The budget for mail-in voting in the recent Richmond municipal election was $120,000 but this only yielded 926 votes – 2.6 per cent of the total votes cast.
In contrast, in the 2021 by-election for one council seat – won by Andy Hobbs – 14.5 per cent of voters cast a mail-in ballot, with a total of 1,895.
The 2021 by-election was the first time mail-in voting was allowed for all voters, put in place to encourage social distancing due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic.
In the run-up to the October 2022 election, the city anticipated and had prepared for between 7,000 and 8,000 mail-in votes.
While the budget for mail-in voting was set at $120,000, the report didn’t say what the final cost was.
The entire 2022 municipal election went over budget by about $220,000 and yet voter turnout dropped about 12 per cent drop compared to the previous election, with 24.4 per cent of eligible voters casting a ballot.
"The voter turnout was really terrible," said Mayor Malcolm Brodie at Monday's committee meeting where city council was going over a report on the municipal election. However, he noted, other cities, with the notable exception of Surrey, had worse turnouts.
Of the 35,093 votes cast in 2022, 23 per cent were cast in advance polls.
Election expenses go over budget
The budget for the election was set at $900,000, but the expenses ended up at almost $1.2 million. $140,000 was used from the unspent funds of the 2021 by-election.
The city also had an Election Mobile App. In a report going to city council, staff note the low utilization of the app was “unanticipated.” Only 300 users downloaded the app.
As for COVID-19 measures, the city ended up buying plexiglass barriers. During the 2021 by-election, the city borrowed them at no cost from Elections BC, but this time round, they were charging the city to lease them. Hence, the decision by the city to buy them along with storage units for them.
Six incumbent councillors and the incumbent mayor were elected in October with Couns. Kash Heed and Laura Gillanders newly elected to council.