The 2020 BC election has already set records when it comes to mail-in ballots in an unprecedented year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although British Columbians will be heading to the polls on Saturday, Oct. 24, there is a strong possibility the final results will not be determined until two weeks later due to the volume of mail-in packages.
Elections BC says that an estimated 478,900 vote-by-mail packages have already been received as of Friday morning and, at this point, officials are anticipating that number to surpass the 500,000 mark, at least.
With 480,000 vote by mail ballots cast so far in BC's provincial election, @ElectionsBC Chief Electoral Officer Anton Boegman says this is a 7,200% increase over the 2017 election. Doesn't include ballots still in the mail, or those to be dropped off Election Day. #bcpoli
— Mary Griffin (@Mary_Griffin_) October 23, 2020
According to Chief Electoral Officer Anton Boegman, this marks a 7,200% increase over the 2017 election, when only 6,500 mail-in ballots were cast.
Boegman said Friday morning that 681,055 voters cast their ballot in the advance polls this past week and, combining that with the received mail-in ballots, more than one million British Columbians have already voted.
How will counting work?
On Oct. 24, Elections BC will tabulate the initial count, which is the preliminary count of ballots on election night. This count will include ballots from advance and general voting.
It does not include mail-in ballots; these are counted at the final count. Initial count happens as soon as possible after the close of voting at 8 p.m. (Pacific time) on Election Day.
Counting all of the mail-in ballots will take time, officials say, and these types of votes cannot be counted until the final count period begins, which is 13 days after the election.
Due to the large volume of mail-in ballots, Boegman said that this timeline may be extended beyond the 13-day mark.
Prior to the final count, all mail-in ballots must be screened to ensure election integrity as officials check for voter eligibility and ensure that British Columbians only voted once.
“As soon as we can say with confidence of when the final count will begin, the public will be informed,” Boegman told the media on Friday.
Boegman added that Elections BC has never processed this volume of mail-in ballots before, but have prepared for it by establishing dedicated counting teams in every electoral district throughout the province.
When can results be expected?
The 13-day mark from Saturday’s election lands on Nov. 6. Depending on the screening process, Boegman says the start of the final counting period may be staggered depending on the circumstances.
Elections BC says that is increasing its counting resources in an effort to get results out as soon as possible and the agency will try and keep British Columbians as up-to-date as possible during the process.
Officials with Elections BC say they hope to deliver the final results of Saturday’s election by Nov. 16
Results will be available on Elections BC’s website, with an updated count expected at the end of every day.
Elections BC says the time to get final results may vary by each electoral district depending on the discrepancy of votes between candidates.
Officials add that after the final count there will be a six-day period where judicial recounts can be requested.