COVID-19 has made this Saskatchewan election different for its workers.
According to Elections Saskatchewan, more people voted by mail with this election than the last one. In the 2016 election, Elections Saskatchewan said less than 5,000 people voted by mail, and this one was over 60,000. This results in fewer people coming to the polls.
Mike Nassachuk is a Returning Officer for his second election, and he signed up before the pandemic hit.
“COVID snuck up behind us and slapped us in the face,” said Nassachuk.
This made Monday’s provincial election different because there had to be new health rules in place to help the voting process. Several unique safety measures were implemented.
“There will be physical distancing inside” said Tim Kydd, Communication Director for Elections Saskatchewan. “There will be sanitizer at the door for voters to use and when they exit. There will be single-use pencils. Staff will also be disinfecting surfaces in the polling location throughout the day.”
Nassachuk gave his opinion on the health precaution for the election and what he thought of them.
“I think they are needed at the polls,” said Nassachuk, “They are not difficult to put up, and the polls workers are adapting to them.”
Nassachuk is a returning officer for the Regina Rochdale, Rosemont and Walsh Acres constituency. He compared his first experience with his latest one as more difficult as he explained that “COVID made it more challenging.”
The 2016 election was Nasshuk’s rookie year, and he enjoyed it a lot. It is interesting to note that Nassachuk felt his first election was challenging, which made the time go by quicker.
The recruiting process made it harder for people who wanted to return for this election.
“All the people who worked last time were a little scared working this time even with all the precautions that we are taking.” said Nassachuk, who praised his “excellent” clerk and administrative assistants.
The perfect outcome that Nassachuk wants to have “is to finish by 10 o’clock.” That is if everything goes to plan.
Donna Gelowitz is working her first election as an Administration Assistant for the Regina Rochdale, Rosemont and Walsh Acres constituency. She started in the middle of September and is the newest administrative assistant out of the three at the constituency.
Gelowitz had prior commitments before becoming an administrative assistant, and she shied away at first, but when those other commitments were over, she joined. It turns out that one of the regulars could not make it for this constituency, and Gelowitz stepped in to fill the place. One of the reasons she decided to help out as described by Gelowitz” this was another way to give back to my community.”
One of the things that Gelowitz does is assist the trainer who is responsible for training everyone. She was impressed that there was a wide range of ages who came to the training session to try out for their different roles.
“There were people who were here for many years vs people who were young as 16 years old,” said Gelowitz
Due to COVID-19, some poll workers who worked the previous election did not participate this year. Kydd said around 15,000 people signed up to work the advance voting and on election day. Due to recent legislation changes, Saskatchewan made it easier for younger people to become poll workers.
The age was lowered from 18 to 16 for this election. Kydd explained that around 1,300 new high school poll workers signed up from around the province to work this election. Recruiting poll workers for this election happened in many different ways.
What Elections Saskatchewan did was it used a lot of traditional advertising through newspapers and billboards plus TV and radio. That also included social media ads and purchasing ads before movies.
The poll workers prepared for election day. Kydd said polls opened at 9 a.m. on election day, but workers came in to set up stations around 7 a.m. with health precautions and paperwork.