Saanich byelection early voting starts today, but not by mail

High costs, low turnout not enough to justify mail-in ballots

Ralph Smith is a 92-year-old Royal Marine.

He’s been on Arrow Road since 1975 and has paid close attention to Saanich’s municipal election scene. He’d dearly like to vote in Saanich’s byelection for the vacant councillor seat on Sept. 23, but he hasn’t been to a voter’s booth since his mobility took a hit in 2005.

So he was hoping that, like the federal election he regularly votes in by mail, Saanich would include a mail-in ballot too.

“I can go about 20 or 30 feet with a walker but I can’t go long distances, getting to a polling station for me and my wife is more than a bit of an effort,” said Smith, adding he’s left the house about 12 times since 2005.

Unfortunately for Smith, due to the costs of including mail-in ballots for a byelection, coupled with the time limits and historically low voter turnout for byelections (Saanich included), Chief Election Officer Angila Bains (who is also the new Manager of Legislative Services) has opted to exclude them.

“In 2014, our general local election drew 34. 7 per cent of eligible voters,” Bains said. “And [Saanich’s] last general local election drew 137 mail-in ballots [in 2014], that’s .16 per cent.”

The challenge in a byelection is the short turnaround. Staff don’t know who is on the ballot until Aug. 18, then have to wait two to three weeks to get the physical ballots in house. To then mail them out to those who’ve requested them and then process them once they return is a costly amount of resources, Bains said.

However, mail-in ballots will be available for the general 2018 municipal election, said Bains, who’s new to Saanich but has worked as a chief and deputy chief election officer multiple times since 2004 with the District of North Vancouver and Corporation of Delta.

For Smith, the worry is that in Saanich’s historically close elections (the eighth council seat was won by 30 votes in 2014), cutting out the mail-in only ballots is cutting out a specific niche of voters.

“If you rub out all the voters with a mobility issue, you rub out a like-minded group of individuals,” he said.

Advanced voting continues Monday, Sept. 18, at Saanich Municipal Hall, 770 Vernon Ave., from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Curb-side voting is offered to those who arrive but have limited mobility.

Voting day is Saturday, Sept. 23, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Cedar Hill Rec., Gordon Head Rec. Pearkes Rec. and Saanich Common wealth Place.

reporter@saanichnews.com

Just Posted

UPDATED: Emergency crews rescue pregnant woman from Mount Finlayson

Emergency crews from Langford and Metchosin responding

Oak Bay skaters bound for BC Games in Kamloops

Saanich resident aims for second gold

Victoria police pay special attention to domestic violence

Workshop for officers and others shows how domestic abuse trauma impacts for a long time

Panthers ready for the Storm in opening playoff series

Peninsula Junior B hockey club hands out its annual awards

Experts to capture and collar 20 female deer in Oak Bay starting this month

Does sedated, examined, collared and ear tagged in latest phase of deer management plan

Oak Bay skaters bound for BC Games in Kamloops

Saanich resident aims for second gold

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Lottery will help save children’s lives

Each ticket gets you a chance to win a lot of money, while helping a lot of kids

B.C. RCMP officer officially cleared in car wash shooting incident

A report found the Salmon Arm officer fired 14 bullets at the man’s truck

Wounded Warrior Run stops in Port McNeill

For Jacqueline Zweng, the Wounded Warrior Run is a personal matter.

Interest in Canadian Armed Forces remains high

Canada seeks about 5,000 recruits each year for its regular forces of about 68,000

Rules reviewed to keep drug money out of B.C. real estate

Investigator looking at loans as well as casinos, David Eby says

Tahsis mayor Jude Schooner succumbs to sudden heart attack

Flags are flying at half mast in the Village of Tahsis after… Continue reading

Victoria needs a neighbourhood ombudsperson to work on their behalf

City’s planning department not taking residents’ concerns into account: Rockland resident

Most Read