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City of Campbell River to hold pandemic-safe by-election in February

Newly announced electoral officers will seek Ministerial Order to expand access to mail-in option
Campbell Riverites will head to the polls Feb. 27 to elect a replacement for Michele Babchuk on city council. Watch for updates on the logistics of the by-election as the city works through the process of expanding mail-in voting and other low-touch voting methods. Black Press File Photo

The City of Campbell River has taken the first step in replacing Michele Babchuk on city council after she resigned her seat Nov. 30 to take up her new role as North Island MLA in the provincial legislature.

That step was for the city to assign a chief election officer and deputy chief election officer, who would then send a formal request to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing requesting a Ministerial Order to hold a by-election.

Elle Brovold was appointed to the role of Chief Election Officer (CEO) and Tracy Bate was named as her deputy.

The pair have their work cut out for them. Once a CEO is named, the city has 80 days to hold the by-election, and there are some not-insignificant added complications this year, obviously.

The City of Campbell River’s Election Procedure Bylaw does not currently contain measures required for physical distancing and increased interest in voting by mail, according to the staff report outlining the city’s requirements to conduct the by-election, so one of the first things Brovold and Bate will need to do is seek a Ministerial Order to make exceptions to the bylaw.

Changes are needed to reduce touch points – accepting oral declarations versus requiring signatures, for example – to increase opportunities for advance voting to reduce crowds on general voting day and changes to widen the availability of mail-in ballots in order to open up the election to all voters, “and to enable staff to process mail-in ballots in a timely manner,” the report reads.

And speaking of mail-in ballots, Section 110 of the Local Government Act says that mail-in ballots can only be cast by “persons with disabilities, ilness or injury that affects their ability to vote,” or people who expect to be absent on voting day.

“As there is no authority to amend the city’s Elections Bylaw, the city must seek a Ministerial Order authorizing expanded access to mail ballot voting to everyone,” the report says.

Stay glued to the Campbell River Mirror – and online at – for updates on how everything is coming together for the by-election, which is tenatively scheduled for Feb. 27.

Some key dates in the timeline leading up to the election (as it sits right now):

Before the end of 2020: Nomination packages available

Jan. 12: Nomination Period Opens

Jan. 22: Nomination Period Closes

Jan. 30: Campaign Period Begins

Feb. 17: First Advance Voting Day (Sportsplex)

Feb. 24-26: Additional Advance Voting Days (Community Centre)

Feb. 27: General Voting Day (Sportsplex)

RELATED: Council pays tribute to Babckuk as she takes up MLA duties

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