It's a historic outcome: the initial results of the 2017 B.C. election are in, but it's still not clear who will form government.

One of the main reasons? Absentee ballots won't be tallied until at least May 22.

The B.C. Election Act lays out specific timelines for the counting of ballots. While preliminary results are now available, the final count won't happen until between May 22 and 24 — including absentee ballots.

Andrew Watson, communications manager for Elections BC, says the reason for the two-week delay is primarily logistical.

Eligible voters can vote at any voting place in the province, Watson said. But if you vote anywhere other than your designated home voting place, your ballot is treated the same as any other absentee ballot.

"So if you voted in Prince George, for example, but you resided in Victoria, you would have voted for your candidates in your Victoria riding," Watson said.

"Your absentee ballot will actually be sent to your electoral district of residence for counting."

All eyes on Courtenay-Comox

Historically, the delayed counting of absentee ballots has meant only minor changes in final results.

But a tight race on Vancouver Island means that, this time, they could make all the difference. Preliminary results in Courtenay-Comox put the NDP's Ronna-Rae Leonard ahead of the Liberals' Jim Benninger by just nine votes.

Courtenay Comox Ronna-Rae Leonard and Jim Benninger

The contenders for Courtenay-Comox: the NDP's Ronna-Rae Leonard, who leads by just nine votes over B.C. Liberal Jim Benninger. (B.C. NDP and B.C. Liberals)

With the Liberals currently set to take 43 of the 44 seats required for a majority government, a turnaround in Courtenay-Comox would have major consequences.

And given that Courtenay-Comox is home to CFB Comox, where many will be voting by absentee ballot and where Benninger was the former base commander, the results could change significantly between now and May 22.

What is an absentee ballot?

Any ballot not cast at a voter's assigned voting place is considered an absentee ballot.

This includes voting at district electoral offices, advance voting places and voting by mail.

All votes cast in this manner will be tallied between May 22 and 24.

"Between now and then, our district officers will be reviewing all those envelopes, determining where they need to be sent, sending them back to the voter's district of residence and doing all of their reconciliation processes on everything reported already," Watson said.

There were about 159,000 absentee ballots cast in the 2013 election.