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Disability advocates critique lack of mail-in option for Burnaby byelection

Last Updated Jun 22, 2021 at 4:29 pm PDT

(Courtesy Elections BC, Twitter)

Burnaby's decision to take a pass on mail-in voting means some people won't be able to cast their ballot this weekend

Disability advocates are pushing the city to provide more accessible alternatives to in-person voting

BURNABY (NEWS 1130) — Deciding to go ahead with this weekend’s Burnaby byelection with no mail-in option amounts to an element of voter suppression, argue disability advocates pushing the city to provide more accessible alternatives to in-person voting.

People with disabilities have a right to vote and should be given an option to do that — it’s that simple, in the view of Helaine Boyd with Disability Alliance BC.

“It would mean that possibly some people with disabilities who are not able to travel to the polling station would not be able to participate in the voting process,” says Boyd of how this vote will play out over the weekend. “It’s definitely an element of voter suppression. It just shows that people with disabilities are not considered important enough to be part of a politician’s angle for finding votes.”

Candidate Lee Rankin is speaking out about this and says that he wants staff to hold some form of inquiry into this if elected.

“Mail in may have cost slightly more, but Burnaby is a wealthy community…so the minor cost of holding a mail-in ballot is well worth it,” says Rankin.

Rankin points to Richmond, which held a byelection earlier this month which included the mail-in option, and came in at a lower budget. It’s not entirely comparable given Burnaby is electing two city councillors, but he says it’s useful to consider that Richmond was able to find the money to do it.

In a statement, the city acknowledges the concerns raised by the alliance — and says it will examine the use of mail in voting for the general election next year.

It points out it does offer curbside voting but acknowledges that isn’t going to work for everyone.

The city says in the past it has made special accommodations for those living in care homes, but because of the pandemic, “it is not possible to do so safely during the 2021 by-election.”

During an interview with NEWS 1130 on Tuesday, the Disability Alliance indicated it intended to file a complaint through the Human Rights Tribunal. It has since said it will not “pursue that avenue at this time.”