05/12/2014 06:13 EDT | Updated 07/12/2014 05:59 EDT

Saskatchewan changes election rules to allow soldiers to vote sooner

REGINA - Saskatchewan is overhauling election rules to allow soldiers coming from outside the province to immediately be able to vote in elections.

Justice Minister Gord Wyant says the Election Amendment Act will make Saskatchewan the first jurisdiction in Canada to provide special residence recognition to those in the Canadian Armed Forces.

Wyant says men and women in the military should be given the opportunity to take part in the democracy they work to protect.

"We feel that when military personnel are being moved across the country and perhaps disenfranchised in the province that they came from, that they have an ability to participate in the electoral process, so that's why we're doing it," Wyant said Monday at the legislature in Regina.

Right now, someone has to have lived in Saskatchewan for at least six months before they can vote.

Active members of the military from Saskatchewan will also keep their Saskatchewan residency while serving outside the province.

"There'll be rules in place to ensure that they're not able to vote in two jurisdictions. But people from Saskatchewan who may otherwise be disenfranchised by moving out of Saskatchewan will still have the ability to vote in Saskatchewan," said Wyant.

Other changes are to establish a permanent voter registry and to remove door-to-door enumeration — although a final door-to-door count will be done before the next election expected in April 2016.

The proposed law would also allow for citizens who can't leave their home because of a disability to have election officials come to their home to take their vote.

"Our goal with these amendments is to improve voter access to the electoral process in future elections. We want to ensure every Saskatchewan resident has the opportunity to participate in the electoral process, particularly those who face personal challenges in casting their vote," said Wyant.