Elections - Municipal Government Act
The new Municipal Government Act describes election processes including running all day elections, holding advance polls, establishing election bylaws, qualifications of electors and candidates, alternative voting methods, procedures for nomination, acclamation and vacancies, campaign contributions, spending limits and disclosures as well as eligibility requirements for municipal employees seeking election to municipal council.
Election processes are the same for all municipalities and the procedures for general elections are guided by regulations. Each municipality will hold an all-day general election every four years. Starting in 2018, municipal elections will take place on the first Monday in November with the exception of the Resort Municipality. The next general municipal election will be held on Monday November 5, 2018.
Each municipality must appoint a municipal electoral officer to oversee the election process. The municipal electoral officer has a variety of responsibilities including holding advance polls and ensuring that the ballots marked during an advance poll are kept secret and secure until they can be counted on election day after all polls have closed.
Establishing Election Bylaws
Municipal councils may establish bylaws to conduct and oversee elections, divide the municipality into wards and set up mobile polling stations.
Qualifications of Electors and Candidates
The qualifications for both electors and candidates are listed and described. The qualifications for electors state the requirements a person must meet if they want to vote in an election within their municipality. The qualifications for candidates describe the requirements a person must meet to be nominated as a candidate or elected to a municipal council.
Voting Using Alternative Methods
Guided by regulations, a municipality may make bylaws that enable voters to cast their vote by mail-in ballot or other means, including electronic voting.
Election by Ward or at Large
The Act describes the various forms that municipal elections may take and the procedures for conducting each of them. A council may, by bylaw, divide a municipality into wards and allow council members to be elected on this basis. Mayors will continue to be elected at large. There are also requirements regarding eligibility, the total number of candidates that can be elected and the creation of an Electoral Boundaries Commission to review the wards every three years following a municipal election after the Act comes into force. Municipal elections will be at large, if a municipality is not divided into wards.
Nomination, Acclamation and Vacancies
The procedures and time periods for nominating a candidate as well as declaring a candidate elected by acclamation are described. If fewer people are nominated as candidates than the number required to be elected to municipal council, additional time is allowed nominating candidates. If there are not enough nominations received at the end of this time period to fill the vacancies on council require an election, the Minister may appoint the required number of councillors as long as they are qualified to hold office and are residents of the municipality. The Minister may also recommend to the Lieutenant Governor and Council that the municipality be restructured as set out in another part of the Act.
Campaign Contributions, Spending Limits and Disclosures
All municipal councils are required to establish a bylaw regarding contribution eligibility, campaign contribution limits, disclosure requirements, and spending limits for the mayor and councillors.
Eligibility of Municipal Employees to Seek Election to Municipal Council
The requirements and procedures related to the eligibility and actions of an employee of a municipality who wants to seek election to municipal council are set out in the Act. An employee who meets all the qualifications and requirements is eligible to be a candidate under the Act. However, the Act requires that an employee apply for leave of absence without pay prior to declaring his or her candidacy and conditions regarding this process are set out in the Act. The Act also describes rules related to employee conduct and activity during an election and allows municipal councils to make bylaws that restrict specific types of municipal employees from participating in elections.
Existing Legislative Framework: What’s in Place Currently
Election processes are inconsistent. The procedure and timeframes for conducting elections differ for cities, towns, communities and the Resort Municipality.
While the qualifications of electors are described in the Acts, the qualifications of candidates are not.
If a town is divided into wards or polling divisions, elections must be must be conducted by a deputy returning officer and poll clerk for each ward or polling division. In any town having more than one ward, a person may only vote in the ward in which he or she lives.
The Charlottetown Area Municipalities Act has rules regarding municipal employees and political activity.