Hamilton could have vote-by-mail added for 2022 municipal elections


Published July 8, 2021 at 1:35 am


Mail-in ballots could be a reality in Hamilton next year, if city council takes the advice from their elections manager.

Next week, Hamilton city council’s governance committee will receive a report prepared by Aine Leadbetter, manager of elections (print and mail), that recommends adding mail-in ballots for the 2022 vote. Hamilton’s next municipal election is on Oct. 24, 2022. It would cost about $125,000 to set up a system for counting mail-in ballots.

If the committee accepts the recommendation, it would go to the full council for ratification next month.

Voting by mail has been a hot-button issue during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly during the presidential election cycle in the United States in 2020. In Canada, British Columbia had about 700,000 mail-in ballots during its provincial election last October. Both Toronto and Ottawa have used mail-in ballots in recent municipal byelections.

Leadbetter’s review says there is no recommendation to “to remove the option to vote in person on election day, at advanced polls, or through a proxy.” It notes that mail-in ballots add another entry point for electorate, and a safeguard if COVID-19 risks remain high come election time next year. 

The introduction of an alternative voting method to supplement the City’s current in-person paper ballot approach would

enhance accessibility, provide greater convenience for the electorate, and would additionally provide the City with greater flexibility should COVID-19 continue to pose public health concern into 2022,” the report reads.

“Through consultations with stakeholders to date, staff recognize that there are equity issues that may be presented with in person only voting and are recommending vote-by-mail to remove barriers for those with physical and
other reasons preventing some of the electorate from voting in person.”

Hamilton’s seniors advisory committee, committee against racism, aboriginal advisory committee, advisory committee for persons with disabilities and status of women advisory committee were each engaged as part of community consultations.

The governance committee meets on Wednesday (July 14).

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