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More support required to run for council seat

It’s going to be tougher to get your name on the ballot to run for one of those $43,000 part-time jobs on Maple Ridge council.

Other the other hand, it could be easier to vote, thanks to changes to municipal election laws made by the province.

Chief election officer Ceri Marlo said the number of days people can vote at advance polls before the Nov. 15 civic election could increase from the present two days following council’s OK of the General Local Government Election Bylaw.

The bylaw received three readings Tuesday.

As well, if the bylaw gets fourth reading and is adopted at a future meeting, it will be tougher to get on the ballot.

Instead of only two supporters signing a candidate’s nomination form, now he or she will have to collect 10 names.

The effect could be to reduce the number of candidates in the election. During the 2011 campaign, 28 people ran for one of the six spots on council.

Increasing the number of nominators to 10 will also bring Maple Ridge into line with the City of Pitt Meadows requirements.

Four-time municipal candidate Graham Mowatt likes that.

“Great idea,” he said Tuesday.

And he’d like to bolster them even further.

Mowatt proposed Tuesday that candidates be required to put up a $100 deposit, as allowed under the legislation. If candidates receive less than 50 per cent of the number of the winning vote, they then forfeit that deposit, with the proceeds going to the Friends in Need Food Bank.

He also suggested that council add referendum questions to the ballot as a way of increasing voter interest and turnout.

People could even submit such questions and the most popular ones could be added to the ballot.

“To me, what a neat way for a new council to get an idea of what people want.”

Mowatt has tried three times for a seat on council and is currently running for mayor against incumbent Ernie Daykin, Coun. Mike Morden and newcomer Tyler Shymkiw.

He wanted council to table the bylaw until the fall to allow enough time for people to make other suggestions about how to improve voter turnout.

“You’re trying to get people to participate. Well, at least give them a bit of time to do so. What’s the rush?”

Marlo said last year, voter turnout in Maple Ridge was about 25 per cent, and that wasn’t the lowest in the Metro Vancouver area.

This year, 53,745 people are eligible to vote in Maple Ridge’s elections.

Another change to municipal elections requires candidates to file their campaign disclosure forms within 90 days of the election, instead of the current 120 days.

Those forms now must be sent to Elections B.C., rather than filed with municipal hall.

Councillors will also be running for four-year terms rather than three-year terms.

Maple Ridge wants to increase voter turnout and has launched an advertising and social media campaign, giving candidates the chance of submitting a picture and brief profile, which the district could put on its website.

Candidates for municipal and school board elections will have to register with Elections B.C. and report donations of $50 or more.

However, campaign spending limits won’t be implemented until the subsequent election, four years from now.

 

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