Voters in Delta North head the polls this Saturday (Oct. 24), but it may take weeks to know who won due to the number of mail-in ballots cast.
Voters had until 8 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 17 to request a mail-in ballot, and Elections BC says 724,277 vote-by-mail packages have been issued across the province. That represents a little less than 21 per cent of B.C.’s 3,485,858 registered voters.
The latest stats released by Elections BC show about 396,900 vote-by-mail packages have been returned to date — roughly 55 per cent of packages issued. (The number of mail-in ballots considered during the final count may be less than that after packages are screened for compliance with the Election Act.)
Added to the 681,055 ballots cast during the seven days of advanced voting that ended yesterday, a total of 1,077,955 people have voted so far this election, just over 30 per cent of the registered voters in the province.
However, officials with Elections BC said the mail-in ballots must be tabulated manually, meaning results that would generally be available hours after the polls close on Oct. 24 will be postponed for weeks while the votes are counted.
Elections BC spokesman Andrew Watson said employees in all 87 electoral districts will count mail-in ballots one by one. He added current legislation means the counting can’t start until 13 days after the election.
“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.
In Delta, that may well mean that there is no clear winner Saturday night after the ballots cast in person that day are counted.
Elections BC reports 15,640 Delta-area residents have been issued mail-in ballots — just under 21 per cent of the 75,037 registered voters in the City of Delta and Tsawwassen First Nation.
In Delta North, 6,967 vote-by-mail packages have been issued. That’s just over 18 per cent of the 37,998 registered voters in the riding.
Three candidates are vying to represent Delta North in the Legislature following the election: Ravi Kahlon (BC NDP), Neema Manral (BC Green Party) and Jet Sunner (BC Liberal Party).
If the margin between first and second place Saturday night is similar to the results of the 2017 election — when Kahlon defeated BC Liberal incumbent Scott Hamilton by 2,149 votes (11,465 to 9,316) or 9.14 per cent of the popular vote — it would mean a delay of at least two weeks before voters know for sure who won.
In total, 23,604 voters in Delta North cast a ballot in 2017 — about 65 per cent of registered voters at the time. The only other candidate in the riding, BC Green Jacquie Miller, received 2,697 votes.
Meanwhile, in Delta South, 8,673 vote-by-mail packages have been issued — a bit over 23 per cent of the 37,039 registered voters in the riding.
Three candidates are vying to represent Delta South in the Legislature following the election: Ian Paton (BC Liberal Party), Bruce Reid (BC NDP) and Peter van der Velden (BC Green Party).
In 2017, Paton won handily over independent candidate Nicholas Wong — 11,123 votes to 6,437. However, Reid also pulled in 5,228 votes, while Green Larry Colero received 2,349 votes and BC Action Party candidate Errol Edmund Sherley received 88.
Where those votes that went to Wong in 2017 go this election could mean a much closer race and, potentially, no clear winner on election night.
In total, 25,263 voters in Delta South cast a ballot in 2017 — just under 72 per cent of registered voters at the time.
Vote-by-mail packages must be received by Elections BC before 8 p.m. on Oct. 24. For voters who haven’t sent their mail-in ballot yet, Elections BC recommends no longer mailing it but dropping it off at a district electoral office or at a Service BC location, some of which have a 24/7 dropbox.
To find a district electoral office or Service BC location/dropbox near you, visit elections.bc.ca/docs/district-electoral-offices.pdf or elections.bc.ca/docs/service-bc-locations.pdf, respectively. Mail-in ballots can also be dropped off at a polling station or a district electoral office on Election Day until 8 p.m.
General voting happens on Saturday, Oct. 24 from 8 a.m to 8 p.m. Visit elections.bc.ca/voting/where-to-vote for up-to-date information about where and how to cast your ballot.
— with files from Lauren Collins and Katya Slepian, Black Press Media, and Camille Bains, The Canadian Press