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Some mail-in ballots did not get counted in Kamloops

They were mail-in ballots that arrived at city hall after the deadline of 8 p.m. on Oct. 15
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These ballots made it to Kamloops City Hall in time to be counted on Oct. 15, 2022. A few hundred other mail-in ballots arrived too late to be included in the results.

An unknown number of mail-in-ballots will not count in this year’s civic election, due to complications during the first year the city opened up mail-in voting citywide.

On Tuesday, the city’s chief election officer, Amanda Passmore, presented voter turnout numbers to the outgoing council.

Coun. Kathy Sinclair said she heard complaints that mail-in ballot directions were difficult and questioned how the process worked, with mail being sorted in Vancouver and time lags.

Passmore called it a “very real challenge” and said the timing was tricky. She said some ballots did not arrive with the city until 2 p.m. on Sept. 29, noting and city staff spent the weekend compiling them.

Passmore said management chipped in and staff worked through Thanksgiving weekend to get ballots out, with 100 staff hours used to package ballots.

Passmore told KTW the ballots were a four-envelope system with multiple election races and candidates. She said every mail-in ballot request the city received until midnight on Oct. 2 was mailed out to voters first thing on Oct. 3. She said she believes everyone who requested a ballot via Canada Post received their ballot. It had to be returned to city hall no later than 8 p.m. on Oct. 15.

Passmore said it was difficult to get the mail-in ballots back in time because mail is sorted in Vancouver, not Kamloops, a process that can take three or four days.

“It’s just such a tight window of time, unfortunately,” she told KTW.

Passmore told council 1,000 mail-in ballots were requested, 600 were returned and 100 came in on Monday (Oct. 17) and Tuesday (Oct. 18), after the election. They will not count and will be destroyed. It remains to be seen whether the remaining 300 ballots have been mailed in and will arrive late, or were not sent in by voters.

But Passmore said she expects the remaining 300 ballots to trickle in this week.

“That is regrettable,” she told council. “I don’t want to miss out on any single vote because they all absolutely matter, as we know. Especially in an election with a turnout as low as it was.”

KTW asked Passmore if the votes would have influenced the election results.

“I don’t think any of the margins were even close to 400,” she said, referring to the number of ballots outstanding between what the city sent out and what it has thus far received.

“So I know the mayoral race was about 1,000 and then, the difference between the lowest votes for council were, I think, still about 1,000. I don’t think it would have been drastic enough to sway results in any way.”

She said the city is guided by provincial legislation and can’t do anything earlier, due to the official candidate list being finalized on Sept. 20.

“There needs to be an expansion in timelines in legislation for us to better equip for that,” she said.