Whitehorse city council passed an amended bylaw June 11 that will allow a limited form of proxy voting in the upcoming election.
The bylaw lays out the standard rules and regulations for how the October municipal election will operate, but the proxy voting section has caught council’s interest in recent weeks.
Proxy voting is where someone votes on behalf of another person. General proxy voting allows the individual assigned to cast the ballot to vote any way they want. Limited proxy voting requires the proxy voter to vote as instructed by the person they are casting the vote for.
Council concerns included potential misuse of proxy ballots. City clerk Norma Felker has previously told council that proxy voting can be necessary to allow residents to vote even when they’re out of town in work camps.
Special ballots, cast by mail, aren’t always enough, she said, because Whitehorse isn’t covered by Canada Post’s guaranteed delivery policy.
She also told council there isn’t time this year to set up online or alternative voting systems.
Before the bylaw came up for second and third reading on June 11, Coun. Betty Irwin was the first to speak.
“Let me say first that I am philosophically opposed to proxy voting,” said Irwin. “When you give someone a proxy, you are giving someone a power of attorney to cast a vote for you and I feel that this is inconsistent with the concept that voting rights should not be transferrable.”
She said she could see a time when alternative methods were available, but noted that’s not this year. She also said she could see limited proxy voting as an option, but she would vote against the bylaw as it was written.
“Boy, I don’t often agree with Coun. Irwin this strongly,” said Coun. Samson Hartland. “The part that I will diverge from is the issue around how admin has proposed to us some wording that may be able to be worked into the bylaw so that limited proxy voting is something that would allow people to continue to engage in their democratic responsibilities but also at the same time, safeguard against, I believe, potential misuse of proxies during the municipal election.”
Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu said she was likewise concerned about potential abuse of proxy voting, but said she believes limited proxy voting is the only way, during this election, to ensure everyone can vote. Coun. Rob Fendrick said he has never had a problem with the issue of proxies and he was prepared to vote for the amendment as well.
The bylaw was passed, with an amendment for limited proxy voting.
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