Can you bag up civic duty? Council including Mayor Richard Atwell, here seen working the drive-thru window at a local fast food restaurant for charity, approved a report that asks Saanich to explore alternative voting opportunities including drive-thru voting. Travis Paterson/News Staff

Saanich revs up drive-thru voting

Council asked staff to prepare report into alternative voting opportunities

Do you want to super-size your council vote?

Drive-thru voting could be coming to Saanich next year after council passed a motion that instructs staff to prepare a report into alternate voting opportunities. They include mobile stations for seniors and students, as well as drive-thru station.

Council approved the motion unanimously after Coun. Judy Brownoff had brought forward it. Brownoff said Regina and Calgary have used a drive-thru voting station to increase turnout for municipal elections. Brownoff’s motion also calls for more “high profile voting locations” such as local recreation facilities. She also suggested that Uptown shopping centre should become a voting location because of the crowds that it draws.

Councillors praised the idea. Coun. Colin Plant said it is the business of council to help increase turnout. Coun. Susan Brice said moving forward with this idea helps Saanich tick off one of the recommendations from the recently released governance report.

Turnout in the last general municipal election was just under 35 per cent. Turn-out in last month’s byelection was under 12 per cent, nearly double of the turnout during the last municipal byelection in 2001.

Last month’s byelection also raised the question of whether Saanich offered enough opportunities for seniors and people with disabilities to cast their ballots.

For example, mail-in ballots were not available, prompting concerns from Saanich residents like Ralph Smith, a 92-year-old former Royal Marine.

“I can go about 20 or 30 feet with a walker but I can’t go long distances, getting to a polling station for me and my wife is more than a bit of an effort,” said Smith, adding he’s left the house about 12 times since 2005.

Accordingly, he arranged for curbside voting through Saanich’s elections officer. “So far as I know my wife and I were the only two electors to do so although many pensioners and others with mobility problems and absentee constituents, such as, soldiers, truck drivers and businessmen, were completely disenfranchised in this important byelection by the decision of the election officer who deemed there would be no postal voting in this important byelection,” he said.

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