We may head to the municipal polls every three years, but parts of the process remain a mystery.
To get prepared for Nov. 19, I touched base with one of the procedural experts, Keri-Ann Austin, Coldstream’s corporate officer.
The following information pertains to all jurisdictions and not just Coldstream.
Half-Sack Not Required
A common misconception is that because there are six councillors in a municipality (four in Lumby), you need to mark an X next to six names on the ballot.
But the reality is you can vote for up to six people for councillor. If you only like one, only select one.
“Vote for the ones you are comfortable with,” said Austin.
“Just make sure you don’t vote for seven because that will spoil the ballot. Look at your ballot closely.”
There hasn’t been an official voters’ list in most B.C. communities for years so poll clerks will need to verify who you are (even if you live next door to them or are a relative).
To help move things along, bring some identification.
“My two favourites are a driver’s license and a CareCard,” said Austin.
“Picture ID is not required but it’s great because you can see who they are.”
Most voters will have also driven to the polls, so automobile insurance papers will work in a pinch.
No Corporate Vote
Many people believe that owning a business gives them an extra ballot, but there hasn’t been a corporate vote in B.C. since 1993.
“That was a provincial government decision,” said Austin.
Now if you own residential property in one jurisdiction (as an example, Armstrong), but live in another community (as an example, Spallumcheen), you can be classified as a non-resident voter in the house’s host jurisdiction.
“We need paperwork, like a current year’s tax notice. We need to prove they own the property,” said Austin.
There is only one non-resident vote allowed per property, so if a husband and wife or several investors own a home, they must decide who will vote. All of the people on title must give that person authority to represent them.
The Great Divide
A mailing address is not an indication of residing in a specific community.
BX residents may have Vernon as an address but they are in the regional district and can’t vote for city council. Rural Lumby residents may feel part of a broader community but they aren’t electors in the village.
Boundaries are invisible so know where you live (most polling stations have maps to help).
Patience is a Virtue
It may take a few minutes to vote so bring something to read or plug in the MP3.
“Registering voters can take time and you will be dealing with staff who only do this every three years,” said Austin.
“They are doing the best they can.”
It should also be pointed out that the clerks and municipalities aren’t responsible for the electoral process.
“These people are doing specific jobs based on specific provincial legislation. The reason for strictness is we don’t want anyone to challenge the election,” said Austin.
Trustees Count Too
Regional district directors have been acclaimed in the BX, rural Lumby and Cherryville, so residents may assume there is no election going on.
But individuals are running for school district trustee in all of those jurisdictions, so the polls will be open.
Catch the Wave
Yes it’s a cliche but people are dying in Syria or being imprisoned in China because they want freedom. Don’t just sit on the sidelines and let your role in the community go to waste. Get out and vote.
Richard Rolke is a senior reporter at The Morning Star. He writes a weekly column for the newspaper.