As the territory heads into an election year, officials with Elections Yukon say preparations are continuing to be ready for the vote.
An election must be called before Nov. 18, 2021.
On Dec. 21, Maxwell Harvey, the chief electoral officer for the Yukon, submitted a 16-page report in the legislature providing an update on election readiness.
“Since the previous territorial election in 2016, there have been some important changes to election legislation, processes and technical modernization that will continue to evolve electoral services for the elector,” Harvey said in a statement. “Our work is focused on your right to vote and be a candidate, safe and secure election delivery, and our mandate to administer fair, compliant and impartial elections. This report provides an overview at some of the ongoing work of electoral readiness to deliver on the democratic process of elections.”
The report details changes since the 2016 territorial elections as well as the challenges, opportunities and activities happening in electoral readiness looking ahead to the 2021 vote.
“The operational context has an additional 4,000 registered electors, new registration and special ballot processes, new procedures and increased staffing requirements to address COVID-19 contingencies,” the report reads. “With it are considerable technology, material and training readiness requirements.”
The report notes that Elections Yukon is looking towards a readiness election date as early as the spring of 2021. If the 2021 election sees 76.4 per cent voter turnout, it will mean a total of 22,920 people voting, the report said.
“Electoral planning and administration requirements, as well as time and capacity demands, are increased as the electorate is expected to be almost 20 per cent larger than in 2016,” it’s noted in the report.
“In addition to the increased numbers that are expected to turn out to vote in 2021, the options by which they choose to vote is also expected to change. There will be increased use of special ballots, and although a higher elector turnout at advance polls and polling day is expected, the overall percentage of in-person voting will likely decline.”
The report also acknowledges the reality of COVID-19, noting that contingency planning for a vote around the pandemic has required “tremendous diversion of effort”.
That started with the decision to postpone school council elections in May with the vote going ahead in the fall.
That process triggered a review of legislation, alternate planning processes and safety measures in place. It also included expanded mail-in ballot options.
“This work has provided valuable lessons learned which support territorial election planning,” the report reads. “With it are subsequent modifications to processes, increased staff requirements at the polls, planning for the requirements and distribution of personal protective equipment and other materials, and realigned training, contingency planning, and public outreach.”
Recruiting workers for elections continues to be a challenge that could be exacerbated by the pandemic or post-pandemic situations in limiting the availability of workers who may be vulnerable or concerned about COVID-19.
“Larger and additional venues are required to support physical distancing,” the report states. “In addition, up to 100 extra workers will be required to support polling place traffic control, sanitization stations, and station cleanliness. Dependent on pandemic scenarios, as part of various COVID-19 related scenarios, processes may require adaptation to ensure integrity and access to the electoral process.”
The report concludes by noting the support of the territory’s legislative assembly “is integral to readiness” for the election.
“Elections Yukon appreciates the continued support of the Legislative Assembly and Members’ Services Board,” it’s noted. “The work for electoral readiness and service continues.”
The full report is available on the Elections Yukon website.
Contact Stephanie Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org