Voter Eligibility & Voting in Local Elections
Provincial legislation gives eligible B.C. residents the right to vote in general local elections and by-elections. This right is subject to certain restrictions, limitations and requirements. Additionally, local governments are required to provide access to voting, through various opportunities, such as an advance voting day.
In order to be eligible to vote in general local elections or by-elections as a resident or non-resident property elector, a person must:
- Be 18 years of age or older when they register to vote, or 18 years or older on general voting day
- Be a Canadian citizen
- Have been a resident of B. C. for at least six months before they register to vote
- Have either lived or owned property in the jurisdiction in which they intend to vote for at least 30 days before they register to vote
- Not be disqualified under the Local Government Act, or any other enactment, or by law from voting in a local election
Voting rights are granted to citizens based on residency or property ownership. There is no corporate or business vote in local elections.
Eligible electors who live on a First Nation reserve can vote. Where that person votes depends on whether the reserve is located within a municipality or regional district jurisdiction.
Non-Resident Property Electors
When a person lives in one jurisdiction and owns property in one or more other jurisdictions, they may vote once in each of the other jurisdictions where they own property -- as long as they meet the voter eligibility requirements.
If a person owns a property with one or more other individuals, only one person is eligible to vote as the non-resident property elector for that property. The owner entitled to vote must be designated, in writing, by the majority of the property owners.
A person cannot vote on behalf of a corporation, or as a non-resident property elector, based on a property owned wholly or in part by a corporation.
Students who live in one jurisdiction and attend an educational institution in a jurisdiction different from their usual place of residence may vote only once--either in the jurisdiction where they attend school or in the jurisdiction that is their usual place of residence.
Resident electors and non-resident property electors are not eligible to vote in a local election if they:
- Have been convicted and sentenced for an indictable offence and are in custody
- Have been found guilty of an election offence, such as intimidation or vote-buying
- Do not otherwise meet voter eligibility requirements
Voting Day Registration Only
A local government may opt to use same-day voter registration rather than the provincial list of electors or a similar list of eligible electors compiled by the local government.
To register on voting day, eligible resident electors are required to make a solemn declaration about where they live in order to obtain a ballot. Non-resident property electors are required to show two pieces of identification and the title of the property (or other proof of property ownership) in relation to which they are voting.
Provincial Voters List
A local government may, by bylaw, use the most current available provincial list of voters prepared by Elections BC rather than maintaining its own voters list. If so, resident electors whose names appear on the provincial voters list are automatically registered and are not required to show identification in order receive a ballot and vote in a local election.
A person whose name does not appear on the provincial voters list is required to show two pieces of identification (or sign a solemn declaration) before being issued a ballot by the presiding election official.
The names of non-resident property electors are not recorded on the provincial voters list. Non-resident property electors are required to register at the time of voting (same-day registration) and show two pieces of identification, as well as the title of the property in relation to which they are voting.
Own List of Electors
A local government must maintain and use its own list of electors if advance registration is available, unless it has adopted a bylaw to implement same-day voter registration, or use the provincial voters list. The local government-maintained voters list includes the names of resident electors and the names of non-resident property electors.
A resident elector is required to show two pieces of identification or sign a solemn declaration if their name does not already appear on the local list of registered electors. Non-resident property electors are required to register at the time of voting and show two pieces of identification, as well as the title of the property in relation to which they are voting.
When a resident elector is required to show two pieces of identification, the identification must prove who they are and where they live -- including the person's name and residential address. One of the pieces of identification must also include the person's signature (such as a driver's licence or BC Services Card). If neither piece of identification shows the elector's residential address, they may make a solemn declaration as to their place of residence.
Non-resident property electors must prove who they are and where they live as well as provide the address or legal description and the title (or other proof of ownership) of the property in relation to which they are registering to vote. Non-resident property electors must also demonstrate to the presiding election official that they have the written consent of the majority of all owners to vote as the designated non-resident property elector if they own the property with another person.
General voting day is usually the most publicized or widely-known voting opportunity resident and non-resident property electors have to cast their ballot in a local election. An advance voting opportunity must also be available, and many local governments offer more than one such opportunity. Some local governments also offer special voting and mail ballot voting to their electors as set out in the local government's election bylaw.
General Voting Day
General voting day is held every four years on the third Saturday in October. General voting day is the primary opportunity for candidates seeking office as a mayor, councillor, electoral area director, Islands Trust local trustee, local community commissioner or specified parks board commissioner to be elected to office by eligible electors.
Voting places are open from 8 am to 8 pm local time on general voting day.
An advance voting opportunity must be held 10 days prior to general voting day. This required advance voting day allows eligible electors who may not otherwise be able to vote on general voting day to cast their ballots. Local governments with populations greater than 5,000 are required to hold at least two advance voting opportunities.
Local governments may set out in their election bylaws whether additional advance voting opportunities will be offered, or in communities of less than 5,000, whether the required additional advance voting opportunity will be waived.
Special voting opportunities may be held in any location – inside or outside the local government boundary – to provide eligible electors who may not otherwise be able to attend a voting place an opportunity to cast their ballots during a local election.
Special voting opportunities are generally held in hospitals, long-term care facilities or other locations where electors’ mobility may be impaired. Only designated electors are eligible to vote at special voting opportunities. Local governments may set out the specific dates, times and locations where special voting will take place during an election in their election bylaws.
Mail Ballot Voting
Mail ballot voting provides those electors unable to attend a special, advance or general voting opportunity the ability to vote in a local election. Generally, mail ballot voting is intended to allow non-resident property electors, seasonal residents, electors in geographically remote locations, and electors whose mobility or health is compromised, an opportunity to cast their ballot in the election.
A person may not cast their ballot in a local election via the Internet or over the telephone.
Local governments are required to make voting places as accessible as reasonably possible. This includes providing options for:
- Assistance receiving a ballot ("curb-side" voting): if an eligible elector travels to a voting place and cannot easily access the building or room in which voting is taking place, an election official may bring them a ballot.
- Assistance marking a ballot: if an eligible elector is unable to mark their own ballot, another person, such as an election official, friend or relative, may assist them. That person will be required to sign a solemn declaration before being able to provide assistance in marking the ballot.
- Translation: if an eligible elector requires assistance from a translator, they may bring one, as long as the translator makes a solemn declaration that they can and will translate to the best of their ability.