Election Notebook: Vote-by-mail popularity might delay Island results

Vancouver Island is the vote-by-mail capital of Canada — which means we might not know the results of some races on Monday night.

Nowhere else in the country have as many voters asked for “special” ballot kits. Some of those packages have gone to people living abroad or voting at Elections Canada offices, but the vast majority are to those ­voting by mail. Preliminary figures show Island ridings took six of the top 10 spots in Canada when it came to requesting such kits.

article continues below

Since local special ballots won’t be counted until they have been verified, and the ­verification process, which can take 24 hours, won’t start until after the polls have closed, the winners of close races are unlikely to be known on election night, Sept. 20. Elections Canada has warned it could take two to five days to finish the count.

Here’s where each riding stands:

• The Victoria riding, which has 98,712 eligible voters, saw 12,294 requests for special ­ballots, more than anywhere else in Canada. It also saw 27,034 people vote in the advance polls, up a bit from 2019, when New Democrat ­Laurel Collins beat the second-place candidate by 2,382 votes.

• Saanich-Gulf Islands, with 92,690 eligible voters, was in second place with 10,457 special ballots. There were also 27,201 early voters, up from 25,185. Green MP Elizabeth May was ­re-elected by a 19,670-vote margin in 2019.

• Courtenay-Alberni, with 104,961 eligible voters, was in fourth place with 9,633 mail-in ballots. Advance polls saw 24,372 voters, up from 22,491. New Democrat Gord Johns won by 5,954 votes last time.

• North Island-Powell River, with 92,313 eligible voters, was in fifth place with 9,137 special ballots. It saw a big jump in advance voting, 21,094 compared with 16,648 in 2019, when New Democrat Rachel Blaney won by 3,332 votes.

• Nanaimo-Ladysmith, with 106,999 eligible voters, was in seventh place with 8,662 mail-in ballots. There were 25,255 early voters, up just a little. Green MP Paul Manly won by 6,210 votes in 2019.

• Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke, with 101,934 eligible voters, rounded out the top 10 with 8,493 mail-in ballots. Advance voting dropped a bit to 23,603. The NDP’s Randall Garrison won by 5,381 in 2019.

• The only Island riding not to make the top 10 was ­Cowichan-Malahat-Langford, with 97,614 eligible voters and 7,242 special ballots. It saw a big increase in people voting early, though: 24,695 compared to 20,568 in 2019, when New ­Democrat Alistair MacGregor was ­re-elected by a 6,560-vote margin.

In total, Elections Canada issued 1.2 million voting kits by Tuesday’s deadline, half of which had been returned by Wednesday. To be counted, ballots must be returned — not just postmarked — by the time polls close. If not mailed, they can be dropped off at Elections Canada offices any time during the election, or at any polling place in your riding by close of polls on election day.

Meanwhile, a record 5.8 million Canadians voted in advance polls, up 18 per cent from 2019. Those ballots will be counted on election night.

Read Related Topics

© Copyright Times Colonist