More people might vote in advance than on election day

Election day is Saturday, but more than one million ballots have already been cast. Depending on turnout, this could be the first time in B.C. history that more people vote in advance than on election day.

A record 681,055 people voted in the seven days of advance polls, which closed Wednesday, Elections B.C. said. That’s a jump from the 614,389 people who voted in advance polls in the 2017 provincial ­election.

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Voters in the Parksville-­Qualicum riding cast the ­highest number of advance ­ballots, with 12,609 out of 48,396 registered voters.

The elections agency has received approximately 396,900 mail-in ballots, just over half the 724,279 mail-in voting packages requested.

That means 1,077,955 votes have already been cast. In 2017, a total of 1,974,712 valid ballots were counted, with about 40 per cent of people voting in advance or through mail-in ballots.

On Thursday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said she voted at an advance poll last week and was impressed by the safety measures in place. She said she hasn’t heard of any COVID-19 exposures linked to voting. “As far as we can tell, things are going really well.”

Henry said she has been in contact with an all-party elections committee and reviewed each party’s COVID safety plan for holding events and campaigning. It appears all candidates are adhering to those safety plans, she said.

Almost 3.5 million people are registered to vote in this provincial election.

Voters have until 4 p.m. on Saturday to request a mail-in package directly from a district electoral office. Mail-in ballots can be dropped off in person at a district electoral office, a voting place and some Service B.C. locations before 8 p.m. that evening.

Elections B.C. has also expanded its eligibility criteria for assisted telephone voting to include voters who are self-isolating, said spokesman Andrew Watson. Typically, assisted telephone voting is reserved for people with a disability that prevents them from voting in-person or through a mail-in ballot. Citizens must be already registered to vote to cast their ballots by phone.

Anyone looking for ballot drop-off locations can visit or call Elections B.C. at ­1-800-661-8683.

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