Since Premier John Horgan called a snap provincial election to be held Oct. 24, questions have been raised about the safety of voting in person during a global pandemic.
But everyone from Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, to Election BC CEO Anton Boegman, to an experienced White Rock voting station worker agree that it can, and will, be done safely.
In a press conference Tuesday morning (Sept. 22), the day after Horgan called the snap election, Boegman said his agency has been working with Henry’s office for the past number of months in preparation for a possible election.
Boegman noted that more than 50 elections have taken place this year worldwide, and Elections BC has taken a number of steps to not only increase safety, but increase the number of voting opportunities.
He said people who decide to vote in person can expect physical distancing measures, hand sanitizing stations, capacity limits, protective barriers for election officials, and officials wearing personal protective equipment.
The process will be streamlined, he added, to reduce the amount of time a person needs to wait to cast their ballot.
“Casting your vote will be like getting a take out coffee, or picking up milk and eggs from the grocery store in terms of safety protocols and time spent,” Boegman said.
White Rock resident Pat Petrala has worked nearly every provincial and federal election in the past 20 years.
She said she has confidence in both Henry and Elections BC to facilitate a safe voting experience.
“And much like at the grocery store, the pharmacy, we’re behind plastic shields and we have our mask on and we wear gloves to handle documents,” Petrala said. “It makes logical sense, witnessing what happened in the Maritimes for their vote. We saw how they worked. It doesn’t threaten me at all. I don’t feel insecure and I’m 70 years old.”
Voting by mail is expected to take a major jump compared to previous elections.
Boegman said more than 20,000 people requested to vote by mail just one day after the writ was dropped. As of Sept. 28 that number had reached 400,000 (see related story below).
According to Elections BC, the agency can process up to 200,000 mail-in ballots in time for the final count, which is legislated to begin no less than 13 days after Election Day.
However, this year Elections BC believes that up to 35 per cent of voters, or around 800,000 people, could opt to mail in their ballot.
– files from Katya Slepian