Mail-in ballots, which were brought in this year to replace mobile polling stations at retirement homes during elections past, aren’t generating nearly the same interest from elderly voters.
At Highgate Lodge, where general manager Linda Bishop estimates about 70 per cent of the residents are engaged in the municipal election, only four people have taken advantage of the mail vote.
“Saanich was extremely good at making us aware of the mail-in ballots, but we’re dealing with an elderly group,” Bishop said. “They’re cautious of the mail-in ballots. It’s new to them, it doesn’t feel as private as going to put their X in the box when all the formalities were there to keep things secure.”
Bishop says an additional two residents – out of 58 total – have signed up to get a ride to a polling station on election day.
She says 15 of the residents can drive, so she hopes they’ll take advantage of their mobility to get to a polling station.
“They liked it when the mobile poll came here. It was nice and easy for them to just come down and vote,” Bishop said.
It’s a sentiment echoed by mayoral candidate David Cubberley, who’s been to three retirement homes where most residents have told him there’s confusion around how they can vote.
“They’re understanding there isn’t a mobile poll (this election), but there isn’t any clear sense of what the alternative is,” Cubberley said. “We’ve gone from convenience to ‘you have to help yourself to get to vote,’ and that’s the wrong direction. It’s not the way to get more people voting.”
Mayor Frank Leonard says he’s hearing more positive comments than anything else about the mail-in ballots at retirement homes.
“We’ll have to review the practice and recommend what to do three years from now. We’ll all learn from this experience,” he said.
As of last week about 300 Saanich residents had applied for a mail-in ballot. The ballot is available to snowbirds, students studying abroad and those with mobility issues.
You can still apply to receive a mail-in ballot (until 4 p.m. on Nov. 17) by calling 250-475-1775, visiting Saanich municipal hall (770 Vernon Ave.) or by checking saanich.ca/living/election.html.
If you receive a mail-in ballot it is your responsibility to ensure it is returned to the chief elections officer before 8 p.m. on Nov. 19, otherwise it will not be counted.