British Columbians head the polls Saturday.
Voting day marks the culmination of a lightning fast pandemic election campaign spurred by NDP Leader John Horgan’s snap election call in September. The province began the campaign with an NDP minority government propped up by the Green Party, but Horgan’s hoping to end it with a majority.
Horgan, B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson and newly elected Green Leader Sonia Fursteanu have been campaigning virtually and in-person for weeks, trying to win over voters across the province.
But many B.C. voters won’t even go to their local polling stations on Saturday, having already voted as part of a record number of advance and mail-in voters this year. That’s one of the biggest storylines of an election that’s been light on game-changing controversy, but not without intrigue.
Here are five key things you need to know ahead of Saturday’s big voting day.
According to some polls, the campaign didn’t make a huge difference …
At the start of the election campaign, Horgan’s NDP held around 47 per cent of the popular vote, according to a Leger poll.
Weeks later it’s the same story, as a Leger survey published Friday found the NDP would capture 47 per cent of decided voters.
The latest survey, which asked 1,110 randomly chosen respondents about their voting intentions, found the Liberals held 36 per cent support, followed by the Greens with 14 per cent.
Other polls show a similar trend, with some upward movement by the Liberals and Greens but Horgan’s NDP holding a steady and commanding lead. An Ipsos poll Friday saw the NDP retaining the 17-point lead they’ve had since the start of the campaign.
“It was never close,” Ipsos president Kyle Braid said in a press release Friday.
If the polls are right, Horgan could very well get the majority he wants, with NDP surges expected across the province.
… but there were still some fireworks
Wilkinson found himself on the defensive as several Liberal candidates have faced backlash throughout the campaign for controversial comments on gender and sexuality.
Liberal Jane Thornthwaite made seixst comments about another candidate, the NDP’s Bowinn Ma during a Zoom roast. Lorraine Brett came under fire for endorsing J.K. Rowling’s transphobic writings. And incumbent Laure Throness resigned as the Liberal candidate in his riding after comparing free contraception to eugenics.
As for Horgan, the NDP leader faced repeated critiques from all sides for calling the election in the middle of the pandemic despite what the Greens said was a stable arrangement propping up his minority government. The term “power grab” has been a hot one throughout the campaign, as many polls before and throughout the election predicted an NDP majority.
Horgan also faced criticism for saying he “doesn’t see colour,” when asked about race and privilege during the only leader’s debate.
As for Furstenau, she was widely heralded as the winner of the only leaders’ debate and saw her popularity as a leader surge as voters became acquainted with her throughout the campaign.
There was a record number of advance and mail-in voters …
As of Friday, around 1.1. million votes had already been cast. That includes nearly 400,000 mail-in ballots returned and 681,055 votes cast in advance polls.
According to Elections B.C., as of October 16, approximately 717,000 voters in total had requested vote-by-mail packages, so more could be on the way. Voters who didn’t mail their packages in on time can still drop them off at their polling station.
In 2017, only about 6,500 people voted by mail. So that’s a huge difference.
… so we won’t know the results for a few weeks.
While Oct. 24 is election night, don’t expect a concrete result. Much like 2017’s election, which saw the NDP and Liberals gain almost the same amount of seats and spend subsequent days sorting out who would govern, the actual result will probably take some time.
This year things are complicated by the surge in mail-in ballots, which won’t be counted until at least 13 days after the election. So don’t expect final results on which party will form government until mid-November.
Grab your popcorn and settle in for a few weeks of uncertainty in B.C.
Election day is still happening. Here’s where to vote in B.C.
General election polls at assigned voting places will be open across the province from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday Oct. 24, 2020. To find out your polling location, Elections B.C. has a list.
Voters can also vote at any district electoral province until 4 p.m. on Oct. 24. Both locations will accept dropped off mail-in ballots.
Voters coming to vote on election day are encouraged to bring appropriate ID, a mask and their own pen or pencil, if they wish.
Preliminary results will start rolling in after 8 p.m. on Saturday.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost Canada and has been updated.