Qualicum Beach council will vote Wednesday (Feb. 24) on a recommendation that Heather Svenson be the chief election officer for a byelection to replace Adam Walker, who resigned his councillor’s position when be became MLA for Parksville-Qualicum.
Svenson is the town’s corporate administrator and deputy chief administrative officer. Once her appointment as chief election officer becomes official, the byelection will be held 80 days later on a Saturday (likely May 15).
The town’s deputy corporate administrator, Haylee Gould, has been recommended to be the deputy chief election officer.
The chief election officer will be tasked to send a formal request to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing for a ministerial order to hold a byelection during the pandemic. It will include legislative changes such as allowing eligible electors to vote by mail, not permitted under the town’s election procedures bylaw.
Any amendments to the bylaw must be adopted at least 42 days before the first nomination period. Since there is no ability for the town to amend the bylaw to permit mail-ballot voting, staff recommended the town request for a ministerial order.
At the provincial election for the Parksville-Qualicum riding in the fall of 2020, 38 per cent of the ballots considered were submitted by mail ballot. It was achieved to limit the number of people gathering at voting places.
Safety protocols will be established in conjunction with Island Health guidelines relating to COVID-19. Staff expect there will be significant changes to the traditional in-person voting experience. They will include limited access points, decreased maximum occupancy limits, signage, maintaining physical distancing, increased frequency of sanitization of touch points, physical barriers (e.g. plexiglass), and encouraging electors to vote via mail ballot where possible.
Eligible electors are required to sign prior to receiving a ballot but staff recommend a ministerial order be sought to allow electors to make oral declarations instead that they are eligible to vote and will be recorded by an election official.