In this photo illustration, a provincial election mail-in ballot sealed in an Elections B.C. return envelope is seen before being deposited in a Canada Post mailbox, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. The final result of British Columbia’s provincial election won’t be known for at least two weeks because more than 700-thousand mail-in ballots have to be counted by hand. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

In this photo illustration, a provincial election mail-in ballot sealed in an Elections B.C. return envelope is seen before being deposited in a Canada Post mailbox, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. The final result of British Columbia’s provincial election won’t be known for at least two weeks because more than 700-thousand mail-in ballots have to be counted by hand. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

B.C.’s snap election means 700k ballots will be counted manually, delaying results

Elections BC spokesman said employees in 87 electoral districts will count mail-in ballots one by one

British Columbia residents won’t learn the results of next Saturday’s snap election for at least two weeks after polls close thanks to the need to count hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots by hand.

Officials with Elections BC said more than 700,000 votes have been cast by mail-in ballot, which must be tabulated manually due the timing of the Oct. 24 election. The results that would generally be available hours after the polls close, they added, will be postponed for weeks while the votes are counted.

The setup may have been different had the election taken place a year from now as scheduled, but NDP Leader John Horgan announced the surprise campaign, citing the need for political stability during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Legislative changes recommended by the province’s chief electoral officer and passed in 2019 are expected to kick in next year, allowing a large number of ballots to be processed quickly and centrally by “tabulators,” which have been used in provincial referendums.

Instead, Elections BC spokesman Andrew Watson said employees in 87 electoral districts will count mail-in ballots one by one. Current legislation means the counting can’t start until 13 days after the election, he added.

“Those time periods could take longer, given the really unprecedented and historic volume of mail-in ballots,” Watson said.

Extra time is needed to ensure ballots mailed to Elections BC from anywhere in the province can be shipped for counting to district offices where voters live, he said.

Each ballot must be screened to ensure the person was registered and eligible to vote and has not voted more than once. Two more days will be needed to count the ballots, Watson said.

He said the province with 3.4 million registered voters has received more than 700,000 requests for mail-in ballots as of early this weekend, compared to roughly 6,500 such requests during the 2017 campaign.

Next year’s legislative changes will also include a modernized network that would record ballots cast at polling stations in real time. Names will no longer be crossed off a paper list, and the information will be immediately accessible to Elections BC, Watson said.

“It would have been in place for 2021, but not now,” he said. “That will be a focus for us after the election.”

READ MORE: B.C. Liberals pledge $750M to build or buy more social housing

Watson said the system being adopted in B.C., is already available to some degree in at least two provinces, including Ontario and New Brunswick.

“Ballots would be fed into the tabulators throughout the day and then at the end of the night it would just be a matter of calculating the results and reporting them to the head office based on what the tabulated report reads,” he said, adding the same technology would be used for absentee and mail-in ballots.

As for British Columbia’s election on Saturday, Watson said Elections BC will hire more staff to count mail-in ballots in districts where a high number of residents requested them.

In Saskatchewan, where election day is Oct. 26, nearly 63,000 vote-by mail applications were received as of last Thursday, Elections Saskatchewan said of the province with 817,000 registered voters.

The ballots will be counted at the election administrator’s office in Regina rather than the province’s 61 returning districts, starting two days after the election. But the final result of the vote will not be known until Nov. 7.

READ MORE: Horgan on delayed tourism, small business aid: ‘It’s happening now, dude’

There were no such snags when New Brunswick residents went to the polls last month.

Paul Harpell, a spokesman for Elections New Brunswick, said about 13,000 residents among 547,000 registered voters had asked for mail-in ballots for the Sept. 14 election in the province where 100 people typically vote by mail.

Harpell said tabulators processed the ballots the day before the election, and more ballots, including those brought in by voters by 8 p.m. on election day, were handled by the machines by 11 p.m. that evening, a couple of hours after the Progressive Conservatives were re-elected.

But he described the situation as less than ideal, noting the ballots were processed in 49 returning districts with the help of harried staff handling an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots.

“I still think we want to centralize it because we know that the returning districts weren’t built to handle that degree of mail,” Harpell said, adding that will be especially important if the pandemic-related push to cast ballots by mail will prompt more people to vote the same way in future elections.

“I wish B.C. good luck because that’s a phenomenal amount of mail, 700,000 ballots. That’s insane.”

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

BC politicsBC Votes 2020

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

test tube with the blood test is on the table next to the documents. Positive test for coronavirus covid-19. The concept of fighting a dangerous Chinese disease.
Interior Health records third COVID-19 death

A new community outbreak was reported at Okanagan Men’s Centre in Lake Country

NAV CANDA is considering closing its station at the West Kootenay Regional Airport. Photo: Betsy Kline
Nav Canada considering closing station at West Kootenay Regional Airport

The organization is conducting a service review at Castlegar’s airport

There has been COVID-19 exposures at two elementary schools in District 42. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 24 additional COVID-19 cases

This includes three school exposures in Kelowna

Above, MLA-elect Doug Clovechok cast his vote early. He says he’s ready to get back to work for his constituents. Photo submitted
MLA Clovechok re-elected; ready to get back to work on Golden priorities

Clovechok says he’s ready to get back to work on issues like lower canyon access and water bottling.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps by 287, another senior home outbreak

Two more deaths recorded, community outbreak in Okanagan

An untitled Emily Carr painting of Finlayson Point was donated to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria by brothers Ian and Andrew Burchett. The painting had been in their family for several decades. (Courtesy of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria)
Never before seen painting by famed B.C. artist Emily Carr gifted to Victoria gallery

Painting among several donated to Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

The B.C. Centre for Disease control is telling people to keep an eye out for the poisonous death cap mushroom, which thrives in fall weather conditions. (Paul Kroeger/BCCDC)
Highly poisonous death cap mushroom discovered in Comox

This marks first discovery on Vancouver Island outside Greater Victoria area

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
Rescued bald eagle that came to life in B.C. man’s car had lead poisoning

Bird is on medication and recovering in rehab centre

In May 2019, Brennan Joel Metlewsky and Jordan Robert Kupser were charged with attempted murder, robbery and aggravated assault stemming from an incident that took place in Vernon in 2017. (Facebook photo)
Attempted murder charges dropped for pair accused in Vernon stabbing

Brennan Metlewsky and Jordan Kupser will appear in Supreme Court to set a new trial date

Eric Termuende and the Emily Dahl Foundation are presenting a virtual ‘fireside conversation’ on modern happiness from the stage of the Powerhouse Theatre in Vernon Nov. 3, 2020, at 7 p.m. (YouTube)
Mental health advocate joins happiness chat in North Okanagan

Versed public speaker teams up with Emily Dahl Foundation to equip virtual guests with tools to live a happier life

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A boat moored at Turtle Bay Marina was reported stolen Oct. 1 and remains under investigation. (Contributed)
North Okanagan crimes remain unsolved

Boat stolen from marina, theft of siding and vehicle break and enter

Janet Austin, lieutenant governor of B.C., was presented with the first poppy of the Royal Canadian Legion’s 2020 Poppy Campaign on Wednesday. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
PHOTOS: B.C. Lieutenant Governor receives first poppy to kick off 2020 campaign

Janet Austin ‘honour and a privileged’ to receive the poppy

Most Read