VANCOUVER -- Elections BC officials aren’t making any promises on when the tally of votes will be finalized in the snap provincial election, warning that the count of mail-in ballots may begin even later than the 13-day minimum outlined in the Elections Act.

That means ridings that are too close to call on election night may not have resolution until well into November.

The day before election day, the province’s chief electoral officer and other officials explained how the process will unfold in a year that has seen an unprecedented number of voters opting to vote by mail rather than in person due to concerns about COVID-19 transmission.

“Usually, 90 per cent of all ballots cast in an election are counted on election night,” said chief electoral officer Anton Boegman, referring to in-person votes cast in advance polling and on election day. “In this election, it could be between 65 to 70 per cent of all ballots will be counted or reported on election night with the remainder, perhaps 30 to 35 per cent, counted at final count.”

A total of 681,055 voters attended advance voting, while an estimated 478,900 mail-in packages have already been sent to Elections BC. A total of 725,000 were requested.

That makes this election tricky. Usually, it’s a relatively small number of mail-in ballots that must be gathered (from Canada Post, electoral offices, and polling stations) and sent to the electoral district where the voter lives and must be counted, a process that’s expected to take no more than 13 days. For example, if you mailed or dropped your written ballot at a polling place near your workplace in downtown Vancouver but live in Langley East, it has to be sent where you live. That process has to happen for each of the hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots this year.

Once the ballot arrives, election officials have to make sure the personal information matches what’s on the voter roll and compare it to the in-person voting list to make sure no one has voted twice.

“Our commitment is to complete this process as quickly as possible while maintaining the necessary integrity checks,” said Boegman. “When we accurately know the volume of vote-by-mail and other absentee ballots to be counted, we will be able to accurately determine when final count will begin and will keep the public informed throughout this process.”

He warns it could take longer than the expected 13 days to sort which ballot goes where and verify them. Counting them is expected to take another three days. A senior official explained the daily count will be posted on the website for each electoral district each day, and cautioned that final results will be staggered as a result.

“It will take as long as it takes,” the official said, insisting that following every process and procedure is of the utmost importance to uphold both the integrity of the electoral process and the health and safety of each employee, volunteer, party scrutineer and others shepherding the votes along.

While the final, definitive list of votes following judicial recounts and other exceptional circumstances could take even longer than the Nov. 16 date Elections BC had estimated before the flood of vote-by-mail package requests, it’s very likely the results of the election will be statistically determinable on election night. CTV News has a team of seasoned analysts and statisticians who will be using historical trends and up-to-the-minute results to determine which seats can be definitively called, and which remain too close to call until more data is available.