By Enrique Massot
The County News
The council of Rocky View County will be considering, at its Feb. 13 regular meeting, implementing a permanent register of electors to be used in the municipal election.
The item was incorporated to the agenda following a Coun. Samanntha Wright’s notice of motion presented on Jan. 23.
“Democratic principles and the rights of all residents are based on fair elections,” is one of the reasons Wright included in support of creating the register. “Rocky View County has not created any such proper list (which) can make it seem to be unfair.”
A voters list, noted County administrators in a report to council, would streamline the voting process because election workers will be able to retrieve voters in the list.
“If a person’s name is on a voters list, election officials can quickly administer a ballot,” the report noted.
If a voter’s name is not on the list, the elector can still vote by providing valid identification.
The Frontier Centre for Public Policy is strongly advocating for the adoption of voters lists as a way to ensure fair and transparent elections.
“The Local Authorities Election Act prescribes two acceptable methods for confirming voter eligibility,” the Frontier Centre wrote in a Feb. 12 release. “An eligible voter is one that is on an established list of electors.”
When a voters list is not available, the Frontier Centre added, “any person may show up at the polling station and make a sworn statement that they are eligible to vote, providing some proof of identity and current residence.”
“The self-declared voters at the polls does not promote honest, transparent government and fair election processes (but) by adopting an established voters list, local governments can ensure that municipal voting is fair and transparent.”
However, County administration recommended council to not adopt a voters list at this time.
“The costs to create and maintain a voters list would be significant,” staff wrote.
Creating a register would require a door-to-door enumeration costing $130,000, or about $3.25 per County resident. This expense, however, would have to be done only once.
“After the initial database is created, it would just need to be updated,” staff wrote.
However, administrators warned council of risks involved with conducting a door-to-door enumeration.
“…enumerators may encounter challenges, such as catching voters when they are at home, accessing multi-family dwellings, and getting electors to answer the required questions,” administrators wrote.
In addition, County administrators wrote, “face-to-face enumeration also poses safety risks for enumerators who may need to venture into unknown neighbourhoods in unpredictable weather conditions.”
Other drawbacks for administration are risks related to “the privacy of elector information and other fraud opportunities.”
As a result, the report stated, “Administration recommends that Council wait until the Province makes updates to the Local Authorities Election Act.”
Municipal voter lists are mandatory in most Canadian provinces – except in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
In Alberta, municipalities have the option to implement their own list of electors by a resolution of council.
The LAEA also provides for provincial government assistance to municipalities with information to create the permanent register of electors.
The City of Calgary does conduct a door-to-door enumeration of residents on election years and prints voting register cards that each elector must sign before voting.
On a related matter, the County council has authorized an expense of $130,000 to conduct a municipal census in the current year.