Here's how voting will work in BC during the coronavirus pandemic

Sep 21 2020, 10:28 pm

It’s official: British Columbians are heading to the polls on Saturday, October 24.

The announcement was made Monday morning by BC Premier John Horgan in his home riding of Langford.

And while Horgan discussed what an election campaign might look like during a global pandemic, Elections BC has also laid out what voters can expect once the time comes to cast their decision.

“Our main focus is ensuring a safe and accessible voting process during the pandemic,” said Chief Electoral Officer Anton Boegman. “We have been working with Dr. Bonnie Henry’s office to develop our safe voting plans and make sure that voters don’t have to choose between safeguarding their health and exercising their right to vote. All voters have the option of voting in person with protective measures in place, or voting by mail.”

Here’s what voters can expect in the lead up to – and including – election day.

Voting safely during COVID-19

Elections BC is implementing a number of measures to help voters cast their ballot safely in person. Pandemic voting protocols have been developed in consultation with the Office of the provincial health officer. Safe voting practices for voting places are available online and will include:

  • Physical distancing
  • Capacity limits
  • Election officials wearing personal protective equipment (such as masks and face-visors)
  • Protective barriers
  • Hand-sanitizing stations
  • Frequent cleaning of voting stations and frequently touched surfaces

“We encourage voters to wear a mask when they vote to help protect others. Voters will not be asked to remove their mask to vote. Voters will be asked to sanitize their hands before and after voting,” said Elections BC.

To prevent close contact, some familiar voting procedures may be different. For example, voters will make a verbal declaration of their eligibility to vote instead of signing a voting book. Voters also can bring their own pen or pencil to mark their ballot.

Voting in person

Voting in person will be available during the advance voting period from Thursday, October 15 to Wednesday, October 21, and on Election Day, Saturday, October 24.

Advance voting places will be open from 8 am to 8 pm local time. There will be seven days of advance voting, up from six in 2017. The additional advance voting day has been added to give voters more options and help reduce numbers in voting places. The advance voting period includes two weekend days, Saturday, October 17, and Sunday, October 18.

Voting places will be open on Election Day, Saturday, October 24, from 8 am to 8 pm PT.

Voting places and the dates they are open are being confirmed and will be available on Elections BC’s website as soon as possible. They will also be listed on Where to Vote cards sent to every registered voter in the province before the start of the advance voting period.

Voters should stay home if they are feeling sick or self-isolating and request a vote-by-mail package instead.

Voting by mail

Voters don’t need a special reason to vote by mail. It’s an option for all eligible voters, and it’s a good option for voters who are not comfortable voting in person because of the pandemic.

To vote by mail, voters need to request a voting package. Voting packages can be requested now on the Elections BC website or by phone at 1-800-661-8683. The vote-by-mail package will be mailed to the voter with instructions on how to complete it and return it to Elections BC.

Voter registration

Voters can register or update their information online or by calling 1-800-661-8683. Voter registration by phone closes at 8 pm PT on Saturday, September 26. Voter registration online closes at 11:59:59 pm PT on Saturday, September 26.

Eligible voters can still register or update their voter registration when they vote, but it will make the voting process longer for them. Elections BC encourages voters to make sure their information is up to date now so they can vote faster, help reduce lineups at voting places and support physical distancing.

District electoral offices

District electoral offices will be open in every electoral district across the province as soon as possible. Locations and contact information will be listed on the Elections BC website when available.

For more information about the provincial election, visit Elections BC online, follow Elections BC on social media, or call 1-800-661-8683.

Eric ZimmerEric Zimmer

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