VANCOUVER -- If you're concerned about voting at a busy polling station during the COVID-19 pandemic, you're not alone – but you still have the option of voting from home.

While provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has been working with elections officials on safety protocols for months, many people would still prefer to avoid casting a ballot in person this round.

In fact, Elections BC is anticipating about one-third of voters – or approximately 800,000 British Columbians – could choose to vote by mail next month. And that option is available to every registered voter.

"All voters can vote by mail," according to the Elections BC website. "You don't need a special reason."

The important thing to remember about voting by mail is that for your ballot to be counted, it has to be returned to Elections BC by 8 p.m. on voting day, which is Oct. 24 this year. That means it's better to request a vote-by-mail package sooner than later.

There are three ways to do so:

There are also multiple ways to return your ballot. Voters can send them through the mail using a postage-paid envelope that's provided in their voting package, or drop them off in person at a district electoral office, polling station or at participating Service BC locations. (Packages can't be dropped off at Service BC locations in Surrey, Vancouver, Burnaby or Masset.)

Elections BC won't be providing a list of candidates in voting packages until after nominations close on Oct. 2. That means early voters will have to write their chosen candidate's name on their ballot.

On Tuesday, election officials revealed they have already received around 20,000 requests for vote-by-mail packages since the snap election was called. By comparison, only 11,268 packages were sent out for the 2017 election. Just 6,517 of those were returned in time to be counted.

That massive surge in demand is also expected to make finalizing the results more complicated than usual. Elections BC said the screening of mail-in ballots won't happen until after Oct. 24 so they can confirm people haven't voted twice.