LETTERS: Let Election B.C. run municipal voting

We don’t have the right to a free and democratic election in many of our municipal governments here in B.C.

Kudos to Ernie Slump for his Jan. 28 letter to the editor in the Western News (Voters’ voices restrained at the ballot box) challenging and criticizing the decision by the City of Penticton council, particularly senior civil servants and chief election officials.

Slump hits the nail on the head. We don’t have the right to a free and democratic election in many of our municipal governments here in B.C. This is especially true in my town of Osoyoos. Rights of far too many area voters in past municipal elections have been violated. Particularly the non-resident property electors with Osoyoos addresses. The total number being 852. For the past 15 years the voices, being the ballots of non-residents, have not been acknowledged in municipal elections for mayor, council and assent voting on the new museum and fire hall.

Their rights have been denied and they were deprived of their rights to vote in elections and referendums by mail voting. As well, council knew that the Local Government Act requires that two advance voting opportunities be held for an election with one being 10 days, and the second being three days, before the general election. In towns with populations of under 5,000 council can pass a bylaw that the second advance voting opportunity not be held, which has been done in the case of Osoyoos. Further special voting opportunities should have been made available for electors (especially for our military personnel) who were not able to vote because they were in hospitals or care homes.

The chief election officers’ concern was that these special voting circumstances would increase the cost of elections. For the record I am quoting what the chief election officer, who has been in Osoyoos during the last three municipal elections, said.

Unfortunately, previous mayor and councillors made sure the election bylaws remained status quo, with the same excuse. When it comes to the democratic right to vote, you cannot put a price on democracy. If council wants to save taxpayer money, stop paying exorbitant engineering and consulting fees.

There is also a discrepancy between electors and ballots. According to the Town of Osoyoos there are 4,742 electors but 4,470 ballots were ordered. If mail in ballots were given a chance to vote in the referendum the outcome would have been different. All over B.C. our rights were denied by not seeing ballots during ballot counting. I witnessed and complained about illegal wrongdoings by election officials during the seven times I have been a candidate.

The only way to have a free uncontrolled democratic election is with Election B.C. delivering. The best example is the provincial elections where 85 members of the legislature in Victoria were elected by residents of B.C. I am going to ask Premier Christy Clark and the legislature to give mandate and power to Election B.C. for administering local government elections in B.C.

In 2018, as a candidate I have no confidence that the ballots for council and the fire hall referendum results of the election reflect the wishes of the voters.

Sy Murseli