British Columbia

Elections BC aiming for Nov. 16 to return final results

Officials with Elections BC say they hope to deliver the final results of Saturday's election by Nov. 16, but the date is not set in stone since it's unclear how much extra time it will take to count mail-in ballots.

Vote-by-mail packages cannot be counted for at least 13 days after election

A BC Election polling station is pictured in Vancouver on Oct. 15, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Officials with Elections BC say they hope to deliver the final results of Saturday's election by Nov. 16, but the date is not set in stone since it's unclear how much extra time it will take to count mail-in ballots.

The NDP and leader John Horgan were projected to form a decisive majority government in British Columbia for the first time in more than 20 years after preliminary results were tallied on Saturday, with a projected 55 seats, but nearly 500,000 mail-in ballots are yet to be counted. 

Vote-by-mail packages are collected centrally and cannot be counted for at least 13 days after the election, allowing time for the ballots to be sent back to voters' ridings for sorting and screening.

Chief electoral officer Anton Boegman said Friday that 13-day period may be extended depending on how quickly electoral staff are able to handle the significant increase in vote-by-mail packages this year.

Nine ridings were still too close to call without the mail-in count as of midnight Saturday.

Boegman added that Elections BC will hire extra staff at district offices across the province after bringing about 25,000 people on board when voters headed to the polls in 2017.

He said he hopes the final count will start on schedule on Nov. 6 and last three or more days, followed by a six-day window within which judicial recounts could be requested under certain criteria, such as in close races.

Nearly 498,000 mail-in ballots were returned to Elections BC as of Friday, representing more than 66 per cent of all vote-by-mail packages that were requested over the course of the campaign.

Just over 681,000 people voted in advanced polls, up from 617,175 in the last election.

Boegman said election staff would be at Canada Post's main distribution centre Saturday to ensure all of the ballots received by the time polls close at 8 p.m. were collected for screening.

The 2017 election cost $39 million and Boegman said it's not clear how the price tag rose this year, though Elections BC had asked for about $6 million to cover pre-election costs related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With files from Rhianna Schmunk

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