The City of Victoria is looking at alternative options for the upcoming byelection in light of recent recommendations from the provincial health officer.
Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Wednesday that the first case of COVID-19 had been found on the Island, and recommended that people practise “social distancing” for the time being, meaning avoiding crowds and close proximity to others.
This has prompted at least one byelection candidate to call on the City of Victoria to switch to mail-in ballots due to the risk of coronavirus.
Jeremy Caradonna sent out a request to the City to transition away from in-person voting stations.
“Due to the number of new COVID-19 cases in B.C., I strongly believe that we need to move the April 4 city council byelection to a mail-in ballot system,” Caradonna said in an emailed statement.
“The City already has a mail-in ballot system in place for those who are out of town and still wish to vote. I am asking for that system to be expanded to all of Victoria. I feel that unless we take precautions, the health of residents will be at stake.”
Caradonna argued that if voting stations are kept open at their proposed locations around Victoria, turnout will be affected, and consequently so will the election’s credibility.
The City of Victoria’s clerk, Chris Coates, addressed the issue in a committee of the whole meeting on Thursday, saying that the city is now in discussion with the province about potential changes or postponements.
“This is certainly an unprecedented situation,” he said. “Our staff are actively entertaining discussions with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing who have more authority of a seldom – if ever used – act.”
Presently two other byelections are scheduled in April across B.C., though Victoria is the largest city to host one.
“This is relatively uncharted territory, and declaration of pandemic is really recent,” Coates said. “We’re going to continue forward and come back with information in as timely a matter as possible.”