Following a low turn out in the last municipal election, Councillor Ann Iwanchuk thought a voter list would boost numbers, but the idea got a chilly reception from the rest of council.
Only 36.86 per cent of registered voters came out to the polls in 2012, and even less, 27.32 per cent in 2009. This prompted Iwanchuk to ask administrators in early 2014 to study the possibility of creating a voter list.
The list would give the city an idea of how many eligible voters there are in Saskatoon. The city hasn’t had a list since 1988, and there is no legislation requiring it to have one.
“In my experience and hearing from people who are experts on elections, when people are enumerated, they are more likely to come out (to vote),” Iwanchuk said.
However, the resulting report, presented to the Governance and Priorities committee this week, said creating a voter list would be labour intensive and cost upwards of $500,000. The report recommended the city wait for federal and provincial governments to create voter lists and use that data. Elections Saskatchewan has done door-to-door enumeration and has signed an agreement with Elections Canada to build a voter registry.
Most Saskatchewan municipalities do not have a voter list, according to the report.
Council, excluding Iwanchuk and Mayor Don Atchison, voted against creating a list for Saskatoon.
Council supported the current method whereby Saskatoon voters register at the polls on election day, provide identification, proof of residence, and sign a declaration that they are over 18 years of age, a Canadian citizen and have lived in the city for at least three months and the province for six.
Iwanchuk said she believes creating the list would remind people about the impending election and encourage candidates to get people out to vote.
“I think that’s money well spent because what we want is to have a council that is reflective of the desires of the people who live in Saskatoon and we won’t get that until we have high voter turnout,” she said.
Iwanchuk said she was disappointed the delay in getting the administration report meant it could not be included in this year’s city budget. Without the money in the budget, the list would not have been done for the Oct. 26 election even if council voted in favour of it.
“I hope the future council will look at this again for 2020,” she said.
In the meantime, Iwanchuk said she hopes door knocking, free buses to polling stations and advertisements are enough to get people out to vote, but she thinks they will cost just as much as a voter list would have.