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

A total of 6,967 vote-by-mail packages were issued in Delta North during the 2020 provincial election, representing just over 18 per cent of the 37,998 registered voters in the riding. As of Thursday, Oct. 29, 3,825 certification envelopes have been received by officials in the riding ahead of the final count on Nov. 6. (Liam Harrap photo)
Over 3,800 mail-in, absentee ballots received in Delta North to date

6,967 vote-by-mail packages issued in the riding, representing over 18 per cent registered voters

Kristjon Olson in a photo released by Surrey RCMP.
High-risk offender back in custody facing child-porn charges, Surrey Mounties say

News of Kristjon Otto Olson’s arrest is posted to Surrey RCMP’s website

Strawberry Hill Hall is being renovated and moved to another location on its existing corner lot in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zillich)
Surrey’s historic Strawberry Hill Hall being moved a few metres in $1.2M reno project

Childcare spaces coming to corner lot where hall has stood for 111 years

Patricia Celan, named Miss Charity seven years ago while a teen living in South Surrey, is now in postgraduate psychiatry training and was recently named Mrs. Canada International 2021. (Contributed photos)
Domestic-violence awareness a focus for former White Rock woman named Mrs. Canada International

Patricia Celan, in postgraduate psychiatry training, earned her first crown in 2013

Sooke’s Paul Larouche enjoys gold panning along the Sooke River, looking for small treasures. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
VIDEO: Island man finds niche audience by gold-panning on YouTube

Paul Larouche, 29, with over 215,000 subscribers, opens up about his journey

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday October 28, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Conversion therapy ban gets approval in principle, exposes Conservative divisions

Erin O’Toole himself voted in favour of the bill, as did most Conservative MPs

CBSA. (Black Press Media File)
4 sentenced in B.C. steroid smuggling, distribution ring that spilled into U.S.

Canadian Border Services Agency announced the results of a lengthy investigation it called ‘Project Trajectory’

Search and Rescue Technicians carry a stretcher to the CH149 Cormorant during a 442 Squadron Search and Rescue Exercise in Tofino on February 28. (Photo by: Cpl Joey Beaudin, 19 Wing Imaging, Comox)
Father and son found dead after weeklong search near Pemberton

The father and son had set out for a day of mushroom picking last Thursday

A full moon rises over Mt. Cheam on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)
Rare full moon, Daylight Saving makes for a uniquely spooky Halloween – despite COVID-19

We can’t host costume parties but this weekend is still one for the history books

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A woman wears a face mask and plastic gloves while browsing books as a sticker on the floor indicates a one-way direction of travel between shelves of books at the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch, after it and four other branches reopened with limited services, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
B.C. reports 234 new COVID cases, 1 death of senior who had attended small birthday party

Roughly 5,700 people are isolating due to being exposed to a confirmed case

Photo courtesy of Correctional Service of Canada.
Prisoner convicted of first-degree murder escapes Mission Institution

When 10 p.m. count was conducted, staff discovered Roderick Muchikekwanape had disappeared

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks Thursday (Oct. 29) during a news conference held at Fraser Health office, in video posted to Facebook. (Photo: Government of British Columbai/Facebook)
COVID-19 ‘disproportionately’ affecting Fraser Health: Henry

Health region has about 75 per cent of B.C.’s active cases

Most Read