Mabel Logan casts her ballot in Whitehorse Centre in 2016. City councillors are trying to decide if proxy voting should be allowed in the next municipal election not. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)

Whitehorse council debates proxy voting for fall election

‘The reality is it seems as though our world is getting smaller and smaller’

The issue of proxy voting pinballed around Whitehorse city council chambers on May 22, only to be postponed until the standing committees meeting on May 28.

Proxy voting came up as part of the city’s election procedures bylaw, which was set to receive first and second reading at the regular council meeting.

The bylaw sets out details for nomination procedures, timing for the fall election, special ballots, advance polling, mobile poll locations and more.

Councillors had no problem with any part of the bylaw other than the section on proxy voting, which allows absent residents to appoint someone else to vote on their behalf during the election.

At the May 14 standing committees meeting, council heard that this is sometimes made use of by residents working in camps during the fall, who cannot be present for the vote.

On May 22, city manager Linda Rapp told mayor and council that, in the last municipal election, 12 residents voted by proxy.

Coun. Samson Hartland highlighted the fact that the 2016 territorial election was the last time proxy voting was allowed by the Yukon government. In the future, he said he doesn’t see elections continuing to allow for proxy voting.

He said there are new ways for residents to vote remotely, including via Skype.

“The reality is it seems as though our world is getting smaller and smaller every day and, as opposed to giving your vote away to somebody else to vote for you, of which, who knows what could happen, you in fact have the ability yourself to retain that vote and participate democratically in an election,” he said.

At second reading, Hartland asked if there was interest in sending the bylaw back to administration to find a way of removing proxy voting from the bylaw, or to consider other methods of voting.

Coun. Betty Irwin seconded Hartland’s motion, saying she also thought the topic needed more clarification and discussion before a decision was made.

Mayor Dan Curtis said he didn’t see the value in prolonging the process by deferring to next week, though Coun. Dan Boyd pointed out that either way third reading would take place May 28.

“I think it’s cleanest and I think we’re doing our due diligence by sending it back to committee,” said Boyd.

Curtis agreed he wanted to keep the bylaw clean, but still wanted the vote to take place.

“I’ve heard some really compelling reasons why the proxy voting should be taken out of our election policy or election process and I haven’t heard any really compelling reasons why we should keep it in,” said Curtis.

At one point, Hartland suggested amending the bylaw on the spot.

Boyd said he preferred to hear more from city administration before making any changes.

Coun. Rob Fendrick agreed, saying he too wanted more information on proxy voting and stressing that he didn’t support stripping various sections of a bylaw “on the fly.”

After volleying the issue back and forth, it was ultimately decided, with no one opposed, to postpone second and third reading to the standing committees meeting on May 28.

At that time, there will be further information presented by city administration. Amendments can be made to the bylaw at third reading, if council so decides.

Whitehorse residents go to the polls Oct. 18.

Contact Amy Kenny at amy.kenny@yukon-news.com

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