Victoria No. 1, Saanich No. 2 in requests for mail-in ballots across Canada

Vancouver Island residents take their social distancing seriously, if Elections Canada data is anything to go by.

Victoria and Saanich rank first and second in requests for mail-in voting packages for the Sept. 20 federal election.

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In fact, six of the top 10 are Island communities, and nine are ridings in B.C.

“There are more mail-in ballots being asked for by Vancouver Island than any other place in the country,” said Elections Canada spokeswoman Andrea Marantz.

As of Wednesday, 8,409 Victoria voters had requested mail-in ballot packages, while 7,011 voters in the Saanich-Gulf Islands riding had requested packages.

Also making the top 10 were Courtenay-Alberni (6,074), Nanaimo-Ladysmith (5,780), North Island-Powell River (5,718) and Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke (5,650).

While Islanders seem keen to avoid polling-station queues, the rest of the country appears to be content to vote the old-fashioned way — in person, or not at all.

Marantz said Elections Canada had initially prepared to have as many as five million requests for mail-in ballots. That estimate was reduced to between two and three million by last month.

“We knew we would have a lot of take-up this time because of the pandemic and people are not wanting to go in person to vote,” she said.

But so far, they have had just 556,906 requests from across the country from those who will be in their own riding but want to vote by mail. Another 54,904 will be in Canada, but not in their riding on Sept. 20 and 48,329 are living outside Canada.

“It has been increasing rapidly as the day gets closer, but we won’t get anywhere near five million,” Marantz said. “We could receive a deluge, but how big that is over the next few days, who knows?”

To be able to vote by mail, voters must apply for a special ballot voting kit by 6 p.m. on Sept. 14.

The easiest way is to go to Elections Canada’s website (Elections.ca) and follow the prompts, while those without access to a computer can go to an Elections Canada office and apply there. To find one of those offices, call 1-800-463-6868.

Marantz said anyone who gets a mail ballot does not have to mail it in, but can have it dropped for them at a polling station on voting day.

Advance voting starts Friday and continues until Monday. Those voting in advance polls can only vote at their assigned polling place, which is on the back of voter information cards that were mailed out.

Marantz said there are still jobs available for poll workers, with the added incentive that Elections Canada is paying overtime this year. Anyone interested can apply online at the Elections Canada website.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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