Rani Earnhart, president of Fair Vote Canada-B.C. (wearing red jacket) speaks with District of Saanich officials last week after the municipality told her that volunteers would not be able to distribute flyers about B.C.’s upcoming referendum on proportional representation outside advanced voting locations for the upcoming municipal election. Wolf Depner/News Staff

Fair Vote Canada reps say Saanich violating provincial voting directive

Group advocating for proportional referendum aren’t allowed to distribute flyers within 100 feet of polling stations

A group promoting the upcoming referendum on proportional representation will have to stay at least 300 feet away from advance voting locations in Saanich after the district forbade them from canvassing municipal voters.

Last week, a local representative of Fair Vote Canada, a group advocating for proportional representation, accused the the District of Saanich of violating a provincial directive that allows the organization to share information about the upcoming provincial referendum on proportional representation.

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Rani Earnhart, president of Fair Vote Canada-BC, said Wednesday the provincial directive gives her organization’s volunteers the right to hand out flyers outside of municipal election voting locations.

“This [provincial] document makes it quite clear that our efforts at this location are legal,” she said.

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But, Tara Zajac, spokesperson for the District of Saanich said Thursday, the chief election officer has the authority to regulate any activities taking place in and around voting places.

“Saanich will not be allowing Fair Vote or any others to canvas within 100 metres of our voting locations on upcoming voting days,” Zajac said, with advance voting set to resume Monday at Saanich Municipal Hall and Saanich Commonwealth Place.

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Earnhart met with Saanich officials to discuss why the municipality prohibited volunteers from handing out leaflets Wednesday morning near the advance voting location at municipal hall.

She told the Saanich News her organization is not canvassing, nor does the organization have anything to do with the municipal election, but did acknowledge the group did not reach out to Saanich prior to their appearance.

“We had no problems in Vancouver, because they have already had advanced voting days, and I was just down at Victoria City Hall [where advanced voting took place],” she said. “I had no issues there.”

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The campaign period for the municipal election and the referendum on proportional representation – held Oct. 22 to Nov. 30 by mail ballot – overlap, and Earnhart points to a directive from Elections BC that says, “campaigning by the various groups regarding the provincial referendum is permitted and could take place during the time local elections are being conducted.”

The directive prohibits “campaigning for any candidates within 100 metres of any voting place” but Earnhart said that rule does not apply to her group, as it is not canvassing for any specific candidate.

The B.C. municipal election is Oct. 20. For advance voting locations visit Saanich.ca.


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