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BC Election 2020

What You Need to Know about Voting in BC’s Pandemic Election

Voting by mail? Request your package now. Voting in person? Free masks! And many more questions answered.

Christopher Cheung 30 Sep 2020 | TheTyee.ca

Christopher Cheung writes about the sociology of the city for The Tyee. Follow him on Twitter at @bychrischeung or email him.

Worried about voting in a pandemic? B.C.’s chief electoral officer says it’ll be the same as “getting a takeout coffee or picking up milk and eggs.”

You can expect voting places to look the same as grocery stores these days, with plexiglass barriers, marked floors and hand sanitizer. You won’t even need to share a pencil. And if you forget your mask, they’ll have one for you.

If you prefer to avoid in-person voting entirely, you can join the 454,000 (and counting) British Columbians who have already requested a vote-by-mail package.

You might be jarred by the suddenness of the snap election, with only about a month of lead time, but Elections BC already had plans in place.

The organization had been in stand-by mode for an election since 2017, due to a minority government being in power. In April, not long after COVID-19 hit, the organization began planning the logistics of a pandemic election with the help of the provincial health officer’s team.

“Essentially, our role is to be ready to administer an election when called upon to do so,” said spokesperson Andrew Walsh.

So when Premier John Horgan announced that Oct. 24 would be voting day, the organization leaped into action.

And so should you. General voting day is less than a month away, and if you choose to vote in person earlier or by mail, that’s even less time to prep.

Here’s everything you need to know.

Can I vote?

If you are a Canadian citizen, 18 or older as of the Oct. 24 voting day, and a resident of B.C. for the past six months, then you can vote.

I’m thinking about voting by mail. When should I request my vote-by-mail package?

Now would be good. Completed vote-by-mail packages must be returned by Oct. 24 at 8 p.m. or they won’t be counted.

How do I request my package?

You can do so by phone by calling Elections BC at 1-800-661-8683.

You can do so online by visiting this page on Elections BC’s website.

You can also do so in person at your nearest district electoral office. You can find a location here.

Since candidate nominations haven’t closed yet, what can I expect on my ballot?

If you request your package now, you will receive a write-in ballot with a space for you to write the name of the candidate (or their party) that you wish to vote for. Please do not write the name of the party leader, unless they are in your riding. This is a common mistake, said Walsh.

If you request a package after candidate nominations close on Oct. 2, you will receive a ballot with all the candidates listed.

After I’ve completed the package, how do I return it to Elections BC?

You can drop it off in the mail. If you’re in Canada, postage is covered. Elections BC recommends you do so by Oct. 17 at the latest to ensure that your ballot is received by voting day and counted.

You can also drop off your package at a district electoral office or at certain Service BC locations (please check this list.)

If I vote in person, what kind of COVID-19 precautions can I expect?

Voting places were chosen with good heating, ventilation and air conditioning in mind. There will be physical distancing measures in place and capacity limits.

If the limit is maxed, you’ll have to wait outside and line up with the two-metre distance from others in mind, just like “visiting a retail store at times,” said Walsh. No one with symptoms of COVID-19 will be allowed to enter.

All elections officials will be wearing personal protective equipment. Voting stations will be frequently cleaned and have protective barriers. There will also be hand sanitizer pump bottles at voting stations. Washrooms will not be available for voters to use.

What’s the protocol around masks?

Voters are encouraged to wear a mask, but they are not mandatory. Disposable masks will be available at voting places should you like one.

Should I be worried about items that might change hands, like ID, the sign-in voting book and voting pencils?

Don’t sweat it — you can hang on to your ID while showing it and also make a verbal declaration of your eligibility to vote instead of signing. Voting pencils are single-use and will be collected in a bag as you leave. If you prefer to bring your own pen or pencil, you may.

What ID do I need to bring to vote?

You can show one piece of the following: a B.C. driver’s licence, a B.C. identification card, a B.C. services card (with photo), another card issued by the Government of B.C. or Canada that shows your name, photo and address or a Certificate of Indian Status.

You can also show two pieces of ID or documents that both show your name. At least one must have your current address. You can view the full list here.

Don’t have ID? You can have your identity vouched for you by someone with identification. You can view the details here.

When can I vote in person?

Advance voting runs Oct. 15 to Oct. 21, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Though note that not all advance voting places are open every day. You can check their hours here.

General voting day is Oct. 24, with voting places open between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

What protections are in place to make sure election workers are safe?

All workers must make an oral declaration of health to their supervisor each day. They will also be required to bring their own containers and utensils for drinking and eating. They will be sanitizing their hands throughout the day. If you wish to read the safe voting protocols in detail, the document is here.

When will mail-in ballots be counted, and how will that affect when we know the results?

Under the Election Act, mail-in ballots can only be counted 13 days after voting day. During this time, they go through a vetting process to make sure multiple voting did not occur. Ballots are checked in the riding where voters live.

Mail-in ballots are usually 10 per cent of the total vote, but the number of vote-by-mail packages sent out this election so far is already double that of 2017. Because of the volume, vetting could take longer than the 13 days, said Walsh. The actual count usually takes two to three days but could also take longer this time around.

The chief electoral officer has said that a delay of the final results is possible.

I’m still worried!

“Reach out to us!” said Walsh. Elections BC will walk you through the voting options. Click here to connect.  [Tyee]

Read more: BC Election 2020

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