Avalanche of voters didn’t materialize

Columnist Claudette Sandecki found her many worries about the Coast Mountains School Board Thornhill byelection unsubstantiated

Over the weeks since Coast Mountains School Board called the January 9 Thornhill byelection made necessary because of the death of Gary Turner last October, I had been holding my breath, worrying over how the vote that Saturday might come off.

With democracy at stake and possible slip-ups so wide ranging, I felt compelled to get a head start to fit in all my anxieties.

Right from the start, I fretted. Suppose only one candidate applied. Acclamation is no way to fill a post; even the candidate is cheated of the satisfaction of being chosen.

Alternatively so many candidates might contest the single seat the printed ballot might fold like an accordion; the polling station might not offer ample parking forcing some voters to park on either side of a frontage road as happens during the Skeena Valley Fall Fair.

Or what if a blizzard blew in and clogged roads? What if a scrutineer broke a knitting needle?

Regular school trustee elections for the seven school board seats are normally held each November. Now the term is four years. Even those seven seats are sometimes filled by acclamation.

But a mid-winter byelection! In January! The competition for a lone seat could be unpredictable, to say the least.

Not satisfied conjuring possible voting snafus, I searched afield. Are poll staff medically screened before they are hired, especially for narcolepsy? Can their heart and blood pressure be expected to withstand the excitement, the unrelenting pressure of voters as impatient to stuff their ballot into the box as Black Friday customers to wedge a 58 inch flat screen TV into their SUV? Recalling a time I served as scrutineer in an unheated school gym, do they own a thermos and ski duds to keep them warm for 12 hours?”

The morning of the vote I woke early with a knot in my stomach, as if I had preprogrammed it along with the coffeemaker the night before.

I scanned the horizon for weather signs, and was relieved no snow had fallen overnight necessitating shovelling to drive out of my driveway. The street was as clear as before.

Fortified by a breakfast of oatmeal, blueberries, and two cups of coffee, I drove off at 10:15 aiming to arrive following the tsunami of early voters, but before the noontime rush, mindful when I voted near lunchtime in the advance poll for the October federal election a polling station attendant had to herd us into straggly alphabetical lines, each line extending well back into the tiny room. Suppose the queues of waiting voters this time turned out to be equally long and cramped?

Driving into the polling station parking lot, I was relieved to count only 15 vehicles all precisely parked between white lines to squeeze in a maximum number of motorists. Four cars no doubt belonged to the election workers.

I crossed the deserted lot and entered the former junior high school where a small cardboard sign declared ‘Polling Place’.

Inside, in a warm room almost the size of YVR Arrivals lined by student lockers, all was quiet. Four ladies sat expectantly behind two tables, welcoming my intrusion. One lady was crocheting a purple toque. Another was knitting a toque of the softest pastel wool on a round needle.

The same crew had manned the advance poll held at the school board office when eight voters cast their ballot in the 12 hour period.

My signature was fourth on the sign-in register.

Some 1,000 electors were eligible to cast a ballot. Only 73 did. The winner received 33 votes, the runner up 27, and the third candidate 13.

Average of three votes per hour polls were open.