Saturday, September 28, 2019 ~ SOOKE [updated 10 pm September 28 | further updated October 3, 2019]
~ West Shore Voice News
The newest District of Sooke Councillor is Dana Lajeunesse. In the by-election that closed tonight at 8 pm, he won with 286 votes — just squeaking past two-term councillor Kevin Pearson who had 283 votes. Nearly tying for third place (also with a three-point spread) were Britt Santowski with 265 votes and Jeff Stewart with 262.
Officially still called the ‘preliminary results’, the total ballot count of 1,447 (including both the 370 votes from two advance voting days plus today’s 12-hour general voting day) showed votes for all candidates, even two who had unofficially pulled out of the race (58 voters still cast their ballot for Jeff McArthur and two ballots were counted for Ken Robar).
A tally of 1,447 votes represents 14% of 10,300 eligible voters. According to Chief Election Officer Carolyn Mushata, that is higher than a usual count of 10% turnout for by-elections.
It remains to be confirmed whether a recount is in order or even required given such a small difference of three votes between the first-place and second-place standings of Lajeunesse and Pearson.
Mushata says the official results will be announced at 10 am on Monday September 30 at the Sooke municipal hall.
Results as released to media around 8:25 pm this evening: Dana Lajeunesse – 286; Kevin Pearson – 283; Britt Santowski – 265; Jeff Stewart – 262; Christina Schlattner – 160; Herb Haldane – 82; Jeff McArthur – 58; Lorraine Pawlivsky-Love – 36; Mick Rhodes – 13; and Ken Robar – 2.
Lajeunesse ran a robust campaign with ample large signage and had the backing of ‘old Sooke’ families who’ve been in the region for decades. Pearson came equally close with the backing of the fishing community and his long-time followers of his work on council between 2011 and 2018.
Santowski is currently president of the Sooke Chamber of Commerce and may have relied on the business community vote. Stewart brought out his strongest vote likely from the local old-time community (he sat on the inaugural council of 1999).
The sheer number of candidates produced a great deal of vote-splitting.
Votes cast for Haldane and McArthur might have gone to Pearson. Schlattner’s vote (backed by the transition/Green sector) might have otherwise gone in part to Santowski.
The candidate that proactively put forward the arts-community appeal in her vote was Pawlivsky-Love, with the spin to continue in part the goals of the late Councillor Brenda Parkinson and her initiatives for the arts.
The current Sooke council under Mayor Maja Tait generally leans left and progressive. It remains to be seen where Lajeunesse will fit within the spectrum of things in the 2018-2022 council. Compared to if Pearson had won, this brings yet another brand-new-to-politics councillor to the Sooke table.
Tait is now president of the Union of BC Municipalities for 12 months, and her time and attention will to some degree be diverted to provincial-level matters. It might have been better for Sooke to have an experienced councillor fill the seat that was left vacant after the passing of Parkinson in June of this year.
Generally speaking, Sooke council is one that deliberates at length over a wide range of matters, each councillor airing their concerns and differences during council meetings. Many issues or applications have over the years met with considerable delay due the lack of consensus in the Sooke Council culture, regardless of who was mayor.
As a footnote to the election process, there were 15 personnel on hand to operate the voting place today for 12 hours. Each was handed their paycheque even before the votes were announced. The only media in the room was West Shore Voice News; we announced the results on Twitter immediately (apologies for the later posting of this article / production delays).
At the peak of voting there had been eight voting booths set up in the gym at EMCS, which was whittled down to four booths by 7:30 pm, and two booths by 7:45 pm. The last voter came in around 7:48 pm. There were two electronic scanners for ballot counting.
Unlike in previous years where results were called out aloud by the Chief Returning Officer, for this by-election results were simply projected onto the wall using a projector. Thanks to social media, those results were out all over the Internet within minutes.
Also unlike previous years and elections, there was only one public person in the room during the counting and announcement, and that was the rep from this media service West Shore Voice News. Perhaps people relied on election station workers to be Tweeting out the results.
======== As posted before 8 pm:
The general voting day of the District of Sooke by-election has been today, Saturday September 28, 2019 (voting open 8 am to 8 pm at EMCS, 6218 Sooke Road). That’s to fill one (1) seat on Council left vacant since June 28, 2019.
The name of the candidate with the highest number of votes will win the seat. [Overall vote tally to come later this evening]
An advance vote tally of 370 (out of about 10,300 eligible voters) showed a voting rate of about 3.6% before today’s vote.
Advance voting (September 18 and September 25 upstairs at Sooke municipal hall) had about five or six voting stations open. In the larger gymnasium at the high school on September 28, there are more stations set up.
The District of Sooke (as would all municipalities) uses the BC Voters List, as produced by Elections BC. However, in a news release from the District of Sooke on October 3, 2019 the Chief Election Officer says that the Municipal Act allows for Voter Registration on election day, and that lists between advance voting and general voting day lists are not done.
As of the start of voting today, eight candidates were still actively running for the one open seat on District of Sooke council (listed alphabetically): Herb Haldane, Dana Lajeunesse, Lorraine Pawlivsky-Love, Kevin Pearson, Mick Rhodes, Britt Santowski, Christina Schlattner, and Jeff Stewart.
The Chief Election Officer Carolyn Mushata said on September 18 that the ballot would still have 10 names (all candidates who filed nomination papers by the deadline). That includes the names of two candidates — Jeff McArthur and Ken Robar — who said midway into the voting period that they were either ‘not actively campaigning’ or had withdrawn. But according to Mushata, neither had formally withdrawn.
The official results of tonight’s final count will be released on the District of Sooke website on Monday September 30, 2019.
The District of Sooke’s next Regular Council Meeting will be on Monday evening September 30 at 7 pm.