Mail-in ballots hold the key in tight ridings

The results of tight races in ridings with large numbers of yet-to-be-counted mail-in ballots might not be known for weeks.

By Nov. 6, the estimated half-a-million-plus mail-in ballots that were returned should have made it back to voters’ home ridings, allowing the manual final ballot count to start. Those mail-in and absentee ballots, unprecedented in scale due to the pandemic, could make a big difference in close races where results were unclear on election night.

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The final ballot count is expected to take three days, but Elections B.C. said the process could take longer because of the sheer number of vote-by-mail and absentee ballots.

Elections B.C. will let the public know on Nov. 5 how many certified mail-in ballots were received, which will provide a better picture of how long counting will take.

Taking into account the six-day period to request a judicial recount in the event of an extremely close race, Election B.C. said Nov. 16 is the goal for delivering final results.

The elections agency had received 497,900 vote-by-mail packages by midnight on Friday, and many more were expected to be dropped off at polling stations by 8 p.m. Saturday.

In the closely fought Oak Bay Gordon Head riding, for example, 15,918 voters requested mail-in ballots, about 37.5 per cent of the 42,385 eligible voters. In Saanich South, 14,230 mail-in ballots were requested, which represents more than a third of the 41,697 eligible voters.

The 13-day delay to begin the final count of mail-in ballots is required under the Elections Act to ensure only eligible voters cast ballots and that people didn’t vote twice.

Elections B.C. said 681,055 people voted in advance polls.

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