Saanich residents will likely not be able vote for their politicians at a drive-thru polling station. Here Mayor Richard Atwell serves up lunch at the McDonald’s location near Uptown during 2017 McHappy Day. Travis Paterson/News Staff

Drive-thru voting in Saanich crashes over environmental concerns

Environmental concerns over climate change could stall drive-thru voting in Saanich.

Angila Bains, manager of legislative services, said Saanich wants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). “The use of a drive-thru voting station where cars will be idling, despite being asked to turn off their car, will contribute in a negative way to this objective.”

This rationale appears in a report detailing alternate voting opportunities for the upcoming 2018 general municipal election scheduled for Oct. 20, 2018. Council in October 2017 asked staff to study drive-thru voting among measures to raise turnout.

The report says drive-thru polling stations in Regina and Calgary generated “strong interest and use” with voters in Regina noting that drive-through voting aided individuals with mobility issues and parents unable to secure childcare. But Calgary’s experience also revealed environmental issues. Heavy demand forced authorities to post signs asking people to turn off their cars to ease the effects of idling.

Overall, the report questions the need for the drive-thru voting. “The number and accessibility of voting locations should not be an issue given that Saanich operates on a one-voting division basis,” Bains said.

Overall, the report identifies 16 locations, where residents can cast their ballots on Oct. 20, starting from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. Saanich has also set out six locations, where residents can cast advance ballots on Oct. 10, Oct. 15 and Oct. 17 during varying times. Identified locations include Saanich Municipal Hall, both campuses of Camosun College and and the Student Union Building at the University of Victoria.

Staff are also planning to have mobile voting locations at seven care facilities, with voting restricted to staff, patients, residents and any accompanying family members. Voters absent from the municipality on general voting day or unable to cast a ballot because of physical disability, illness or injury can mail in their ballots.

Curbside voting for individuals unable to enter voting places because of physical disabilities or impaired mobility will be available at all voting locations.

“Staff will continue to look to add additional voting opportunities where possible keeping in mind additional staffing and facility costs,” said Bains.

Council received the report for recommendation without debating staff’s critique of drive-thru polling.

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