British Columbia’s provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Friday July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Here’s how voting amid a pandemic will happen in B.C.

Elections BC has worked with the provincial health office to determine safety protocols for voting

As British Columbians look to head to the polls in roughly one month’s time, Elections BC has released details on how the province’s 42nd election will take place amid the ongoing pandemic.

“Our main focus is ensuring a safe and accessible voting process during the pandemic,” said Chief Electoral Officer Anton Boegman in a statement on Monday (Sept. 21).

“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.”

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Pandemic voting protocols will include physical distancing, capacity limits at polling stations, protective barriers and frequent cleaning of voting stations.

Election officials will also be given personal protective equipment, including masks and face visors.

To prevent close contact, some familiar voting procedures may also be different than years’ past, Elections BC said.

“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 Oct. 15 to 21, and on Election Day on Oct. 24. That means there will be seven days of advance voting, compared to six in the last provincial election.

Polling station locations will soon be listed on Election BC’s website, as well as on Where to Vote cards sent to every registered voter in the province before the start of the advance voting period.

Voters are being urged to stay home and request a vote-by-mail package if they are feeling sick or under self-isolation restrictions.

British Columbians can vote in person at any district electoral office from when they open until 4 p.m. on Oct. 24, on election day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Voters can also cast their ballot during advance voting from Oct. 15. to Oct. 21, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day.

Voting by mail

All eligible voters are allowed to vote using a mail-in ballot.

To vote by mail, British Columbians must request a voting package at elections.bc.ca/ovr 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. Completed voting packages must be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day, Oct. 24.

Voting for those at-risk during pandemic

Voting by mail is one option for those at risk, but Elections BC will also provide additional services. Assisted telephone voting is one option, and there will be services for voters in care facilities and hospitals, as well as outreach to First Nations communities, student groups and through agencies that provide services to homeless people.

Voter registration

While eligible voters don’t have to register ahead of time to take part in the election, Elections BC recommends British Columbians sign up ahead of time in order to avoid lengthy lineups.

Voters can register or update their information online at elections.bc.ca/ovr or by calling 1-800-661-8683. Registration closed on Sept. 26.

To be eligible, British Columbians must be able to show one of the following pieces of identification:

  • A B.C. driver’s licence
  • A B.C. Identification Card
  • A B.C. Services Card, with photo
  • A Certificate of Indian Status
  • Another card issued by the B.C. government, or Canada, that shows your name, photo and address

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ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

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