They’re pushing the envelope in Port Coquitlam.

All Port Coquitlam residents are slated to be allowed to vote by mail in the October municipal election.

The move should hopefully boost voter turnout, said Mayor Brad West during council’s April 12 meeting.

“Anything the city can do to encourage more people to participate in the civic election is what we have to do,” West said.

In 2018, the city’s voter turnout was 28 percent. Of 11,904 votes cast, 24 were mail-in ballots.

Mail-in voting can accommodate voters in care homes and seniors’ residences, as well as serving as a safe way to vote amid a public health emergency.

While he supported allowing mail-in voting, Coun. Darrell Penner added that he wasn’t always “overly thrilled” with Canada Post.

Staff also noted concerns about the security and tracking of mail ballots. The city also has: “no ability to make sure the person who picked up the ballot is the one marking it (although they are required to sign a solemn declaration attesting to such).”

Voters who want to mail in their ballot can either pick up an application from the city, have someone show ID and pick up the application for them, or have the application mailed to them.

“Let’s give it a shot,” Penner said.

The price of democracy

The total cost of Port Coquitlam’s 2022 election – which covers mayor and council as well as school trustees – is estimated to be approximately $170,000, according to a city staff report.

Including the expense of the inaugural council meeting, the cost of the 2018 municipal election was $113,673.

The city is expecting to hire about 100 temporary contract workers to staff voting places during advance polls and on Oct. 15.

Finding and keeping those workers, “tends to be one of the most challenging aspects of administering an election,” according to the report. In total, the city’s election workers are slated to be paid about $31,000 in 2022.

Ballots are set to be counted by automated voting machines. The machines provide an image of every ballot cast and a record of how the voter’s mark was interpreted by the system.

“This audit trail ensures a reliable, transparent, secure and accurate electoral process and can be relied on in the event of a judicial recount,” according to the city staff report.

In 2022, Port Coquitlam is set to use machines provided by Dominion Voting.

Port Coquitlam is set to spend $54,000 on leasing the vote counting machines, including training and tech support. The city paid $28,600 to ES&S in 2018.

The voting process

Port Coquitlam is slated to hold advance voting on Oct. 5 at The Outlet and on Oct. 8 at Hyde Creek rec centre. There will be nine voting locations open on Oct. 15, according to the city staff report.

The Port Coquitlam municipal election is set to be overseen by chief election officer Carolyn Deakin and deputy chief election officer Vanessa Washington.

And over in Coquitlam

Coquitlam is not planning to allow mail-in voting this year due to high costs and staff time, according to a Port Coquitlam city staff report.