How to vote the Sept. 20 federal election

It’s federal election day Monday — though indications are that half the ballots that will be counted on Vancouver Island have already been cast.

When the 173,254 votes from the advance polls are added to the 63,218 “special” ballots — mostly those sent by mail — the combined number is almost half as great as the 484,370 ballots filled out in the Island’s seven ridings in the 2019 election.

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The high number of mail-in ballots (the Island is home to six of the 10 Canadian ridings where mail-in voting is most popular) means the winners of close races will likely not be known until Tuesday at the earliest, as such ballots are not counted until they have been verified by Elections Canada, a process that can take 24 hours.

Here’s what you need to know if you still haven’t voted:

Who can vote?

You must be a Canadian citizen, be at least 18 years old on election day and be able to prove your identity and address.

When can I vote?

Your only option now is to vote at your assigned polling station between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday. If you still have a mail-in ballot, it can be dropped off at any polling station in your riding during those hours.

By law, everyone who is eligible must have three consecutive hours to cast their vote. If your hours of work do not allow for three consecutive hours, your employer must give you the time off. Your employer has the right to decide when the time off will be given.

What do I need?

To vote, you need to show proof of your identity and address.

Government-issued photo identification such as driver’s licences or provincial ID cards will work. If you have one of those, you won’t need anything else.

If you don’t have one of those, you will need to produce at least two pieces of ID, including one showing your current address. Among the documents that can be used are passports, voter ID cards, Canadian Forces identity cards, library cards, debit or credit cards and bank statements. For a full list of acceptable items, go to elections.ca.

Where do I vote?

Don’t assume it’s where you voted in previous elections. Some sites were unavailable this year, and some didn’t allow for physical distancing.

If you’re a registered voter, your polling place will be listed in the voter information card you should have received in the mail. If you received two cards, look for the one that says “replacement card” in the bottom right corner. That’s the right one.

If you didn’t get a voter info card or can’t find it, you can find your polling station online at elections.ca or by calling Elections Canada toll-free at 1-800-463-6868.

Not sure if you’re registered to vote?

Check at ereg.elections.ca. If you’re not registered you can do so at your polling station. Filling out an online registration certificate and taking it with you might speed the process. You’ll still need ID.

What about COVID-19 rules?

Masks are mandatory at the polls, though anyone claiming a medical exemption will be taken at their word. There will also be masks available at the polls for those who forget theirs at home.

There’ll be lots of social distancing. You can either bring your own pencil to mark your ballot or be provided with a single-use one.

Who am I voting for?

Voters cast ballots for the candidates running in their riding. Candidates’ names and party affiliations will be printed on the ballot.

All the incumbents in Vancouver Island’s seven ridings are running for re-election. For the first time, there are more women (24) than men (20) on the ballots.

There are 338 seats in the House of Commons.

For more information on Island candidates, go to timescolonist.com/election.

Don’t have identification?

You can still vote if you declare your identity and address in writing and have someone who knows you and is assigned to your polling station vouch for you.

The voucher must be able to prove their identity and address. A person may vouch for only one person (except in long-term care homes).

Anything else?

Yeah, don’t take a selfie with your marked ballot (or anyone else’s). It’s illegal.

Also, note that buses, including handyDART, will be free in Greater Victoria, the Nanaimo area, Comox Valley and Cowichan Valley (excluding commuter routes 66 and 99) on Monday. Same goes for Salt Spring Island’s paratransit system.

Need more information?

Go to the Elections Canada website at elections.ca or call 1-800-463-6868.

For more information on Vancouver Island candidates and ridings, go to timescolonist.com/election.

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