General local election offences

Publication Date: November 9, 2017

General local election offences fall into one of two categories:

  • General election offences committed under the Local Government Act (or the Vancouver Charter for elections in the City of Vancouver)
  • Campaign financing offences committed under the Local Election Campaign Financing Act

General election offences and penalties

General offences

General local election offences include such activities as vote-buying, intimidation, providing or distributing false information, or contravening voting provisions. 

Other election offences include:

  • Falsely withdrawing a candidate or an endorsement
  • Fraudulently voting
  • Interfering with ballots or ballot boxes
  • Canvassing, advertising or otherwise visibly supporting a candidate within 100 metres of a voting place during voting proceedings
  • Conducting any other activity contrary to the Local Government Act

Election offences are generally dealt with by the Supreme Court of B.C. Typically, these types of offences are prosecuted if Crown counsel chooses to proceed with laying charges after the police have undertaken an investigation and made a recommendation to Crown counsel.

Penalties

Vote-buying, accepting an inducement to vote or intimidating an elector to vote for a particular candidate may result in penalties including fines of up to $10,000, imprisonment for up to two years and/or disqualification from holding elected office in a local government for up to seven years.

Individuals and/or elector organization representatives (for example, the financial agent) may be subject to penalties that include fines of up to $5,000 and/or imprisonment for up to one year if they are convicted of an election offence under section 163 of the Local Government Act, including:

  • Advertising on general voting day
  • Falsely withdrawing a candidate or an endorsement
  • Fraudulently voting
  • Interfering with ballots or ballot boxes
  • Canvassing, advertising or otherwise visibly supporting a candidate within 100 meters of a voting place during voting proceedings
  • Conducting any other activity contrary to the Local Government Act.

Reporting and enforcement

The Chief Election Officer has the authority to enforce general local election rules, such as the challenge of a candidate’s nomination or elector eligibility and to maintain order at voting places. Election officials also have the authority to challenge an elector’s ability to vote on the basis that they are not entitled to vote or that they accepted an inducement to vote.

You will be required to provide evidence to support your allegation if you believe that an election offence has been committed. The Local Government Act and Vancouver Charter (in the City of Vancouver) provide that a person is not guilty of an election offence if they exercised due diligence to prevent the commission of the offence.

Contact your local police if you believe someone has committed an election offence. The police are responsible for conducting an investigation and recommending to Crown counsel whether charges could be laid. Crown counsel makes the determination as to whether to proceed with a prosecution. Election offences are prosecuted through the courts.

Campaign financing offences and penalties

Campaign financing offences

Campaign financing offences refer to contraventions of the rules under the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act. These types of offences may be committed by candidates, financial agents, elector organizations and third party sponsors.

Campaign financing offences are managed through Elections BC, a non-partisan and independent Office of the Legislature that administers, investigates and enforces the campaign financing disclosure requirements including expense limits, campaign contribution limits and election advertising rules under the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act.

Penalties

Campaign financing penalties are typically determined by the Supreme Court of B.C. Automatic penalties, including disqualification of a candidate from office and administrative monetary penalties, can be imposed without Supreme Court involvement and at the discretion of Elections BC.

A candidate who failed to file a campaign financing disclosure statement or supplementary report with Elections BC by the filing deadline, and did not receive court relief from the requirement to do so, is automatically disqualified from being nominated for, elected to or holding office anywhere in B.C. until after the next general local elections.

Individuals, elector organizations and third party sponsors may be subject to penalties that include the following, depending on the nature of the offence, for:

  • Individuals: Fines of up to $5,000 and/or imprisonment for up to one year, disqualification until after next general local election from being nominated for, elected to, or holding office on a local authority, fines up to $10,000, and/or imprisonment for up to two years. (A candidate declared elected also loses their seat, and the seat then becomes vacant)
  • Elector organizations: Fines of up to $10,000, prohibition from endorsing candidates, accepting campaign contributions/incurring election expenses until after the next general local election; fines up to $20,000
  • Third party sponsors: Prohibition from sponsoring third party advertising or assent voting advertising, accepting sponsorship contributions until after the next general local election, fines up to $10,000 for individuals and/or imprisonment for up to two years or fines of up to $20,000 for organizations

Reporting and enforcement

Notify Elections BC if you believe someone has committed a campaign financing election offence. Elections BC is responsible for administering and enforcing local election advertising and campaign financing rules.

Contact Information

Contact us if you have legislative questions about general local elections.

Toll Free
1 800 663-7867
Mailing
Governance and Structure Branch
PO BOX 9839 STN PROV GOVT
Victoria, BC
V8W 9T1