council put a lot of work into strategic planning and another year would allow for them to get it off the ground.
“I think we made some really good progress so four years would have been beneficial.”
The Election Accountability Amendment Act (Bill 7) is expected to pass third reading in the legislature this week.
Some amendments under the bill include extending the term of office for elected officials to four years from three years, mandatory voter identification at voting polls, requiring all surplus municipal campaign funds to be donated to the municipality or to a charity and requiring candidates to clear campaign deficits if they are not running in the next general election.
The surplus donation to charity is already in place in Red Deer’s election bylaw.
Mulder said she hopes mandatory voter identification does not affect community members such as the homeless or seniors who may be challenged with obtaining proper identification.
Residents who are now not on the voters’ list can go into a poll and swear on oath they are a Canadian citizen before casting a ballot.
“I do believe that may have an impact on future elections,” said Mulder. “Although I do believe enough social agencies will come forward with picture IDs or who don’t have ID to get it for them. That would be one thing that was questionable.”
Coun. Dianne Wyntjes questioned whether expired identification like a driver’s licence or a passport would be acceptable at the polls.
“Because we don’t want to put barriers in place for people to vote,” Wyntjes said. “We should be looking at processes that encourage people to vote and make it easier for them.”
Wyntjes said there’s a time in politics called the “silly period” when you start to get into election mode and lose momentum. She agreed the extra year would allow more time to focus on the initiatives that need to be done.
Coun. Frank Wong, however, said he does not support a four-year term because of the longer commitment and the possibility of having a dysfunctional or spendthrift council in power for longer. He said the four-year commitment may sway some people from putting their names on the municipal ballot.