Final countdown: Elections BC begins tallying hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots

·3 min read

Elections BC has begun the final count from last month's provincial election.

The independent agency says it has received 662,000 certification envelopes containing mail-in and other absentee ballots from across the province.

Those envelopes have already been sorted by electoral district, and counting teams have mobilized in each district. The tally that's underway now is expected to take at least three days.

"It does take more time than it does on election night," said Andrew Watson, a spokesperson for Elections BC. "To ensure that the process is done transparently in accordance with legislation and those really important democratic principles like secrecy of the vote is maintained."

By law in B.C., a 13-day period following general voting day in every provincial election is required to allow adequate screening and verification to ensure there is no voter fraud.

Certification envelopes are only opened during the final count and officials say that's when envelopes that are empty or contain more than one ballot will be rejected.

That means the total number of eligible mail-in and absentee ballots cast in the provincial election will only be known once the final count ends. However, each electoral district will declare a winner as soon as all of its ballots are counted.

"Once a district is complete, the online results will be updated so we can see who has finished counting and what the final results are in that district," Watson said Friday. "Districts that have fewer ballots may finish earlier, so they would report earlier and they'll be shown as complete on our website."

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

As the dust settled on election night, the NDP was initially leading in 55 ridings, the Liberals had 29 and the Greens three.

Sixteen ridings were within 1,000 votes following the preliminary tally, but there are some extremely tight races revolving around a handful of seats.

Four ridings, in particular, entered the final count with a razor-thin margin, fewer than 200 votes separating the first and second-place candidates.

Ridings to watch

Each of these ridings will be decided by 5,000 - 8,000 mail-in and other absentee ballots now being counted that could see them swing either way:

Chilliwack-Kent - NDP candidate Kelli Paddon was leading incumbent Laurie Throness by 195 votes on election night. Throness resigned as the B.C. Liberal candidate following repeated controversies and has said he'll sit as an Independent if he wins.

Abbotsford-Mission - Liberal incumbent Simon Gibson, who has held the seat since 2013, was leading NDP candidate Pam Alexis by 188 votes in the preliminary count.

Richmond-South Centre - The NDP's Henry Yao led Liberal Alexa Loo by 122 votes on election night. The riding was vacated by longtime Liberal MLA Linda Reid who chose not to run again.

Vernon-Monashee - Liberal incumbent Eric Foster was ahead of NDP candidate Harwinder Sandhu by 183 votes in the preliminary count. This seat has long been a Liberal stronghold.

Starting at 10 a.m. Nov. 6, voting results will be updated as counting progresses at results.elections.bc.ca. Counting is expected to continue until 6 p.m. each day until the final count is complete.

With files from the Canadian Press