Central Saanich council is discussing the pros and cons of having mail-in voting opportunities in the upcoming by-election to replace former councillor Terry Siklenka.
“Mail-in ballots are something we started doing in the 2008 and 2011 elections, so that’s our only experience with it,” explained Mayor Alastair Bryson.
“Because we were told the costs were somewhere in the realm of $4,000 plus staffing costs, it’s something we want to look at in terms of being cost conscious. But council is also feeling that for some individuals this is a significant opportunity for them to lose, so while we’re challenged with the cost it may just be something we have to do.”
As of a special meeting held Dec. 19, council read the first three readings of a bylaw amendment that would remove the mail-in ballot option from by-election proceedings. However, Bryson said council is still talking.
According to a staff report debated on Dec. 17, in the 2008 general civic election five mail ballots were issued and in 2011, 15 were issued with only 13 returned.
“I think from a cost stance it would definitely be more cost-effective to delete the special voting and mail in ballot options,” Coun. John Garrison said.
Councillors Zeb King and Adam Olsen were opposed to the motion, both saying they felt the cost savings did not justify removing the mail-in ballot option. They also felt it had the potential to exclude those who are unable to leave their homes.
“When it comes to voting and the ease of voting I don’t think that’s something we should mess with,” King said, adding he felt an election was not a time to “seek to do things on the cheap.”
Sandra Masai, a Central Saanich resident in palliative care shares the same concerns.
“I’ve lived in Central Saanich since 1995 and I’ve voted in every election,” explained Masai. “Removing the mail-in ballot option would deny me of my civic duty to vote.”
Jeri Covay, who spends five months of the year in the southern U.S., is worried.
“I (would) lose my vote because of this,” said Covay, adding she appreciates council trying to save money but not in an election.
“I do want Council to be careful with spending taxpayers’ money but not when it comes to curtailing my democratic rights,” she said.
A Chief Electoral Officer for the by-election is expected to be hired in January and the by-election is expected to happen in March or April of next year.