On Nov. 24, Rocky View County council established the rules that will govern next year's municipal election. While council unanimously approved a new Election Bylaw, a split council decided against allowing mail-in ballots. We feel this decision missed the mark.
We agree with Deputy Reeve Kim McKylor's sentiment that these are unique times, and should be treated as such. To ensure safe and fair elections, changes will be necessary next year.
Granted, the pandemic could be over by next year's municipal election. Promises of a long-awaited vaccine may signal the light at the end of the tunnel. But there is no guarantee that will be the case. In December 2019, nobody thought they'd spend most of the next twelve months sheltering in their homes from a virus they, at that time, had never heard of. In March, many people thought they'd face just a few months of social distancing. The point is, the COVID-19 situation is unpredictable.
To point to the situation in the United States as a rationalization to forego mail-in ballots, as Coun. Greg Boehlke did, is maddening. Despite claims to the opposite, there has so far been no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the American presidential election. The only reason mail-in voting became a contentious issue in the U.S. is because one political party actively sowed misinformation on the topic in an effort to undermine confidence in the election.
We believe the main role of government is to protect and promote the safety and well-being of residents. In a democracy, we also think governments should do all they can to ensure voting is both safe and accessible so voters can truly have a voice. In our opinion, allowing mail-in ballots would have accomplished that.
We hope by the time the next municipal election rolls around, COVID-19 will be well under control and people can vote normally and safely. However, council should be prepared for an eventuality in which that is not the case. In making its decision against special ballots, we feel they have not done that.