BC FORUM News - From The Advocate, Special Edition 2020
Explore the options for voting
Elections BC, the impartial body that oversees provincial elections, has for months been studying ways to safely conduct elections during a pandemic.
“Recognizing that the pandemic would likely be a factor whenever the next election was held, planning for a pandemic election began in early April,” says a statement from Elections BC.
“At that time, Elections BC reached out to the Office of the Provincial Health Officer and other Canadian election agencies to consult on the development of safe voting plans. “New Brunswick held a provincial election during the pandemic on September 14, 2020. Saskatchewan has a provincial election scheduled for October 26, 2020,” it said.
“Our main focus is ensuring a safe and accessible voting process,” says 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,” he says.
Voters should stay home if they are feeling sick or self-isolating, and instead request a vote-by-mail package.
Voting by mail
Elections BC is anticipating a significant increase in voting by mail, which is an option available to all voters.
In past elections, about 1 percent of votes were cast by mail.
Surveys conducted by Elections BC in May and August suggest this may grow to as much as 35 percent this year.
The voting packages required to vote by mail can be requested now.
To do so, visit the Elections BC website at elections.bc.ca/ovr, or telephone 1-800-661-8683.
The agency notes that there are proven processes in place to administer voting by mail, tested in several recent provincial elections and referenda.
Strict procedures are in place to ensure the integrity of the process.
Voting in person
To prevent close contact, some familiar voting procedures will be different. For example, voters will make a verbal declaration of their eligibility to vote instead of signing a book. You can also bring your own pen or pencil to mark your ballot. Advance voting opportunities have been expanded to seven days to provide more options and help reduce numbers in voting places.
Advance voting places will be open from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm Pacific time starting Thursday, Oct. 15 and ending on Wednesday, Oct. 21.
Voting places will be open during the same times on election day, Saturday, Oct. 24, from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm Pacific time.
Safe voting practices are detailed at elections.bc.ca/safevoting. The measures include physical distancing, capacity limits, election officials wearing personal protective equipment, protective barriers, hand sanitizing stations, and frequent cleaning of voting stations and frequently touched surfaces – most of which we’re all familiar with from grocery shopping.
In addition, voters are encouraged to wear masks to protect others.