A few brightly coloured yellow signs are posted outside Waneta Plaza, marking the destination as Trail’s federal election office.
And though the doors opened as soon as the campaign kicked off, residents may not realize the Additional Assistant Returning Office has been open for business since Aug. 4.
Bonnie Braithwaite is one of the local faces behind the counter. She’s working as an AARO (additional assistant returning officer), a position she’s held for the past three federal elections she’s worked in her 20 years involved.
“I just like the process of making sure that people vote, and that’s why we’re here—we want to give everybody an opportunity,” she said.
The sub-office works toward revising voter information for those living in this end of the South Okanagan-West Kootenay riding, which includes Nakusp down through to Slocan and then from Castlegar to Fruitvale and all the places in between.
The facility is also set up for voting right now with both revisions and special ballots accepted until 6 p.m. Oct. 13. Special ballots can be filled out at the office at the mall but voters who choose this option will have to fill in who their voting for on a blank ballot until candidate nominations close Sept. 28.
“Special ballots has always been an option with Elections Canada,” said Braithwaite. “From the time the office opens, you can come in and vote.”
She’s counted about 20 people so far who’ve taken advantage of the early opportunity, adding that it’s mostly students who are getting ready to leave their hometown for studies or locals who like to travel south during the colder months.
Making a vote count can also be done via mail, during official advance voting days (Oct. 9, 10, 11 and 12) or on election day, Oct. 19.
Trail’s Shawnda Guthrie said she’ll be casting her vote on election day.
“It’s my responsibility as a Canadian citizen to vote,” she explained. “I don’t have the right to comment on the situation our country is in if I don’t take the responsibility and make that vote.”
Her right is more crucial now that she has children and setting an example and having a say for them is always on her mind.
Miguel Legere, a hairdresser at Bogie & Bacall Hair Design in the mall, said she believes it’s important to get involved. She’ll be checking her work schedule to decide whether she’ll head to the polls early.
Voting and revisions is keeping the Trail office hopping, but Braithwaite is also tasked with hiring about 350 employees for the coverage area, training them and getting organized for the big 12-hour shift.
“People like to do it, it’s social and fun,” she said. “And it’s a good learning process for anybody who is interested in politics.”
Employee training days are not set in stone but are planned for Oct. 5 (advance training) and Oct. 7,8,9 and 10 in Trail.
The Trail office is committed to ensuring everybody is given an opportunity to vote, and will do what they can to assist electors with whatever process works best.
“We do allow our people to go out and take a vote if it comes to that,” said Braithwaite. “But all of our facilities are all wheelchair accessible and Elections Canada is very mindful of that.
“We tell most people (with limited mobility or other challenges) to do it ahead of time, phone us and we’ll send you a package and that way you’re not scrambling. The mail is the best way for someone who has limited mobility.”
You must prove your identity and address to register and vote in a federal election. A valid B.C. driver’s license, a BC ID card or any other government card with your photo, name and current address will do. Another option is to present two pieces of ID, with at least one showing a current address, or lastly show two pieces of ID with your name and have someone who knows you attest to your address. The person vouching, must show proof of their identity and address, be registered in the same polling division, and may attest for only one person.
Those travelling during this time are considered a “national elector” and can pick up a kit, ballot included, from an election office. These can be filled out and mailed off to Ottawa ahead of time, or those who prefer the mailing system in this district can choose to pick up a similar kit and mail theirs off to Penticton.
For more information, check out www.elections.ca or contact Braithwaite at 250-368-2020. The office is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday this week but next week will start its extended hours. Looking ahead, it will open its doors 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Friday, Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, noon until 4 p.m.