Pitt voter stages protest at polling station

Jo Vella cast one ballot for the Pitt Meadows mayor and then went to a second station to see if she could vote again.

Jo Vella wants IDs checked before ballots are issued.

Jo Vella knew she was breaking the law, but did it anyway.

On Saturday, she cast her first ballot for Pitt Meadows mayor and council around noon at the city’s recreation centre. She voted without being pressed for identification.

Around 3 p.m., she went to Heritage Hall, near the city’s new skate park, to see if she could vote again.

She was asked her name. A woman read back her address and a man beside her asked Vella to sign her name near a declaration.

With another ballot in hand, Vella came clean.

She announced to shocked city staff, she has already voted once.

“I was confident I was going to be able to get the ballot,” said Vella.

“I was afraid because I was breaking the law, but I thought it was worth it to pursue it and prove it. When staff said, ‘You made your point,’ I felt vindicated.”

For years, Vella’s been bothered by what she calls a “malpractice,” where voters can cast their ballots in civic elections without anyone confirming their identity.

Under the Local Government Act, which governs municipal elections, if you have registered in advance of voting day and appear on the voters’ list, it is not necessary to produce ID at the time of voting.

Voters are only required to sign a declaration saying they haven’t voted elsewhere.

Only those registering on the day of voting are required to show two pieces of ID.

To Vella, the system seems absurd and open to abuse. Relying on person’s honesty, just doesn’t cut it for her.

“Look at the money that people have spent. CUPE put $16,000 into one candidate,” said Vella, who outlined her complaint in a long missive to council.

“These people really want to get in. They are spending a lot of money. Who says people aren’t going to spend a lot of money to influence [the election].”

She wants the City of Pitt Meadows to draft a bylaw requiring all voters to show identification before they cast their ballots.

“It does need to be changed and that’s up to mayor and council,” she said.

“It just seems useless. Somebody could be signing up people and spending money to have people go in there. All they would have to do is have a voter’s list.”

The city, however, is sure there are enough safeguards in place to prevent a person from voting twice or pretending to be someone else.

Voters sign a declaration stating they are qualified to vote and haven’t voted elsewhere. Those who break the law could face charges.

“My understanding is she signed it, which would be a false declaration,” said Laurie Darcus, city director of legislative services.

“Whether we pursue it or not, it’s in the RCMP’s hands.”

Once polls have closed, staff check all the voter numbers and if there are duplicates, those names are reported to police.

“We have never found a duplicate,” said Darcus.

“We are relying on people’s honesty. According to the province, it is the right thing to do. You are expecting people to tell the truth.”

Mayor-elect Deb Walters also has no plans of changing what has worked for years.

“I think it’s pretty sad when people attempt to go out of their way to break the law to prove a point,” said Walters.

“We hope that everybody will be honest and follow the law. It hasn’t been a problem in the past, so why would we change it now?”

Ridge Meadows RCMP took a statement from Vella on Saturday and collected her second ballot as evidence.

The file remains under investigation.

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