An experiment with mail-in voting during the Feb. 27 Langley school district byelection should not be repeated, a report to council states.
In their recommendations, Chief Election Officer Wendy Bauer and Deputy Chief Election Officer Bob Wilson report 266 voter mail-in packages were requested, less than expected, and by election day, many had still not arrived.
“Several voters attended the polling locations on general voting day reporting that their packages had not arrived,” the report related.
Election staff were able to update records to accept in-person votes for those people.
In total, 210 mail-in ballots were received, but most were not returned by mail, with 135 hand-delivered to polling stations and the civic facility.
“With no increase to the voter turnout over the previous by-election, only 6.5 per cent of the voters using the vote by mail option, unanticipated extended delivery time by Canada Post and the majority of voters returning the package in person rather than by mail, election staff are not recommending the use of mail -in voting in upcoming local or school district elections,” Bauer and Wilson said.
Considering the expense of supplies, postage and staff time, “the vote by mail option is not a cost effective option,” they concluded, noting all voting stations took precautions against COVID-19 including safety shields, “single use pencils, frequent cleaning of high touch surfaces, hand sanitizer solutions for both voters and workers, mandatory face coverings for voters and workers, and use of separate in and out doors.”
It was the first time mail-in ballots had been allowed, something that required a ministerial order permitting the changes to the election bylaws.
The report is scheduled to be presented to Township council at their Monday, March 22 meeting.
Charlie Fox won the byelection, beating out his six competitors. A final, official, tally shows he received 898 votes, his nearest competitor, Joel Neufeld received 700. Stacey Wakelin had 668 votes, followed by Phyllis Heppner who garnered 407, Holly Dickinson who received 332, Grant Gilmour who got 92, and Alex Joehl who received 50.
Fox is a retired teacher and principal in Langley schools, with a career of more than 30 years.
He was also a Township councillor before retiring prior to the 2018 municipal election.
The byelection was called after former board chair Megan Dykeman stepped down following her victory in the provincial election in October, becoming the NDP MLA for Langley East.
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