Everything you need to know about voting in B.C.’s upcoming election

News Provincial

It’s snap election time in B.C.

File graphic by Mary Robertson.

It is election time again in B.C. — on Sept. 21, Premier John Horgan announced a snap election. The election date is Oct. 24, roughly a full year before the scheduled election date. 

Do you know how to register? Does mail-in voting confuse you? Are you wondering how the pandemic will affect voting? Not to fear, the Martlet is here to answer all your election-related questions.

Don’t forget to register

In order to be eligible to vote you must be at least 18 years of age, a Canadian citizen, and a B.C. resident for at least six months.

If you have never voted in B.C. before or just turned 18, you will need to register to vote. This can be done on the Elections BC website or by telephone at 1-800-661-8683. The deadline to register in advance is this Saturday, Sept. 26 at midnight.

In order to register, you will be required to provide your name, date of birth, and address as well as one piece of identification. This can include your driver’s licence, B.C. Identification Card, Social Insurance Number, or Personal Health Number. Although you can still register at the polling station on election day or when requesting a mail-in ballot, registering beforehand makes the process easier.

Once registered, you will receive a Where to Vote card in the mail, informing you of where you can vote and the voting process.

Voters can also request a vote-by-mail package from Elections BC online or by phone. Voters who choose this option will be required to provide their name, birthday, and address as well as one piece of identification. Due to the limited time before the election, it is recommended that those choosing to vote by mail request their ballots sooner rather than later.

B.C.’s pandemic election

First things first, we need to address the elephant in the room: because of COVID-19, 2020’s provincial election will be unlike any other. Everyone from voters to election officials will have to grapple with holding an election during a worldwide pandemic. 

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix are working with Elections BC officials to ensure that British Columbians can vote in a safe and secure environment. 

Citizens who would like to vote in person are encouraged to wear a mask and will be asked to sanitize their hands before entering a voting booth. Unlike past years, voters will be asked to verbally state their eligibility instead of signing a voting book. 

Other safety measures will include physical distancing requirements and capacity limits at each polling station. Elections officials will be required to wear masks and face visors and polling booths will be cleaned frequently.

How to vote in B.C.’s election

Despite the pandemic, registered voters have similar voting options as past years.

Most voting will still be done at polling stations across the province. Local polling stations will be on the Elections BC voting app or on their website. Polling station locations are still to be determined and will be released closer to voting day. Voters will be required to bring a piece of identification to the polling station. Bringing your Where to Vote card will make the process faster.

Advance polls are open between Oct. 15 and Oct. 21. People should confirm that their local polling station is open before going to advance voting.

Mail-in ballots will be sent to the address provided unless the voter would like to pick up the ballot in person in which case the ballot will be sent to the nearest electoral office. Vote-by-mail packages are to be returned either in person or by mail to a district electoral office, polling station, or participating Service BC location by 8 p.m. on voting day.

The last way to cast your ballot is by telephone. This method of voting will only be available to those with underlying health issues such as vision loss, COVID-19, or other disabilities. Voters will be assisted by a telephone operator who will make sure that their selection remains secret. Voters can phone 1-800-661-8683 to inquire about their eligibility for telephone voting.

Voting will close at 8 p.m. on Oct. 24. However, due to the sheer number of people choosing to vote by mail, expected to be between 35 and 40 per cent, the results of the election will not be fully released until several weeks after polls close. British Columbians may not know who will make up their next provincial government until late November.