John Horgan says he misspoke about mail-in ballot rules
VANCOUVER -- John Horgan says he misspoke when he suggested B.C. residents can write their preferred party leader's name onto a blank mail-in ballot – advice that, if followed, could result in a wasted vote.
Because candidate nominations for the Oct. 24 election don't close until Friday, all of the ballots that have been mailed out across the province so far are blank. That means recipients have to write out their choice, a process that will be unfamiliar to some of the hundreds of thousands of British Columbians expected to vote by mail this year.
Speaking to CTV Morning Live on Wednesday, Horgan said he's confident people will be able to follow the mail-in ballot rules and have their vote counted in next month's election – even as he gave some erroneous advice about the different ways people can cast their vote.
"You can just identify the party you want to support, you can identify the leader of the party you want to support, you can identify the candidates that you know and I think that will reduce spoiled ballots," Horgan said. "We're saying to British Columbians: Show us your intent on your ballots and Elections BC will certify that as your view."
Part of what the NDP leader said is true – voters can write the name of the party they'd like to support if they don't know their local candidate's name. But writing down the party leader's name will result in a spoiled ballot, except for voters who happen to live in the party leader's riding.
That's made clear on the write-in ballots that have be mailed out so far, which say: "You must print the name of a candidate or party running your electoral district."
Voters' electoral district is included in their mail-in voting package. The ballots also direct people to a website that has a list of the candidates nominated in their riding.
Asked about his remarks at a campaign event hours later, Horgan was quick to correct himself.
"You can write in the name of the candidate in your community or the political party, not the leader, and I appreciate the opportunity to correct that," he said. "The information and the directions are very clear. I don't have a package – I'm going to be voting in advanced polls – so I misspoke this morning."
Mario Canseco, president of polling company Research Co., isn’t surprised Horgan made the mistake and expects some voters will too.
“People were expecting a ballot with candidates, but we can’t have that yet because the nominations are still open, so you get a blank paper,” he said.
“You need to be absolutely certain you’re voting for the party or the candidate in the riding, but not the leader.”
Canseco worries if just five per cent of people who request vote-by-mail packages fill out the ballot wrong.
“That’s 30,000 wasted votes. From people who are supposed to be voting, they want to participate.”
And mistakes could go beyond writing in a party leader’s name. Liberal candidate for Vancouver-Fairview, George Affleck, shares a first name with the NDP incumbent in the riding. The write-in ballots concern him.
“It’s blank. You have to write in the name, so in the case of George Affleck versus George Heyman, if they get the last name wrong, I’m a little worried,” said Affleck.
“Frankly what I’m going to do immediately following this conversation is I’m going to do a Facebook video and YouTube video to explain this and push it out there,” he added.
With the election taking place during a global pandemic, elections officials are estimating about one-third of B.C. voters, which amounts to roughly 800,000 people, will be voting by mail this round.
By comparison, only 11,268 packages were sent out for the 2017 election, and just 6,517 were returned in time to be counted.
Mail-in ballots must be returned to Elections BC by 8 p.m. on voting day, which is Oct. 24 this year. If it's too late to mail them, voters can also drop them off at an electoral office, polling station or at some other locations.
According to the Elections BC website, more than 450,000 ballots had been requested by Tuesday afternoon.