Elections BC is estimating that only about 65 to 70 per cent of votes in the 2020 provincial election will be counted on Saturday night, which could delay final results in close races.
Chief electoral officer Anton Boegman reiterated on Friday that vote-by-mail packages will not be verified, sorted or counted until later.
In a typical election, mail-in ballots are counted 13 days after Election Day as a fraud prevention measure, but with such a huge volume this time around because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Boegman said he’s not sure that timeline can be met.
“When we accurately know the volume of vote-by-mail and other absentee ballots to be counted, we will be able to determine when the final count will begin,” he said.
As of Friday morning, Elections BC said about 478,900 vote-by-mail packages had been returned. This represents approximately 66 per cent of all mail-in packages requested and issued to date.
The estimated number of returned packages does not include packages received by Canada Post that are currently in transit to Elections BC, nor does it include packages dropped off at a district electoral office or voting place.
The agency will not immediately be able to provide a breakdown of the number of mail-in ballots returned in each riding.
Elections BC will not be able to confirm whether a person’s ballot was received, but guarantees that any mail-in ballot that was placed in a mailbox by Oct. 17 or dropped off at a polling station by Oct. 24 will be counted.
Voters who are worried about their ballot arriving on time should not vote twice, Boegman said, and that if they do, they are breaking the law.
“If you have returned your vote-by-mail package, you have voted in the election and you are not allowed to vote in person in the election,” he said.
Elections BC will conduct integrity checks throughout the voting process, and if someone is found to have voted both by mail and in person, the mail-in ballot will be set aside and not counted. There will also be an investigation.
There was a situation in the 2009 provincial election, when someone tried to vote five times and the RCMP followed up. The person left Canada for Chile, however, and there was no opportunity to prosecute.
Counting both the returned mail-in ballots and advance polls, more than 1.1 million votes have already been cast in the 2020 election. But there is no indication yet on the level of voter turnout.
“It is possible we could have similar numbers as we had in 2017,” Boegman. “That is why my encouragement is if you haven’t voted yet, do that with the safe-voting opportunities.”