For the first time ever, B.C. residents who own second homes in Whistler won't have to return to the resort or travel to West Vancouver just to have their say in municipal elections.
For Joe Szabo, a West Vancouver resident and homeowner in Whistler for 22 years, the news that the municipality was on the road to approving mail-in balloting was a positive one.
"Being a property owner, I should have a voice," he said in an interview.
"When you get a better turnout, you get more of the residents or more of the homeowners and residents and people who have a voice and you're going to get a more populous vote, and that really is what you're trying to do. You're not trying to get a minority to elect governments. You want the masses to do that, not a small few."
At its June 21 meeting Whistler's council gave the first three readings to election bylaws that make it possible for B.C. residents to vote remotely, by mailing their ballots to town hall instead of showing up to make a choice at a voting station.
But not everyone is eligible to vote this way, said Shannon Story, the municipality's chief election officer and head of freedom of information, just those who are physically unable to make it into the municipality on Election Day or any advance voting dates.
Story went on to say that in order to vote as a second homeowner, your property can't be registered in a company in trust. You only get one vote for one property, and if more than one person has a stake in a single property, only one owner can vote with the permission of a majority of the stakeholders.
"We always find on general voting day, these people show up, they don't have permission," Story said. "We give them the forms, they run out screaming to drive back to Vancouver on the same day to get the permission of the other owners.
"Our friends in the United States and abroad cannot vote if they own property in Whistler," Story told council reminding them that only B.C. residents can vote.
"Our Ontario owners cannot vote. But again, it's not our rule, it's the B.C. government's rule under the Local Government Act and you have to be a resident of the Resort Municipality of Whistler or a registered owner of real property in Whistler for at least 30 days before voting day."
Story went on to say that in order to vote as a second homeowner, your property couldn't be registered in a company in trust. You only get one vote for one property, and if more than one person has a stake in a single property, only one owner can vote with the permission of a majority of the stakeholders and you must be a B.C. resident.
In previous elections, the municipality has set up a voting station in West Vancouver in order to help second homeowners take part in local government elections. Story said at the meeting that such polls carry heavy costs, such as overnight accommodation for staff manning the voting stations, as well as meals and transportation costs.
"There was just over 100 people that voted in both polls in West Vancouver," she said, referring to the last election. "I was actually looking today at the non-resident property list of people who have voted in the past and they're the same people writing in for mail-in voting."
If approved, eligible voters will have between September 9 and November 17 at 4 p.m. to request and fill out an application to vote by mail and return it to the chief election officer. Then, from November 3 to 17, mail ballot packages will be sent out to eligible voters who have completed the forms.
All voting packages must be received by November 19 at 8 p.m.