Does New Westminster need to review voting policies?

The City of New Westminster may review its election policies in light of concerns raised during the 2018 election campaign.

During the election campaign, independent mayoral candidate Harm Woldring and the New West Progressives voiced concerns that the city hadn’t done enough to inform voters about the election. They were critical of the city’s decision not to send out voter cards, as is done in some municipalities.

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The Record also heard from several residents who weren’t able to vote in the election because they were going to be out of town on election day (Oct. 20), as well as during the three advance polls on Oct. 10, 13 and 17. Some folks on social media have commented that elderly people who were unable to get to the polls also had no opportunity to vote.

Jacque Killawee, the city’s chief electoral officer, said city bylaws would have to be updated prior to the next election – something that would be decided by city council.

Mayor Jonathan Cote said the policies used for this year’s election were the same practices used for previous elections and concerns hadn’t been raised about voting cards or write-in ballots in the past. During an election campaign, he said elected officials don’t get involved in any of the discussions about how the local election is run and remain completely at arm’s length from the process.

“But following an election, I think we can give some direction to legislative services to say that concerns, whether it be voter cards or mail-in ballots were raised during this campaign and how can we make sure the next election is as inclusive as possible,” he said. “If we had received similar feedback about mail-in ballots or voter cards after last election, we might have responded to that.”

Coun. Chuck Puchmayr said he’s unsure whether voting cards are necessary, noting it’s unlikely people wouldn’t know about an election because of the election signs and advertising. He noted that some scandals are being alleged about mail-in ballots in some cities.

“There are some things that I saw in this election that maybe could be looked at,” he said. “Local government has certain flexibility in the Local Government Act that they can modify how they do it.”

If the city is going to send out voters cards, Coun. Jaimie McEvoy said municipalities will need a much more complete voters list from the province. He also expressed concern that people who don’t receive voters’ cards may think they’re unable to vote.

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