Voters in the Alberni Valley could soon be able to take part in the upcoming municipal election with mail-in ballots.
During a meeting on June 13, 2022, Port Alberni city council gave the first three readings to a new bylaw for the 2022 election, which includes dates and procedures for voting.
There is one significant change in the bylaw, explained director of corporate services Twyla Slonski. Mail ballot voting will be open this year to all eligible voters.
Previously, mail-in ballots were only available to voters with physical limitations or those expected to be absent from the city on voting day. But the B.C. Local Government Act has now been amended to expand eligibility for voting by mail to all electors.
The Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District board of directors adopted their new election bylaw on June 8, which also allows mail-in voting.
City councillor Cindy Solda was concerned that mail-in voting would lead to fewer people voting in-person, and Coun. Ron Paulson questioned how mail-in ballots will be monitored.
Slonski explained that there is a process in place to ensure that people are voting under their own names.
Mail-in ballots are not something new, said Coun. Debbie Haggard. Canadians have been able to vote by mail in both federal and provincial elections.
“I think we should try and give everybody a voice,” said Haggard. “Not everybody has the time or the opportunity to come out and vote on election day.”
Mayor Sharie Minions agreed.
“I don’t think we are going to see an overwhelming amount of people utilizing this,” said Minions. “What we’re doing is just offering an opportunity for people who can’t get there, for whatever reason. There are a lot of different circumstances that might make it challenging to get out and vote on that day in person.”
The voter turnout in Port Alberni for the 2018 election was around 46 percent of eligible voters.
Under the new bylaw, candidate nomination packages for the municipal election will be available by the end of July. The nomination period is scheduled to open on Aug. 30 and will close on Sept. 9. Advance voting will take place on Oct. 5 and Oct. 12 and general voting day will be Oct. 15.
Minions has already announced her intention to run for re-election as mayor.
All current City of Port Alberni councillors have stated that they plan to run for re-election in October, except for Coun. Ron Corbeil, who will not be running.
Todd Patola has also recently added his name to the list of candidates who will be running for a spot on city council. Patola was also a candidate in the 2018 election.