B.C.'s top doctor to share COVID-19 election guidelines today

Planning guidelines for a safe election have been in the works since March, says provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, who will share greater details of that plan Tuesday.

The Oct. 24 election will include the option of mail-in ballots for all voters, seven days of advance polling Oct. 15 through Oct. 21 which includes two weekends, and online voting registration.

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At the polls, safety measures will include personal protective equipment for election officials, protective barriers, hand sanitizing stations, room capacity limits, and physical distancing measures.

Public health and B.C. Elections officials have been working “continuously” recognizing that there was potential for a civic, provincial or federal election, Henry said.

“The guidelines that we’ve come up with include how political parties and their candidates need to keep themselves, their staff and volunteers and their communities safe during the campaign.”

Measures are also being taken to ensure people can vote safely, she said, including those in hospital or long-term care homes, as well as in rural areas.

Recent elections in New Brunswick and in other parts of the world have suggest more people will opt for mail-in ballots she said.

Henry announced 366 new cases of COVID-19, including seven in Island Health, since Friday. There are now 1,987 active cases across the province including 11 on Vancouver Island. Sixty people are in hospital in B.C., 21 of whom are in critical care. There have also been four new deaths since Friday.

She said she can’t say whether a “second wave” of the virus will occur during the election period but that B.C. is “definitely seeing a resurgence” of cases now.

The provincial health officer said the premier did not ask for her advice about holding a provincial election amid the pandemic, nor would she expect it.

“My role is to provide advice on the health of the population and to put in measures that are needed to ensure that activities that need to happen can happen in our community,” Henry said.

Henry and chief electoral officer Anton Boegman will today share specific election processes and safety guidelines for voters as well as political parties, candidates, staff, volunteers, and community spaces during the campaign.

Henry, whose powers to issue orders under the public health act are independent, will continue to host two live briefings and three written updates a week. B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix will no longer be present.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

Safety measures

Elections B.C. is implementing several measures to help voters cast their ballot safely in person. Pandemic voting protocols have been developed in consultation with the Office of the Provincial Health Officer.

Safe voting practices for voting places are available at elections.bc.ca/safevoting and will include:

  • Physical distancing
  • Capacity limits
  • Election officials wearing personal protective equipment (such as masks and face-visors)
  • Protective barriers
  • Hand sanitizing stations
  • Frequent cleaning of voting stations and frequently touched surfaces

Voters will be encouraged to wear a mask when they vote to help protect others and to sanitize their hands before and after voting.

To prevent close contact, some voting procedures may be different. For example, voters will make a verbal declaration of their eligibility to vote instead of signing a voting book. Voters also can bring their own pen or pencil to mark their ballot.

Source: Elections B.C.

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