Port Alberni city council tweaks election rules

City moves to same-day registration for Oct. 20 vote

Mike Youds,

Special to the News

City electors will be required to register to vote before they fill out their ballots in the next municipal election.

Port Alberni city council opted Monday to dispense with the B.C. voters list used in past elections and rely instead on same-day voter registration at the polls in the Oct. 20 vote. The change is among four recommendations arising from a staff review of election procedures completed earlier this month.

Along with the change in registration, council voted to increase — to a minimum of 10 from the two previously required — the number of nominators required of each candidate and to suspend mail-in ballots for the time being.

Candidates can also expect to see the city enforcing its existing regulations on placement of their campaign signs.

City Clerk Davina Hartwell told council that she canvassed other municipalities for their preferences on voter registration. The only alternative to relying on the provincial voters list is to move to same-day registration, she said. That method requires voters to bring two pieces of identification when they visit polling stations. People who cannot produce two pieces of ID can sign a declaration of residency.

The disadvantages? Same-day registration can cause some frustration for electors who don’t bring sufficient ID. It may also require more time to process the results and prove residency.

While there are advantages to both methods, Hartwell concluded that relying on the B.C. voters list is more costly and time-consuming for the city. As well, the list of electors used in the last provincial election will be 18 months out of date by next fall’s voting. Dated lists can cause confusion on election day, she said.

“With voting day registration, all the work and costs associated with preparing the provincial list are eliminated,” she said, explaining her recommendation. Council agreed in unanimity.

Since the election is almost a month earlier this year — advance voting begins Oct. 8 — Hartwell expects there will be a reduced demand for mail-in ballots. Only a few “snowbirds” have used mail-in ballots in the past, she said. For those reasons, she recommended suspending mail-ins and taking a wait-and-see approach for the next election.

“I think we’re going to capture a lot of the people who would have been previously heading south,” Hartwell said. “I think they’re still going to be here.”

In the case of campaign signs, she recommended the city simply enforce its existing bylaw, which prohibits placement on public property.

“Election signs were a bit of a problem in the last election with the (large) number of candidates,” she said.

Councillors Chris Alemany and Sharie Minions moved that the city establish a designated site for campaign signs to ensure all candidates have equal opportunity to have their signs seen. Others didn’t see that as a remedy to the sign issue and defeated the motion 4-2.

“It’s just going to cause arguments,” said Councillor Denis Sauve.

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