British Columbia

Liberals take 3 vote lead in Courtenay-Comox as absentee ballots are tallied

The B.C. Liberals are leading by three votes in the riding of Courtenay-Comox. But only 137 of 2,077 absentee ballots have been counted and entered into Elections BC's online system.

Only 137 of 2,077 absentee ballots have been counted

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

The B.C. Liberals are leading by three votes in the riding of Courtenay-Comox. But only 137 of 2,077 absentee ballots have been counted and entered into Elections BC's online system.

If Liberal candidate Jim Benninger were to win the Vancouver Island riding, it would give the B.C. Liberals 44 seats, just enough for a majority government.

A vote recount in Courtenay-Comox had NDP candidate Ronna-Rae Leonard leading just 13 votes, up from nine on election night.

Counting the absentee ballots is expected to take all day Tuesday and possibly part of Wednesday as well.

Elections BC says it takes awhile to count these few thousand votes because checking and ensuring the validity of each vote is a laborious process.

"All of the absentee votes are contained within two envelopes, a certification envelope and then a secrecy envelope," said Elections BC spokesperson Andrew Watson.

"They start by opening the certification envelope, removing the secrecy envelope, putting the secrecy envelope in a ballot box and mixing them up so there is no way to tie the secrecy envelope back to the certification envelope. And then, they remove the ballot from the secrecy envelope for consideration."

Judicial recount likely

With the results so close, there is also likely going to be a judicial recount.

"In the event of a tie vote, or if the difference between the first two candidates is less than 1/500th of the total ballots considered, the district electoral officer must make an application for a judicial recount," according to the Elections BC Guide to Recounts

"An application must be made within six days after the declaration of official results following the conclusion of final count."

Based on the number of ballots cast in Courtenay-Comox the gap between the top two candidates would need to be 58 votes or less to trigger a judicial recount.

Other races close as well

Courtenay-Comox is not the only close race

As of noon on Tuesday, there were three other ridings that were within 215 votes. Liberal candidate Joan Isaacs leads by 215 votes over NDP incumbent Jodie Wickens in Coquitlam-Burke Mountain. 

NDP candidate Bob D'Eith leads Liberal incumbent Marc Dalton by 190 votes in Maple Ridge-Mission.

Liberal Jas Johal is out in front of New Democrat Aman Singh by 101 votes in Richmond-Queensborough. There are about 400 votes left to be counted in that riding.

More to come