Albertans next go to the polls to elect mayors and councillors on Oct. 18, 2021. The spread of COVID-19 transmission will likely still be of concern. (Black Press file photo).

Albertans next go to the polls to elect mayors and councillors on Oct. 18, 2021. The spread of COVID-19 transmission will likely still be of concern. (Black Press file photo).

Red Deer preparing for a pandemic election in 2021

Additional measures are needed, city council hears

Preparing for next fall’s municipal election will require additional pandemic measures, Red Deer city councillors were told this week.

Albertans next go to the polls to elect mayors and councils on Oct. 18, 2021, when COVID-19 transmission will likely still be of concern.

Frieda McDougall, manager of legislative services for the city, will also be the returning officer for the 2021 municipal election.

She told city council that extra pandemic-related measures are being considered — including having masks available for election workers and voters, and having disposable writing implements for marking voter ballots.

She expects that additional costs will be incurred.

Election planning will also require thinking through the logistics of observing physical distancing requirements.

McDougall said there will be six advanced voting dates to try to eliminate crowding on election day. Mail-in ballots will also be encouraged, but at-home voters will still have to prove their eligibility.

Coun. Vesna Higham asked if any consideration was given to going to a ward system in Red Deer.

In Alberta, no mid-sized cities, such as Red Deer, are divided into wards, or electoral districts, said McDougall, who added that these are more common in larger centres.

Wards in Calgary or Edmonton average about 100,000 people — or the size of Red Deer’s entire population.

Higham said that wards are often used in mid-sized cities in Ontario.

McDougall said the question of whether to divide Red Deer into electoral districts was put to a plebiscite in the city in about 2013 — and about 70 per cent of local voters opposed it.

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