Mail-in ballots pondered

Eligible voters outside the community should be able to vote in civic elections through mail-in ballots, council members say.

Eligible voters outside the community should have the opportunity to participate in civic elections through mail-in ballots, municipal council members say.

“The option should be there for any election in the community,” Coun. Peter Waterman said during a discussion on mail-in ballots at the council meeting on Monday evening.

“Regardless of numbers, people should have the ability and capacity to participate in the election.”

Others offered similar thoughts, suggesting options such as electronic voting be considered in the future.

“It’s time we got into the real world here,” said Coun. Martin Van Alphen.

At present, mail-in ballots are offered in some communities, but not in Summerland.

Municipal administrator Tom Day said efforts to prepare mail-in ballots are significant and there is a short time frame for the work to be completed. “I’m not sure how much benefit we’d get out of it,” he said.

In the last municipal election in 2011, voter turnout was low, with just 36.1 per cent of Summerland’s 8,276 eligible voters participating. In the 2008 municipal election, the voter turnout was close to 47 per cent.

Concern about mail-in ballots was raised in part because some electors are away for the winter by the time the election is held in mid-November. After this fall’s municipal elections, the election date will be in October, before many of the snowbirds have left for the season.

In the end, a change to mail-in ballots was not adopted and council voted to give final reading to the 2014 General Local Government Election bylaw.

Coun. Peter Waterman voted against the bylaw adoption. He said his position was a protest vote.

“Electors should have the option to vote,” he said.