By Enrique Massot
The County News
Confirming what Coun. Jerry Arshinoff recently revealed, a report to council is recommending the option of having one or more stations per electoral division without designating specific areas, so that voters will be able to cast their ballot at any station within their division.
Click on the link to see the Report Sept. 12 meeting
However, since early 2016 it was clear that one polling station per division would be operating on election day.
At that time, council rejected Arshinoff’s initiative to create a list of electors to reduce risks of multiple voting, and instead supported an Administration’s recommendation for “Enhanced Status Quo” measures to “improve public perception of county electoral process and deter potential fraudulent voting.”
Click on the link to see the Feb. 23, 2016 Report Voter List
Among those measures, Administration recommended conducting a “voting station review (that) may indicate it is beneficial to have only one voting station per division, consolidating resources.”
In spite of that, it appears somebody during the dog days of summer decided that multiple polling stations in each division were, for some reason, needed. Rocky View then asked – and obtained on Aug. 14 – authorization from Municipal Affairs Minister Shaye Anderson to pass a bylaw authorizing the change.
The timing is so tight, if council does not reach unanimous vote at the Sept. 12 meeting, third reading to the bylaw may will not be passed, forcing council to hold a special meeting to pass third reading on a subsequent day but before Sept. 19.
The County is required to go through those steps because the Alberta Local Authorities Election Act allows one voting station per electoral division.
What are the arguments in support of such a hurried move?
The text of the bylaw contains a vague reference to the County being “a geographically diverse area.” Administration, however, did not include any clear argument in support of its recommendation.
This is concerning. Who runs the ship? How decisions with no clear motives are made?
According to statistics from the last election that are detailed in the staff report, more polling stations do not improve voter turnout.
Holding an election with multiple polling stations will cost the County more – $17,000 according to the staff report – and it is clear that staff are scrambling to rent additional venues at the last minute.
So, why this last-minute scramble to reinstate a system that offers no advantages, costs more and creates potential for voting irregularities? Who prompted this change in the middle of summer?
The administrative report that council will just be giving the Returning Officer the “flexibility” to decide whether to establish more than one polling station for division. So why did the Returning Officer wait until the last minute to tell council that such a hurried move was necessary? This has never happen in Rocky View, at least since 1999. Staff members are responsible people who know the legislation and do things well in anticipation. Let’s not kid ourselves here.
It’s interesting to note that, at least since 2001, Rocky View held elections with up to five polling stations per division without the required ministerial permission and without ever passing a bylaw allowing for it. As such, the County would have run afoul of electoral law in the last five elections.
Is anybody watching?