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Federal election: Mail-in ballots could be in the millions, interested voters advised to apply early

Vancouver -

With the pandemic still going strong and COVID-19 cases rising across the country, mail-in ballots are expected to play a bigger role in next month’s federal election, just like they did in B.C.’s provincial election last fall.

But unlike the provincial election, there won’t be as many chances to vote in advance.

B.C. regional spokesperson for Elections Canada Andrea Marantz said extra staff are being hired to help process the anticipated increase in mail-in ballots.

“Last federal election in 2019, we had roughly 50,000 mail in ballots,” she said. “This year, we’re expecting two to three million. So, a fairly dramatic increase.”

Voting by mail proved very popular during B.C.’s provincial election in 2020. Andrew Watson with Elections BC said more than 596,000 voters mailed in their ballots, which was an unprecedented number, and a major increase compared to just over 6,500 in 2017.

“We had to automate many aspects of the process (in 2020) to ensure that we could meet that really significant demand for voters to vote by mail,” he said. “It was certainly a very unique election, unlike one we (had) ever administered in British Columbia before.”

Advance voting during B.C.’s pandemic provincial election also saw a record turnout, attracting 35.4 per cent of voters. Mail-in ballots were the choice for 31.4 percent of voters, and only 28.8 per cent voted on election day. It marked the first time more ballots were cast prior to election day than on the day itself. Elections BC also added in an extra day of advance voting, for seven in total.

“The thinking there was to spread voters out across a longer period, to try and minimize lines or crowds,” Watson said.

For the federal election on Sep. 20, there will be only four advance voting days, running from Sep. 10 to 13. Advance polls will be open on those days from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Marantz of Elections Canada said they are expecting a “good turn-out.”

Those who want to vote by mail are being encouraged to request a ballot online or at an Elections Canada office as soon as possible. The deadline to apply is 6 p.m. on Sep. 14.

Marantz said polling stations will have safety protocols in place, with PPE and barriers for elections staff. Voters will be expected to abide by the current health regulations in their community.

“We’ll provide masks if you dont have one and if you want one. If there’s no mask requirement in your community, we won’t insist on it,” she said. “We’re hoping that people will consider that they are in a public space where there are a lot of people coming and going, and maybe act in the best interest of their fellow voters.”

She added there will very likely will be changes to some regular polling locations, as the buildings that have been used previously may not be appropriate for use in the pandemic. People are advised to double check their voter information cards once they arrive in the mail. Top Stories

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