The City of Whitehorse is closer to having a bylaw in place for the Oct. 21 municipal election.
At Whitehorse city council’s March 8 meeting, members adopted the first two readings of the elections procedures bylaw.
The bylaw comes forward every three years as the city preps for the next municipal election, always scheduled for the third Thursday in October of an election year. The bylaw guides how the vote will run and makes provisions for current circumstances.
In this case, the city is preparing for a COVID-era vote with a number of regulations that take the global pandemic into consideration in addition to the usual regulations that provide for the appointment of the returning officer (in this case assistant city clerk Norma Felker), use of the list of electors, nomination dates and others.
“The proposed bylaw also provides additional options for voters in the event that restrictions established by the Yukon Chief Medical Officer of Health to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus will be in effect at the time of the 2021 municipal election,” Felker stated in an earlier report to council that provided details on the bylaw.
Provisions would allow all electors to vote by mail-in ballot and at advance polls.
Before registering her vote in favour of moving ahead with the first two readings of the bylaw, Coun. Laura Cabott confirmed with city staff there is an option for those who don’t have the required ID to have another voter vouch for them and cast a ballot.
Valerie Braga, the city’s director of corporate services, also added the elector without ID would have to swear an oath to be able to cast a ballot.
Coun. Dan Boyd also raised questions about the process for those without proper ID, confirming anyone vouching for another voter would be required to have ID showing that they are an eligible voter.
It was also confirmed there’s no limit on the number of prospective voters another voter could vouch for, though Braga indicated it’s not something that happens a lot, describing it as “an unusual circumstance” when it happens.
Cabott suggested the bylaw could benefit from some work ahead of final reading to make the process more clear, though as Coun. Steve Roddick pointed out, many of those provisions are covered in the Municipal Act. Roddick said he wants to be sure the city isn’t duplicating provisions from the act in drafting the bylaw.
Roddick also stated his thanks to city staff for making the language of the bylaw more inclusive, following a suggestion he made at an earlier meeting. The bylaw now refers to voters as electors rather than using him/her pronouns.
Roddick added his hope the city would work to provide more inclusive language with all of its bylaws.
The proposed bylaw sets out provisions for the returning officer to establish additional advance polls beyond the required two outlined in the Municipal Act.
While the act states there are two advance polls required, there is also a clause for more dates to be added by a municipality as an emergency provision.
Under the current proposal, advance polls would be held from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Oct. 14 at Whitehorse City Hall and on Oct. 16 at the Canada Games Centre.
Also included is a clause that should the territory’s Chief Medical Officer of Health impose new restrictions on polling day, the city manager could close polls and establish an alternate date for mail-in ballots to be received.
Sept. 23 would be set as the nomination date with candidates required to submit their nomination papers between 10 a.m. and noon in council chambers at city hall. Those unable to make the nomination date could also submit their paperwork by making an appointment with the returning officer before 10 a.m. on nomination day.
Third reading of the election procedures bylaw will come forward later in March.
Contact Stephanie Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org