Ottawa residents could be allowed to vote by mail in this fall’s municipal election.

A report for next Tuesday’s finance and economic development committee meeting recommends council approve the alternative voting method for the Oct. 24 election in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This process will allow electors the opportunity to vote without having to attend a voting place in-person," staff say in the report.

"More specifically, this process would allow all eligible electors, particularly those from high-risk groups, including older adults and electors with disabilities who are more susceptible to the effects of COVID-19, to submit an application to the Elections Office to receive a special ballot by mail.”

Mail-in balloting was used during a byelection in Cumberland ward in 2020, but has never been used in a full city-wide election.

Electors would be able to mark their ballot at home and mail, or deliver, their ballot to the city of Ottawa's Elections Office on Cyrville Road, or deliver it to Client Service Centres.

"It is important to note that this hybrid election approach does not replace traditional in-person voting. Electors will still have the opportunity to vote in-person or by proxy should they choose to do so," staff said in the report. Staff note mail-in balloting could be used in long-term care homes and retirement homes in the event of possible COVID-19 restrictions in the fall.

In Cumberland ward in 2020, 1,234 votes were cast by special mail-in ballot, accounting for 3.4 per cent of all votes cast.

The mail-in ballot option will cost the city of Ottawa approximately $653,642. The city will use mail-in ballots for any byelections during the 2022-2026 term.

Staff are not recommending the city use internet or telephone voting for October's municipal election.

Special advance voting days will be held from Sept. 24 to 27, at nine locations across the city of Ottawa. During Advance Vote Days on Oct. 7 and Oct. 14, there will be 140 voting places on Advance Vote Day 1 and 139 on Advance Day 2.

On election day, Oct. 24, here will be 366 voting places across the city, including 125 in long-term care homes and retirement homes.

The 2022 municipal election to elect a new mayor and 24 councillors will cost the city an estimated $9.1 million.  Nominations open on May 2.

Staff say in light of the easing of public health restrictions and the rise in vaccination rates in Ottawa, it is possible to "safely conduct" the 2022 municipal election in Ottawa.  The report says staff are preparing for in-person voting, along with the mail-in ballot process.