Advocating for Accessible Municipal Elections
After deciding that the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) was not the proper connection to help us in our efforts to make the2022 municipal elections accessible, we were fortunate to connect with the Chair of the Elections Advisory Committee, a Standing Committee of the Local Government Management Association’s (LGMA). Through this connection we were invited to appear as one of four panelists during an LGMA town hall on May 19, 2022. Along with officials from Elections BC (EBC), Island Deaf &Hard of Hearing Association (IDHDA) and a client with lived experience as a deaf person, we created awareness, provided instruction and shared videos on interacting with persons with sight loss and sighted guide technique. We included:
- How to interact with the voter with sight loss and how to offer sighted guide assistance.
- proper protocols with respect to guide and service dogs.
- Making tools available that will aid voters who are blind, partially sighted or deafblind (e.g. Braille list or poster-size list of candidates, 4Xmagnifiers w/ built-in light, etc.)
- On-line voting and/or voting by phone.
Following our presentation, officials from EBC and IDHDA also shared awareness and information with the election officials from41 municipalities in BC and several staff members from the BC Ministry of Municipal Affairs. Elections BC did speak to the Recommendations Report to the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia from February 2014 which recommended against on-line voting. But EBC officials spoke favourably about the success of the toll-free telephone voting choice during recent general elections and the most recent Vancouver – Quilchena by-election which did offer a Dominion voter assist terminal. They concluded their presentation by reminding the audience that municipal elections are governed and administered by each local government and that changes in legislation would be needed if EBC were to get involved and offer voting by phone during the 2022 or future municipal elections.
On July 19, 2022, we met with the Honourable Nathan Cullen – Minister of Municipal Affairs, Deputy Minister Okenge Yuma Morisho and MLA Dan Coulter – Parliamentary Secretary representing the Accessible BC Directorate. We shared our aim to have an accessible municipal election process in place for the next election cycle in 2026. With Elections BC fully apprised but not in attendance at this meeting We recapped our past work with EBC and the well used choice of telephone voting during the last provincial general and recent by-elections. We asked the Minister to investigate and consider amendments to current legislation enabling Elections BC to take part in municipal elections by offering, managing and administering province-wide telephone voting during municipal elections come the fall of 2026. The Minister said he was certainly in favour of removing barriers for persons with disabilities in BC and would instruct his team to investigate the scope of our request and determine what legislation would require changes. We will keep this file open and continue to repeatedly follow up with the Minister.
Stay tuned, we will keep you advised through updates to this web page.