The Town of Qualicum Beach wants to allow voting by mail-in ballots during municipal elections on Oct. 15.
Council endorsed a recommendation to amend the Town’s Election Procedures Bylaw by giving it first and second readings at its regular meeting on May 18.
The proposed amendment was based on the 2021 byelection the town held after Coun. Adam Walker resigned to become Parksville-Qualicum MLA. Due to COVID-19, the town sought and was granted a ministerial order to allow mail-in voting for all eligible electors, which the town’s current election bylaw does not permit.
During the byelection, the number of mail-in ballots received was 896, approximately 27 per cent of all the ballots cast. In the past, the Local Government Act restricted mail-in ballot voting to electors with physical disabilities, illness, or injury or for those who would be absent from the municipality on general voting day and all advance votings days.
The proposed changes to the bylaw also include the end of a special voting opportunity at The Gardens at Qualicum Beach. In the past, the town has held special voting opprtunity for residents and staff at this senior home to give those who are unable to travel to voting stations and opportunity to cast their ballots. Mail-in balloting will be arranged and conducted by residents of the facility.
The amendment also addresses the situation if a tie occurs. The current bylaw requires the town to conduct a runoff election, which staff indicated is costly. The recommendation is when two or more candidates have equal number of votes, the results will be determined by lot according to section 151 of the Local Government Act.
Coun. Anne Skipsey feels that should be the last resort.
“I wondered if it would be possible to specify in the bylaw a preference for a hand count prior to determining by lot,” said Skipsey.
Corporate administrator and deputy CAO Heather Svensen said they will look into the suggestion but would need to do it as soon as possible.
“We are on a tight timeline with the amendment,” said Svensen. “The bylaw needs to be adopted by July, 56 days before the election.”
Council agreed to give the bylaw amendments first and second readings and is prepared to make further amendment when they get more information on Skipsey’s query.