The homeless, those in need and volunteers gather near the Manna Homeless Society van on Saturday in Parksville. The NEWS spoke with individuals at the Saturday gathering to get a sense of if those without homes know how to vote, and if they plan to. — Adam Kveton Photo

How Parksville Qualicum Beach’s homeless can vote this election

Officials can use discretion regarding homeless casting a ballot

Even if you don’t own or rent a home, there’s a way to vote this coming municipal election.

And with the 222 Corfield supportive housing project being a major subject of debate in Parksville, as well as the question of housing in general in the area, there’s extra reason for those without a home to consider it this year.

According to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, “An individual without a permanent residence may register immediately before voting by producing two documents that provide evidence of the individual’s identity. One of the documents must contain the individual’s signature and the individual must make a solemn declaration as to the individual’s place of residence.”

However, election officials may exercise their discretion under the legislation, and chief election officers can develop their own policy on what is considered sufficient evidence. In the past, election officials have accepted an income assistance monthly report form, prescription bottles, and letters from local shelters stating that the individual resides at the shelters as sufficient evidence, said the ministry.

In Parksville, Amanda Weeks with the city cited no additional policies around what constitutes sufficient evidence beyond what the ministry noted.

For the Regional District of Nanaimo, chief election officer Peter Crawford said, “We will accept most forms of identification with a person’s identity on it.

“Where an applicant cannot provide evidence of their identity and residence as required in the Local Government Act, they can provide documentation and sign a ‘Declaration of Residency’ or a ‘Declaration of Residency and Identity’ to the satisfaction of the election official respecting the matter… We will consider evidence on residency or identity that is consistent with the intent of the Act.”

In Qualicum Beach, chief election officer Heather Svensen said the town has no special rules for the homeless, but noted that they would have to satisfy regular voting eligibility criteria. That includes being 18 or older, being a Canadian citizen, having lived in B.C. for at least six months, and having lived in Qualicum Beach for at least 30 days before registering to vote.

Eric Christianson, who used to be homeless, said the concept of having to solemnly declare one’s residency seems a little silly, but also cool if it means more people can vote. He said he plans to vote in Parksville.

Shadoe Lake, a homeless man living in Parksville, said he knows he should vote, but said he hasn’t taken the time to learn about all the candidates, so he’s not sure he will vote.

“What it comes down to is there are so many tasks to deal with,” he said. Just like anyone, life can get in the way of educating one’s self about various candidates, he said.

“For so many of them, it’s survival day to day, and honestly, voting is not the biggest thing,” said Renate Sutherland, a member of the Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness. “However, that could be different this year with the division around Corfield, because they are all aware of it.”

Lake said his main concern is interactions between those with homes and those without, noting tension and aggression on both sides of the divide.

Andy Cormier, a volunteer with Manna Homeless Society, said, with so many obstacles in the way of the homeless when it comes getting by day-to-day (like finding a place to go to the bathroom, having a shower, getting food, etc.), more has to be done to make it easier for the homeless to vote. He said he’d like to see officials come out to soup kitchens to get the homeless registered to vote.

With the municipal election taking place Oct. 20, it remains to be seen how many people without a roof over their head will vote, and if that will have an impact on who’s elected.

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