With the next municipal election being held next year, the Town of Okotoks is getting some housekeeping items taken care of.

At their latest meeting, town council approved an amendment to the Election Procedures Bylaw.

Legislative Policy Services Manager Cathy Duplessis explained that a review of Bylaw 10-24 found that some changes were in order when it came to by-elections.

“We had, when we started the review, noted that there is a policy gap to address any by-elections, should they be warranted or needed. The amending bylaw is proposing to add in some applicable definitions, ensure that there is some discretion regarding voting at home and institutional voting, and reducing the by-election voting hours on the by-election election day to align those hours with those prescribed under the Local Authorities Election Act.”

Among other small changes, the amendment adds definitions for terms like ‘advance vote,’ ‘by-election,’ and ‘general election,’ replaces one instance of the word ‘shall’ with the word ‘may,’ and changes voting times for by-election election days to 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. rather than 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Prompted by a query from Councillor Robinson, Dueplessis explained the change in hours.

“During those hours, between even the 6 and the 8 a.m., we got under 150 people, so for us, for election workers and administration, to start at 6 a.m. means we need to start at 5 a.m. and we go until well after 11 p.m. at night. It makes the days really long… with by-elections, historically it’s been proven that we’ll get lower numbers and lower turnout. So, therefore, for the by-election, we’re proposing that it would be the legislated hours.”

She also noted that opening voting at 6 a.m. is earlier than most other municipalities and is done in Okotoks due to a local bylaw.

Voting hours for general elections will remain as 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Prior to the bylaw’s third reading, Mayor Thorn reiterated the purpose of the amendment.

“This is just simply a cleaning-up-our-procedures step. It’s not fundamentally changing how we do an election, or adding anything new to election procedures, it’s cleaning up some language, making sure we’ve got coverage for a by-election if so needed, and providing some terminology.”

The council meeting and the bylaw amendment can be seen on the town’s website.