You don't have to live in Victoria to vote in upcoming byelection
VICTORIA -- You don’t have to live in Victoria to vote in the city’s upcoming byelection that will fill the seat vacated by Laurel Collins when the former councillor resigned after being elected an MP in the last federal election.
That news has some Victoria business owners tickled pink.
Gordy Dodd lives in Saanich, but just learned he can vote in the Dec. 12 byelection.
He says he’s keen to cast a ballot because he’s frustrated with his store getting targeted by crooks and vandals, and wants city council to help more with public safety in the area.
He’d also like to see a different approach from those in city hall to dealing with the city’s growing homeless crisis.
"We need someone over there who can speak on our behalf," he said Monday, referring to the need for more help in dealing with break-ins at his and other businesses in the Gorge area of Victoria.
The city's chamber of commerce is spreading the word that you don't need to live in the capital to vote in elections like the one next month.
Bruce Williams is the chamber’s CEO. He notes that you can have your say as a business owner in Victoria, if you own property there, based on the so-called non-resident elector rule.
Williams says he’s hearing from plenty of business operators in the core saying that they want to participate in the election next month, particularly given growing concerns about crime and various other challenges caused by the pandemic.
"I think a lot of people feel there’s a lot at stake in this byelection, and they have an opportunity to change the direction that council has been taking recently," said Williams.
There are several catches, however, including the fact that you have to own property in Victoria. A business owner can’t just be leasing property to vote in the byelection, like many of the businesses in downtown Victoria do.
In order to vote, you also must own the property in your name, it can’t be held in trust for a company, be a numbered company or be owned by a corporation.
That technicality caught the owner of Robinson’s Outdoor Store by surprise.
The store is a family-run operation that has been in business on Broad Street for 91 years.
Erin Boggs is starting to run the store now, taking over from her mother, who previously ran it and still currently owns the building.
Boggs’ mother was motivated to vote in this byelection and was excited to do so—especially after various break-ins at the store over the past several months.
However, she recently learned that because the ownership of the building is in the name of a numbered company, not her own name, she’s disqualified from voting.
"It's frustrating, especially as someone who is a taxpayer and a huge voice in this community because of a small technicality – or name – she now can’t cast her vote in the election," said Boggs, noting that it’s a common business practice for people to put the ownership of real property in the name of a corporation or numbered company.
It’s worth noting that the right to vote without being a resident in Victoria isn't just limited to business owners. It applies to residential property owners too.
Joan Pink lives in Oak Bay, but owns residential property in Victoria, which she rents out.
She also just learned that she’s eligible to vote by virtue of owning that property in Victoria.
She says she thinks city council needs more councillors with business experience and has been upset by decisions that she thinks don’t seem to reflect common sense.
"I am not happy with the direction of council," she said. "There are some excellent councillors, but there seems to be a block of voting that is not listening to the public at the moment."
Although it’s not new for non-residents to be allowed to vote, it seems that not many people were aware of the opportunity to do so.
In Victoria’s last general municipal election, in 2018, approximately 200 people voted who don't live in the city.
This time around it seems word is spreading, and that number will likely increase.